A second World War glider which was home to an eccentric spinster for more than 50 years is about to be rescued from ruin.

Experts from the De Havilland Heritage Museum are about to salvage the hulk of an Airspeed Horsa assault glider from Cholsey, near Wallingford. The plane was transformed into a dwelling after the war by Maud Starkie, who lived there from the 1940s until she died last year at the age of 99.

She built a shed-like structure over it for weather-proofing, but inside it was still like being in a plane.

The fuselage was partitioned to make a bedroom, living room and kitchen.

It had running water, and a toilet that flushed into a cesspool.

News that the novel landmark, off Papist Way, will soon be gone has been the talk of the village.

It has triggered a wave of nostalgia, with everyone trying to piece together Miss Starkie's remarkable story.

Local historian Judy Dewey believes she lived in the plane from at least 1948; a copy of the Daily Telegraph from that year was found on site.

Cholsey resident Sue Gopall, 45, knew Miss Starkie well, and made regular visits to see she was all right.

Mrs Gopall, of Brentford Close, said: "She loved books and classical music. She didn't have a TV but listened to the radio and she was always very well-informed."

It was Mrs Gopall who contacted the military heritage experts after Miss Starkie died, posting details of the plane on the Internet.

Mrs Gopall added: "She always said she wanted someone to benefit from it when she was gone. A museum was the nearest we could come to that."

Wooden Horsa assault gliders were used for airborne troop landings in Europe. According to Cholsey folklore, this one crash-landed in the village.

"That's something the museum will look into," said aircraft enthusiast Dr Hugh Newell, who spotted Mrs Gopall's advert on the Internet and persuaded the St Albans-based De Havilland Heritage Museum to take the plane.

Local farmer Michael Ryman, 65, who now owns the glider site, thinks the plane was simply left behind after the war years, when "all within a ten-mile radius of Cholsey was airfields".

He remembers Miss Starkie as "a real character, very strong-willed".

He said: "She was a real, real tough old-bird. The plane was absolutely freezing in winter."

Miss Starkie used to call Cholsey builder Henrik Wallczak for repairs.

Mr Wallczak, 52, said: "I did loads of jobs up there. The pipes kept bursting because it was so cold. You had to go outside to warm up."

Miss Starkie died in July last year at the Royal Berkshire Hospital after being cared for briefly at the Blue Mountains elderly people's home in Wallingford and a nursing home in Whitchurch.