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Sunday 26th October 2003
Report by Dave Daniels
Bell Hill is a long way from Tonbridge Wells, but when dawn broke the clouds were moving across the sky at hang-glider speed not boding well for the day. Driving through Berwick St.John after the 2 hour drive, nothing was flying at Monks although there was a small collection of cars by the fence.
When I reached the hill, Colin Davies had obviously volunteered to be duty wind-dummy, whist ground-suck (or "listening to the England v Samoa game", I'm sure they would claim) was keeping many others in their cars out of the chilly wind.
For sure, the clouds were scudding past at a significant speed, but there was only a sensible amount of wind on t/o - so Colin's flight staying pretty low initially made a lot of sense, but he was able to push out in front a long way with gentle thermic activity coming up from the fields. Eventually he made some height without vanishing backward over the trees - and this lured some of the others (who's number were increasing by the minute) into the sky.
Some found the conditions less than enjoyable with punchy little thermals and turbulence at the wind-sheer level - but that didn't stop the sky filling with 12 or so wings.
Wessex XC League leaders, Sean L and Peter R were determined to use what may be the last league day (closes on 31st Oct) to play tactics - Peter's every wing twitch being mirrored by league leader Sean as Peter sought out the thermal that would give him the necessary distance to move into 1st. Eventually with enough height to make an XC a possibility - and being in strong enough wind that returning to the hill was pretty much out of the qeustion - the two of them went to cloud base for a 12km - both landing in the same field.
There was a healthy line of cars along the fence - others that were there were Martin H, Dave W, Brian M, Dave J, Luigi, Nicole B, Jonathan H, Mike A, Martin B, Russell W, Russell E, Kaye and Paul E, Charles C-S, Gary Pocock, Peter S, Malcolm L and Jerry S - plus others that the heavy disguises, being worn to fend off the cold wind, prevented me from recognising.
Shortly after Peter and Sean got away I had too leave - the caravan park at Durdle Door closes for 4 months and the caravan had to be moth-balled for the winter.
Saturday 25th October 2003
Report by Dave Winn ..... via Text Messages
9:15am - Bell hill wind w8mph clear sky frosty.
1:54pm - Just achieved highest altitude of 800ft, 3no 360 turns thermalled and top landed.
(All this was intended to frustrate me, since I was elsewhere on Saturday. Luckily, the "elsewhere" was in a "Vodafone free zone" - so I didn't receive them until Sunday morning :) DD)
Report by Dave Winn ..... via email
Arriving early at Bell Hill I parked the car by the fence, poured myself a cup of coffee and surveyed the beautiful surroundings. A heavy frost had coated the whole of the hill in a white sheet and a mist spread out level from the top of the hill out into the distance. Those of you that may ask the question ' why would someone get there at 8 o'clock in the morning' should try it sometime and see what you are missing.
Finishing my drink I checked the wind speed and reported my findings to a select few and then set up my paraglider and messed about for 1/2 hour in the hope that the wind speed would increase over 7mph. It didn't and I had to wait until 12.45 before there was a space that I could take off in because of all the other pilots that had turned up in the time since I had arrived. It was quite daunting looking up with the wall built in front of me waiting to take off with 24 other paragliders overhead. Sean L must have seen the look on my face and came over and coaxed me into taking off. Wow, no sooner had I kicked off, lift forced me straight up, so I headed for the bowl and right on cue I took the elevator over 'The Magic Tree' to my best height gained to date. To more experienced pilots 761ft above take off is a regular occurrence but to me it was a first and after doing a few 360's and even finding some thermals I started to think about where I was going to land.
Whilst I was up the wind speed had increased and I found moving back over the bowl slow going so deciding on landing in the top field ( without cows in it ) I 360d some more, put in a few s turns and found myself gently drifting back down to earth. It was exactly the flight I had been looking for after more or less just soaring the ridges on the sites I have visited.
My thanks go out to all the pilots that have been willing to pass on their wisdom to me over the past few months. I have been made welcome by all that I meet and I enjoy the conversations about paragliding in between flights with all you Wessex members out there.
Monday 20th October 2003
Report from Matthew Charlesworth
John Alder and I flew at Monks Down on Monday in a blustery, strong-ish wind that was off to the East a bit. We had half an hour or so of surprisingly thermic flying. John got higher than me on his Airwave Extreme but it was lumpier than I was happy with.
When it was going up, it was really going, but with the strong wind, a couple of turns soon had you in a roller-coaster over the trees. I could penetrate OK when I pulled on speed but it was very 'top end'. Interestingly I narrowly avoided the Wiltshire police helicopter as it flew over 400m or so towards Win Green as I took off. If they had been 400m to their right I would have launched right underneath them. John was well above me as I took off so maybe (hopefully!) they saw him. They spent 10 mins or so whizzing around at low level near Swallocliffe then shot away up the A30.
An exhilarating afternoon but going weightless several times left me with more adrenaline than I was happy with.
Saturday 11th October 2003
Report from Alastair Florence
Early AM I noticed a few puffs of orographic cloud moving gently over Ballard. I mentioned this to the wife and told her I reckoned it might be flyable later, but she didn't take much notice. She was probably thinking 'another days delay on the decorating'. Around lunchtime it still looked very light and easterly, but I thought I'd take a look.
