New plaque honours Lake District holiday park where first seaplane took flight

Celebrating a flying first are (from left) Lake District Estates chairman Peter Hensman; His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria Mrs Claire Hensman; chair of the Lakes Flying Company Ian Gee, and Jerry Swift of the National Transport Trust

THE NATIONAL TRANSPORT TRUST has awarded a prestigious ‘Red Wheel’ to a Lake District holiday park, recognising it as one of the UK’s most significant sites in the history of transport.

The new Red Wheel plaque at Hill of Oaks Caravan and Lodge Park on the shore of Windermere celebrates the spot where the famous ‘Waterbird’ hydro-aeroplane became the first plane in the former British Empire to successfully to take off and land on water in 1911.

Waterbird was the brainchild of Captain Edward Wakefield who owned Hill of Oaks at the time. He then set up the Lakes Flying Company there to give the public the experience of flying from water, and it later became a Royal Naval Air Station.

The base was disbanded in 1917, but the officers’ mess and other buildings remained on the site until it became a caravan park in the 1950s.

The new plaque marks the spot where aviation history was made

The new Red Wheel plaque is located near the park’s luxury lakeside apartments. It was unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, at a special ceremony attended by representatives of Lake District Estates, the National Transport Trust and the Lakes Flying Company.

Hill of Oaks is still owned by the Wakefield family today, and its current chairman Peter Hensman said: “We are thrilled that the National Transport Trust has decided to award a Red Wheel to Hill of Oaks.

“This records for posterity the important part Hill of Oaks played in early aviation and in particular the development of Waterbird in 1911.

“It also serves to remind us of the innovation of those early pioneers, such as Edward Wakefield whose concept it was and Herbert Stanley Adams who, as the pilot, took it first into the air.”

Stuart Wilkinson, chairman of the National Transport Trust said: “We are delighted that this latest Red Wheel has joined our growing fleet of Red Wheels around the country. The Hill of Oaks Red Wheel marks a significant development in the early history of aviation.

“The aim of our Red Wheels is to highlight some of the lesser- known areas of the UK’s transport history and this splendid site reflects those early days in aviation a mere eight years after the Wright Brothers first flew.”

The unveiling came just weeks after a replica of Waterbird flew over Windermere in honour of the original flight 112 years ago.

There are currently just over 150 Red Wheels nationwide, commemorating Britain’s rich and globally important legacy in the development of transport.