History of the Nene Valley Aeromodellers (NVA)

We also have a few pictures from the 1950s donated by the family of a former member click here to view here.


This is the history of Nene Valley Aeromodellers told by some of the original members, in their own words. The club is grateful to them for taking the time to do this; no doubt that in the future others will add to the text and include pictures that come to light. Anyone who has such is invited to contact the chairman of the day.

John Morse – Chairman, December 2018


By Chris Dickens

The following is a personal view of the history of NVA up to about the year 2000 and is written from my personal recollections and memories. It certainly isn’t comprehensive and all dates will need verifying. I can’t remember the exact chronological order of events so the timeline may be a bit mixed up.

Apologies to those I’ve forgotten or missed out. This series of notes should be combined with other sources and rewritten to form a proper history for publication.

The club was formed on 1st September 1972 after a meeting in Irchester Co-op hall. The preceding club, Wellingborough Model Aero Club (MAC), was closed to new members so those who wished to continue flying joined the NVA. Rather than a formal club, with meetings, club room etc the NVA was to be a group who just flew and met at the flying field. The original officers of the club included David Boddington as Honorary President (an unelected post), Geoff Thompson as Secretary and (I think) Bert Smith as Chairman. At this time the club was not affiliated to the BMFA (SMAE as it was then) but insurance was organised by the secretary who was an insurance agent in ‘real life’.  The flying site was in Ditchford Road in Wellingborough.

 Wellingborough MAC was formed post WW2 and had numerous flying sites over the years including Hardwater Crossing, Croyland Abbey Wellingborough (from where it’s logo/badge and the nickname ‘Monks’ derived) and Ditchford. I joined in the late 60s as a mid-teenager and I was nominated, in the last years of the club’s existence, to collect the subs of 6d (2 1/2p) a week from all members (needless to say a lot didn’t pay!). As with most clubs of that era there was a club room where members could build their models and weekly meetings (Monday nights I recall) during my time these were on the top floor of a building on the corner of Broad Green and John Street Wellingborough. I understand previously they were in the Winstanly Road Area.  When the club was formed virtually all members flew free flight but as time progressed control line took over (especially among the younger members) and as the 60s progressed radio gradually took over initially single channel (rudder only) but the more affluent members soon progressed to galloping ghost, reeds, and the early proportional sets. (to give modern modellers an idea the early proportional sets cost probably the equivalent of £1500-2000 in 2018 money) this led to a change of emphasis in the club and the formation of NVA.

Over the next few years the growth and reduction in price of radio gear meant that most members flew R/C but a few persisted with control line. (I bought my first set, 2Ch Horizon, in 1973 and paid £50 (my take home pay at that time was less than £100 month) and my first ‘full house’ set in 1974, Futaba M6, which came with full set of 27mhz crystals and three red label and one black label servos (black was reverse rotation to red) which cost £125 from David Boddingtons factory). Regular committee meetings were held and AGMs at Irchester Co-op hall. The club flew regularly at local fetes and carnivals both radio and control line. Some members flew at national model shows with the Swan display team (Swan was a British manufacturer of radio gear and the team flew DB Mannock bi-planes)

In 1976 some of the original officers and committee decided to call it a day and this was when I joined the committee, I’m not sure of the new secretaries name (I think it was Jeremy Gamage) but I do remember committee meetings at his house in Hatton Park Wellingborough where there would be a saucer on the table for each members contribution of 10p for the tea/coffee and biscuits! During the Queens Silver Jubilee year, I was volunteered to promote and organise club displays, an advert in the local papers resulted in the club flying at many venues. These displays lasted for a few years, but organisers soon were looking for something different and they tailed off.

Over the years there have been many officers and committee members some last a short while some served for many years. Some of the officers I recall were, Terry Hackney, John Langley, Jeff Barringer, Maurice Partington, Peter Melnik, Bert Smith, Dave Harbour, Ian Bell. I served as committee member, secretary and Chairman from 1976 until 2000. Until his death David Boddington was Honorary President. Sometime in the late 70s early 80s the club became BMFA affiliated mainly for the insurance offered and has been so ever since.