Martin H was sat on the bench by Ballard Estate looking out to sea (he's at that age! DD), I joined him (no comment!) and after a bit so did Russell W (hah!). The bench was getting crowded and the wind had a slight promise about it so we plodded up to t/o. Jacko was all ready rigging up, it was very light though.
After a while Jacko was elected as wind dummy and launched. We expected him to end up on the beach quite quickly. Surprisingly he stayed up, just, scratching the cliff top. The rest of us launched and after a time Keith W arrived. It was very easterly and scratchy but picking up. With all of us up at the same time there was just enough space (now I know why all this activity was not being communicated! Hill hogging!). As the afternoon turned to early evening the wind went a few degrees to the South and maybe picked up a bit. By 18.00hrs it had become nice and buoyant. No big height gains and very gentle but one of those wafty, peachy sort of evenings.
All finished with a beach landing which proved hard work as the beach was nice and lifty too.
Report from Dave Daniels
At 8:30 I received a call from Dave W that he was at Ringstead demonstrating a severe case of absolutee belief in the wrong forecast - but there were plenty to choose from - and as many wind directions covering the entire compass rose. However - SW a red herring thrown out by one forecast for pure entertainment value. Unfortunately - the forecasters' entertainment.
He arrived at the caravan a little later for coffee, and we were joined soon after by Nicole and Sean. Mid October and being sat outside in warm air in bright sunshine with a cloudless sky was some compensation to the lack of promise offered by forecasts, synoptic charts and total lack of wind.
After several coffees - there was a distinct increase in the air movement from the SE, so, checking the tide times, we wandered out to the front with our kit - since if nothing else there was a top-to-bottom that could be done.
There was definitely insufficient to stay up on - so Sean, Dave and I did a ttb.
Back on top the wind increased a little - but not enough, Mark P (and son Alex) came along to admire the view - and watch the flying. Sean and Nicole each flew and managed to side land above the path - but neither felt like penetrating the air to the east far enough to obtain any height gains to manage a top landing.
However - the wind continued to make us think that Ballards should be working batter than the reports we had received - the last being that "Jacko is going to give it a go - but it's not looking promising", to which I had replied "Sean's had a go - not looking promising here either - we'll hang on a little - but we'll let each other know if it improves". We received no further messages ..... until much later when I received a text from Alastair "Just landed after a peachy 3 hours". Pah!
Saturday 4th / Sunday 5th October 2003
Report from Alastair Florence
In between the bit when the early birds decided Bell was blown out and the hangies started launching there was also a bit when I arrived that hadn't got too wild yet.
So after sorting a little tangle in my lines I launched uneventfully and pushed out heading for the bowl. With a strong Northerly element in the wind it needed a little patience to penetrate but shortly got into the bowl. I had 45 mins out in front of the Magic Tree which really was not too bad (no speed bar used anyway). Ok you had to keep out in front a bit but I had some fair climbs - although there was also some big sink. (I was glad I put a bit of ballast in the harness though!)
After climbing to 950ft odd I sank back down quite rapidly and found myself too close in to push out without the speed bar, so called it a day. The most exiting bit was coming down the last 80 ft as by now I was going backward and there seemed to be an awful lot of cows languishing beneath me that wanted avoiding.
Apparently new member, Mike D, found a brief calm window late in the evening and sampled his first taste of Bell.
Report from Dave Daniels
No amount of enthusiastic will-power from 30 para-waiters can change the weather, it appears. For once, however,- the forecasters got it right some days in advance - as far as the wind in concerned, although the rain that they had been forecasting earlier in the week only struck late Sunday evening.
Saturday saw more hopeful cars and their occupants on the hill that are often seen when conditions are good! A couple of us (Dave W, Martin H, Ali F and I) managed to fly paragliders - but only for 10 to 15 minutes - before the wind picked up the day being handed over to the hangies who were out in healthy numbers. Ron S, ZZ, Everard C, Duncan E, Richard M, Tony B amongst the merry band.
Sean L had an hour on the tandem with ZZ - and is now seriously considering becoming bi-wingal.
The forecast drop in wind seemed to never arrive - and the armies of para-waiters drifted off during the day.
Sunday was much the same - other than it was seriously cold with a good frost on the ground and gate when the early birds arrived, and the sky was wall to wall blue for most of the morning. Again Dave W and myself flew briefly in the 10 minute window between insufficient lift and blown out. Charles C-S had a valiant flight in the strong conditions, and Sean L flew slightly over-weight on Nicole's wing for an entertaining flight out in front of the hill.
Again the day was handed over to the same bunch of hangies for the rest of the day - and Dave M was out with his red-ribbon too. I missed his first flight - but the second flight ended with a very elegant landing!
Photos by Luigi.
Massed para-waiting. Zz launches into the clear blue sky ... ... and again later when a few Cu were evident Another hangie (who's name I forget) Sean L considers taking up hang gliding!
Eye in the Sky - September 2003 - Part III
Eye in the Sky - September 2003 - Part II
Eye in the Sky - September 2003 - Part I
Eye in the Sky - August 2003 - Part III
Eye in the Sky - August 2003 - Part II
Eye in the Sky - August 2003 - Part I
Eye in the Sky - July 2003
Eye in the Sky - June 2003 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - June 2003 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - May 2003 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - May 2003 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - April 2003
Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - II
Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - I
Eye in the Sky - February 2003
Eye in the Sky - January 2003
Eye in the Sky - November/December 2002
Eye in the Sky - October 2002
Eye in the Sky - September 2002
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 3
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - May 2002
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - March 2002