On Friday over 30 members of the public joined me for a guided walk around Predannack Airfield. Whilst I was able to talk about the wildlife and history of this fascinating site, I was assisted by Tim and Nick from RNAS Culdrose who were able to explain more about the present military use. The Airfield, half owned by the National Trust, is usually closed to the public for operational reasons, but we are trying to improve access to the site through close partnership working with the MoD.
Much of the Airfield is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (sssi) for its rare habitats and species. It is also very rich in history, with prehistoric barrows, post-medieval peat diggings and particularly the WWII artifacts. The Airfield was built rapidly at the start of the war and was completed in 1941, initially as a fighter base and later as a base for Wellington and Liberator bombers. At it's peak, it had a workforce of over 3,600, before closing in 1946. It was in the 1950s that Predannack Airfield again rose to prominence when it was chosen by Sir Barnes Wallis as an experimental site for new designs of swing winged aircraft. These experiments, undertaken in secrecy, led the way for much of today's modern military aircraft design.
Today, the primary military use of the Airfield is for helicopter flight training and fire fighter training by the Royal Navy, whilst much of the heathland and non-operational land is managed primarily for wildlife. The National Trust has recently introduced grazing to the site, with it's in-hand herd of Dexter cattle and each winter areas of the heathland are burned to encourage healthier heathland.