Early in its life the club decided to build up its bank account with the ultimate aim of buying its own field and soon had £5000 which was an appreciable sum in the late 70s. Unfortunately, land prices were increasing rapidly, and serious bids were placed on a couple of sites the club never managed to purchase land. In the mid-late 70s the club managed to rent a second flying field near Stanwick (Now part of Stanwick Lakes). Access was difficult, down the old railway line from either Ringstead or (if the gates were unlocked) Irthlingborough and involved driving across two old bridges. Although popular with some members it wasn’t as well used as the Ditchford site. Eventually it was lost to sand and gravel extraction as was Ditchford. Upon the loss of the Stanwick site the present flying site at Yardley Hastings (more colloquially known as Olney) was obtained in those days we were sub-tenants and there was no wooden fence and the much smaller patch was surrounded by an electric fence. With the retirement of the tenant farmer the chairman at the time, Peter Melnik, negotiated with Compton Estates and we became secure tenants of the area we now occupy; the fence was erected as part of the deal. With the loss of the Ditchford site flying rights were obtained for a farmer’s field on the Hardwick Road out of Wellingborough and again a mown patch protected by an electric fence was installed. This took over from Ditchford as the primary site for the club. Over the years the Yardley Hastings site gradually became the focus of the club and after the foot and mouth epidemic of 2003 and the subsequent split of the club it became the only flying field. With a secure long term tenancy, the need for a second site and the means of purchasing land are no longer a necessity.

The club has never been overtly competition orientated although club competitions have always been held and over the years these have included aerobatics, scale, glider, powered glider (I have in the loft somewhere a trophy for the year I won every competition held!) early in its life the club and many members were involved in pylon racing, firstly 1/2A and then Club 20 (mainly influenced by David Boddington) gradually interest waned but a few, notably the Toyer family, continue to this day. Colin Chapman also competed at a national level in aerobatics and eventually became class champion for one year.

David Boddington, our club president, was well known in modelling circles for being a designer, kit manufacturer and magazine contributor and editor. Also, during the late 70s early 80s he was heavily involved in model flying for TV (Wings, Flambards) and many of our club members helped him in these endeavours by building models, flying for the camera, kit reviews etc. 

Something that doesn’t seem to happen now but did in the past is other clubs fly-ins and events which we went to. I remember going, along with a fair few other members, to Billing Aquadrome for the Northampton Clubs 25th anniversary “do”. We used to go to Naseby playing field every year for the Market Harborough Clubs fly-in. Old Warden scale day was another mustn’t miss event. We also, as a club, use to visit the BMFA area rallies.

During the 80s and early 90s the club use to hold social events, with guest speakers or other activity, and a Christmas party or dinner. Venues included the Red Lion pub at Irchester, The Gladstone Club at Finedon and the Merry Miller pub at Wellingborough.

I’m afraid I’ve rather loss touch with the day to day activities of the club since 2000 and only get down the field one of twice a year but happy days were had in the past when the sun always shone, and models never broke!!

Chris Dickens


By Jeff Barringer

I’m pleased to add my own recollections to those of Chris Dickens. We (the Barringers) joined as a family during the mid-1980s, my two sons having decided that they wanted to take up aeromodelling as our ‘family pursuit’ We were introduced to the Club by Mark Hemingway, still an active Aeromodeller, and we spent the first few weeks of our membership attending the regular Sunday morning meetings at the Hardwick Road site and chatting to members. I had built free-flight models as a boy, but with Mark’s guidance built our Super 60, which I still fly today. The only engine we could afford at the time was a second-hand Webra 40, which vastly over-powered the Super 60 and was not very reliable, so we all became used to sky-rocket climb-outs and dead-stick landings as part of our learning process.

No history of the NVA is complete without reference to David Boddington. David spotted ‘the Family Barringer’ and recognised us as ideal fodder for his Design and Editorship functions, he would provide us regularly with designs to build and models to review for his magazine – ‘Aviation Modeller International’ at that time, later ‘Model Flyer’. We would build, test fly, document and review all manner of models supplied by David, as indeed did other Club Members including Chris Dickens and Ken ‘Impact’ Swailes.

