Eye in the Sky - April 2004 - Part 1

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12 April 04

Report By Mark Pryce

Well, Hi to all. Just got my CP on Saturday. Left flight school thinking "I'm ready for anything". It feels like I have just left junior school and walked through the gates of Oxford. Looking to impress and feeling completely inadequate.

Went to Monks (?) with D Winn. (Would never have found this place.) Loads of PG laid out no one flying. Loads of big confusing words but managed to work out the wind was in the wrong direction.

Went to Bell Hill (??) with Dave (Fell asleep last time I came here, got to buy a map) Some people flying here. I may get my first flight out side of the IOW and above 10 Meters.

Got set up, all checks OK. Want to launch, a little nervous, everyone has given me some advice. AND I'M OFF. WOW!!!!!!! Only one other pg in the air. Head over the magic tree (HUH ?) got there and found some lift. Turned round to find people all looking at me. Turned away found some more lift. Turned back towards take off nobody's looking at me. It seems there is some commotion going on. turned away over the magic tree, got some more lift. What a brilliant first flight. Turned back toward take off to find every one heading for me. A little freaked but stayed calm. Whet's going on!!?? I had found some lift. I was just glad my first solo flight lasted longer than 3 min. Had 2 more after that it was great.

Thanks to all it was great. Can't wait to do it again.

Report by David Daniels

I hate it when all the forecasts agree that it's going to be light and variable - you just now you are in for some guess-work, a larger mobile phone bill, driving from site A to site B - and being just too late at site B for the best conditions.

Early arrival at Monks found just Ron S, Gary P and Andy D unpacking - and soon the four of us were making brief forays in the light thermic conditions, with Andy and Gary soon climbing out - Gary reaching cloud-base at 3,000ft and deciding that a return to the hill was safer than staying with a cloud that was sucking a tad more than made him feel comfortable.

A few more hours of thermic cycles had everyone in the air and then nobody, with few cycles developing sufficiently for XC potential - although Luigi D-E did manage to core a blue thermal right up to 3 grand in-between big white clouds (leaving Dave M behind in the process!), but once surrounded by cloud he couldn't see which direction was which and dropped back to the hill.

Gary P and Jim C took another ride to some height with Craig B following a few hundred feet below - Gary and Jim returned to the hill but Craig took a low-level XC to Tarrant Hinton (10km).

Around 3pm the nice white fluffy clouds merged into one grey layer, the wind eased and backed to NW and a sprinkling of rain sent most people home or to Bell - not that the reports from Bell had been encouraging - it was just the only other option. A few of us lingered at Monks in the hopes that it would come good and I left when the word from Bell indicated that I should have left earlier!

Approaching Bell there were 5 or 6 wings over the bowl, but at t/o conditions were not a great deal different to those at Monks earlier - each cycle being instantly filled with wings and the low air timers catching the end of the cycle and going down. After a couple of hours of this being repeated the thermic part of the day subsided leaving just 5 people on the hill. Ali F arrived and launched just as a steady wind right onto the hill kicked in, and after 10 minutes of chatting and watching Stuart M, Craig B and myself joined him in the air - Simon H responding to my call back as I took off to "Come and join us!". Charles C-S was also boating about the hill.

Well over an hour of superb flying in smooth conditions followed, although Stuart and Gary left after about 20 minutes or so.

Not what one would call a fantastic day, nor a fantastic weekend, but I enjoyed myself enormously - as I know many others did also.

Others (that I can recall) seen on Monks or Bell (or Winklebury!) - Mike A, Nicole B, Adrian B, David C-L, Colin D, Harry D, Aidan D, Russell E, Martin H, David J, Simon J, Neil K, Sean L, James M, Brian M, Richard M, Vicky P, Julian P, Matthew R, Nicola R, Mark R, Derek S, Dave T, Alan T, Lawrence T, Russell W, Dave W - and Mark P who got his CP just this Saturday!

Report by Richard Westgate

Realized a bit late that day not a 1 (see weatherjack) when looked out of window and suddenly noticed blue skies. Blatted down to Leckhampton, launched at 13:45 straight into rough climb which took myself and Graham Steel to base at 4400ft (looking good), played in curtain cloud on edge of approaching stratus sheet, thinking of trying 30km triangle, bizarrely next climbs downwind were to 5100ft (even better), great fun playing in and out of clouds. After half an hour, realized not going to make any progress against 10 head wind and deteriorating upwind conditions and drifted downwind under overcast to Swindon for 30km. Really great day playing, amazing cloud base for time of year, 2hrs, 20mins in air.

Report by Alastair Florence

After wasting yesterday chasing round 4 sites in return for a total of 5 mins scratching I was prepared to give today a miss as conditions looked similar. However after a few hours looking round bathroom showrooms we headed home and it was obvious a sea breeze had developed. Before the ink on my release papers was dry I was on my way to Kimmeridge.

Arrived at Kimmeridge to find a pitifull 3-4 mph wafting over the ridge. The sight of the occasional mournful looking Crow flapping all the ridge confirmed plan A was scuppered. So Plan B – Knitson – well a bit better at least 6mph. Launched anyway to find a ready supply of fragmented thermals coming from some large ploughed fields in front. Very scratchy but managed several bouts of 5-10 mins each one resulting in missing the lift and searching for a not too gorsy bit to slope land on. Finally my luck ran out. No lift and no grass, all gorse so relented and flew out for a bottom land at about 60ft AGL way out in front of the hill I flew into a late save thermal which I managed to work back up over atke off height. This was followed by big sink which took me back to my original target. Don’t know why no one else fly’s Knitson, you don’t know what your missing, still more room for me!!!.

