A former WW2 RAF operational training unit base in Buckinghamshire.
The site of RAF Finmere occupies most of the space between the villages of Finmere, Tingewick, Barton Hartshorn and Preston Bissett, next to the A421 road from Bicester to Buckingham where Oxfordshire meets Buckinghamshire. It has an unusual layout for a WW2 airfield, instead of the familiar triangular arrangement of runways crossing each other the runways at Finmere radiate out from one point at the north west corner of the site. Because of this runway layout the buildings were not concentrated on the perimeter track as is the case with other wartime RAF stations but spread out in existing woodland to the southeast of the runways. The result is a distribution of buildings from the A421 to the road from Preston Bissett to Gawcott, a far greater area than that seen on other such sites.
A history of RAF Finmere with an extremely useful map showing what was where in the war can be found at finmere.org.uk. In a nutshell: the base was built at the start of the war because RAF Bicester only had grass runways, they used it to train bomber pilots during the war and as hostilities ceased it was used to store surplus ammunition. It was closed by the 1950s.
Since closure the site has reverted to farmland. Parts of the runways remain, the northern one being used to train microlight pilots and the middle one for a sunday market. Both the hangars survive as operational feed mills. As you drive past on the main road you'll catch sight of the control tower and a few other buildings in the bomb store area standing dilapidated in a sea of oilseed rape. The mother lode from an exploration point of view however is hidden in the woodland. Since those woods have remained relatively untouched since the war a lot of the buildings there have survived in some form, though bearing the scars of six decades of neglect.
Anyway, enough background. On with the report.
This report was originally written in April 2007 but has been updated with some new pictures from February 2008.
Access is straightforward from the minor road that bisects the site or any of a number of public footpaths and bridleways. Park up near the pub in the village, cross the A road and you're in. First up, cross the active runway.
Watch out for microlights! It's a right of way across here but you can't really argue with a speeding aircraft.
And from the other side.
Once past the tower, into the woods. This is dense natural woodland so
finding the ex-RAF structures is a case of walking into them as they
loom out of the undergrowth, you can't see them from any significant
distance away. The great thing is there are so many structures to be
found so most paths will lead you to something. The woods on the west
side of the road are sometimes used by paintballers but there are
plenty of other buildings to look at if they're inaccessible.
A significant number of buildings are visible only by their bases. Most are just concrete rectangles, this was one of the more unusual ones. The vegetation on top is a carpet of bluebells, in late spring it'll look quite spectacular.
And sometimes something much bigger will loom out of the undergrowth. This building is in the instructional area, the former turret trainer and bombing trainer building.
The grafiti visible inside reads "Dead Kennedys". It looks like some minor chavery has taken place here, for some reason aside from the usual fire remains and beer bottles the ground is littered with old shoes.
In the woodland surrounding the turret trainer are the bases of former link trainer buildings...
...and one of the site's many blast shelters.
Other buildings remain only as the towers that once held their water tanks and other services. Regular explorers of WW2 military sites will probably find these familiar. These two are in the WAAF area.
The WAAF area has several more building bases and a number of intact Stanton shelters. Outside...
This is just a small taste of what there is on this site. It covers such a big area and there is so much woodland aside from the remaining runways and hangars that you could easily spend quite a few hours here. The woodland itself is a particularly nice one with a lot of wildlife and the southern edge of the site has a piece of wetland meadow that is an SSSI. Access is easy because of the public rights of way and there is no security to evade, however I should in fairness point out that since it's all private land you may be chased away by an angry farmer if you stray too far. Hazards are paintballers, agricultural electric fences, people round the sunday market area and microlights using the active runway.
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