David’s contribution to aeromodelling cannot be overstated. Trained originally as an architect, his passion for flying led him to join his brother Charles in the Barnstormers Flying Circus, providing full-size airshow entertainment. David was responsible for the original design of many model aircraft and his full-size BE2c built for the ‘Wings’ TV series has been rescued from dereliction in the USA by Charles’ son Matthew and restored at Sywell for regular flying duties.

In the early 1990s I accepted the post of Secretary of the NVA following a couple of years of Committee membership to learn the ropes. I took the role very seriously and instigated and edited a Newsletter (at that time we had an annual membership in excess of 160 people, and so a quarterly magazine helped with communications – no one had e-mail in those days). As well as the events mentioned by Chris, the NVA attended the annual Castle Ashby Fete and ran the Cranfield Model Expo, held every year at Cranfield Aerodrome – probably the largest UK modelling gathering of the year at that time. The event was a mixture of full-size and modelling, originated by David Boddington under his Barnstormers banner and was a flight-line control nightmare which David happily volunteered me for, and a team from the NVA looked after it successfully for about 5 years.

The first 3D Masters helicopter competition went ahead in 2001 at the Wellingborough Rugby Field near Great Doddington, staffed by NVA members. The event was a great success and in the following year ran at Northampton University and tested the skills of pilots from all over the World. A percentage of proceeds were fed back to the Club providing infrastructure, and over the years the NVA, the Old Wellingburians, the Milton Keynes MHC and the Jupiter Club were to benefit financially from their involvement. Hundreds of pilots and thousands of spectators from all over the World were to enjoy 3D Masters before it ended when I retired in 2012, although its legacy lives on in the 3DX format held in Japan, China and Holland.

As Chris mentioned, we used to hold many competitions during the year: In 1993 we had the Vintage Competition, ‘A’ Aerobatics, ‘B’ Aerobatics, Open Aerobatics, Rookie (5 Competitions through the summer), helicopter, bungee, scale, powered-glider, BBQ fun-fly, Kettering Community Fete and Cranfield Expo. I have always believed the old adage that ‘competition improves the breed’, and so it is with aeromodelling. Entry in a competition, however simple, focuses the pilot’s mind towards performing well and doing their best, and this in turn leads to deliberate development of skills rather than just turning up, flying, and going back home. Long may we continue to provide competitions and members take them seriously.

Jeff Barringer


By Dave Harbour

In the mid-1960s I joined a club that became Nene Valley Aeromodellers (NVA). At that time is was called the “Monks” *, named after the flying field that was in the grounds of an old Abbey. Later the name was changed to Wellingborough Model Aero Club when it moved to a flying field in Ditchford Road, between Wellingborough and Higham Ferrers. The field was surrounded lakes, the River Nene and the main midland railway line. Nearby was a factory processing chettles (boiled up animal guts) and offal. When the wind was in the right (or wrong) direction, it didn’t half stink! It was at this time that I met Dave and Charles Boddington who were always experimenting with the early types of radio control e.g. reed, galloping ghost etc. At that time most flying was control line with a few like me playing with single channel. Early systems were not very successful or reliable.The club held several competitions during the year. Most were for control-liners e.g. combat, stunt etc. Others included one called The Scramble which was one of my favourites.

This competition was held within a 30-minute time slot. You could use any free flight model was with any engine and have as many flights as you wished within the 30 minutes. This could be lots of short flights or one long flight. You had to arrive back at the start at the end of the 30 minutes and the winner was the one whose model was in the air the longest after all the times of each competitor’s flights were added together. This meant that you had to decide whether lots of short engine runs and short glides, with the model landing nearby was better than long engine run and a long glide landing the other end of the field. If you chose the long flight option, it usually resulted in you having to retrieve the model and make it back to the start before going again and making it back to the start before the 30 mins is up. Usually the fittest person and fasted runner was the winner. During this period the club put on control line flying displays at many fetes and carnivals in the Wellingborough and Rushden area.

I moved to Swindon in 1970 settling down to married life and breeding children [only two] returning to Rushden in 1973. I re-joined the club in the late 1970s; by this time the name had been changed again to Nene Valley Aeromodellers, as it is today.

Dave Harbour – May 2018

*Monks Logo

Nonks Logo


Old picture (late 60s or early 70s)



Old Picture


Old tree sticker

Old tree sticker

 Back to "About Us"