Was getting reports that NW sites were working so battled against the traffic to leave Swanage (funny, pilots want to get there, the grocks want to leave !!) arrived at Bell to find most leaving or sitting around talking. Dr Charles was about to launch so joined him and was soon followed by Stuart M, Dave D, Craig B and Mr Electron (sorry can’t remember your name, jog my memeory next time we meet) had a lovely evening ending in just me Dave and Mr Electron just messing round. Peachy.

Report by Roger Edwards

A look at the web-weather reports suggested Eggardon over Monks so I headed off that way again to arrive just after Dave S and Mike D had had good flights. Yes, Mike wangled a wing again, though I think Andrew of FF was using him as a test dummy on a new wing he'd acquired. The wind was now off beyond N so my effort led to the bottom field, but I decided to turn it an opportunity to practice a low wind landing and get some exercise (guess which I enjoyed the most).

Word was that Telegraph was working so off we headed only to find it had gone flat. It wasn't long before it was working strongly, slightly off to the N. Best part of 40 mins for myself but sadly Mike D's baleful look won little sympathy from the Condors and conditions got too strong for Dave S to comfortably launch. After that it remained strong until 6ish and I left Dave S on the hill with some kite-flying Condors (that wasn't in the David Attenborough version), steadfastly optimistic.

Report by Dave Winn

The weather reports had said go to Monksdown and after a couple of phone calls I confirmed that was where most people were. It was supposed to turn NW so as we pulled up in the car it was no surprise to see all the PG's on the ground with all the pilots looking at the sky and scratching their heads. Mark Pryce ( the new member of Wessex ) had accompanied me and after setting up my windsock and watch it veer off showing NW we decided to take a chance on Bell Hill.

Just as we pulled up the wind started and off went Mark up into the air on his first flight out of the training school and quickly gained height sparking off a big rush by everyone else to get up there with him.

Now I know what I must have looked like after my first good flight as Mark had the compulsary big grin smile when he landed that I haven't seen him pull since Stuart took him xc to Wareham last summer. The end to a day that started late for us two and ended with a few good flights in not so bad conditions.

11 April 04

Report by Roger Edwards


After gathering that not much was happening flying wise I decided to apply myself to getting current with my other pastime, high speed motorcycle blatting. I thought I might as well make it a tour of sites as well so armed myself with camera and headed up via the lovely Badbury Rings road (why is it now 40 on the fun bits?) to Bell where there wasn't even the hint of a whisper. A text from Ali said Ringstead might be on so headed off down there. By the time I arrived Ali had headed off to Ballard but Charles CS was kiting and tried a few beats before side landing. Russell W, David C (I think - apologies if I'm wrong David) and Simon J all arrived and played for awhile in the weak lift with varying success. I resigned myself to being photographer and vowed that I really ought to get around to working out how to bungie the wing on the bike. Steve V, a new member I believe, arrived towards the end of the day and took the opportunity to have some ground-handling practice, as did I when Russell kindly let me use his wing to this end. Nobody had any really worthwhile flying but all got some practice and entertainment.


Report by David Daniels

One isobar that ran up the Irish Sea, across southern Scotland and down the eastern side of the North Sea and then wandered off into Belgium was all the chart showed - and the likes of XCWeather and WendyWindblows had an arrow pointing in every direction of the compass but without any pattern - and none sufficient for ridge soaring.

Eventually, after much contemplating and a good lunch, Nicole B and I were on the top of Ballards and with clouds moving from NNE to SSW over our heads and no wind coming up the north side of the hill trusted the sea gulls for 20mins of excellent sea-breeze soaring at the end of which the breeze changed from S to SW and the lift faded accordingly. I managed another three or four out-and-back sorties to the far end of the southern face - always aware that (a) the day was getting late, (b) with Poole Harbour behind Ballards doesn't sea breeze (normally!) and (c) if the sea breeze did switch off the glide to the beach could be a tad mind focusing.

As we had decided to pack and leave Ali F arrived, convinced that it would come back on. His text a little later that declared it unflyable is not repeatable, and every bonfire on the way home had smoke blowing to the south. So - Ballards does sea breeze .... sometimes.

Report by Steve Auld

Despite northerly winds up above, a sea breeze developed here at Bournemouth in the afternoon on Easter Sunday. Had a couple of relaxing peaceful hours flying - down as far as Bournemouth pier, where it was turbulent due to a slightly westerly wind. Had good fun - presume everyone else went to Monks or Bell?

Got up pretty high a few times - was wondering whether a convergance line was coming back through. So landed perhaps earlier than I needed, but didn't fancy an XC across the Channel. Several people interested to talk about PG - sent 'em all over to FCUK - lookout John...

Report by Richard Westgate

A weak warm front appeared out of nowhere on this mornings synoptic but even drizzle on drive down to Cheltenham didn't dampen enthusiasm. Ended up at XClent winch site; promising break in overcast just after midday allowed 20 minute flight up to 1200ft in broken thermals, just not quite big enough to get away in. A couple more tows later on under 8/8 cloud cover. Better than nothing!

10 April 04

Report by Dave Winn

A phone call from Russell W prompted me away from the house decorating to nip off to Maiden Castle where after a bit of a struggle getting to grips with the take off, myself and Russell enjoyed some nice smooth soaring of the battlements. It was a wise choice as Monksdown was a bit strong.

9 April 04

Report by Neil Kermode

This view of Take Off at Kimmeridge proves I am crap at weather forecasting!

The net said W with loads of sun on Good Friday, so I got to Kimmeridge in good time for the start of the sea breeze. Well actually I was there 5 hours before it started, but I didn't know that at the time.

I even called back to Debbie to ask what Metcheck was saying. 'Well the little arrows are pointing towards 3 o'clock' which sounded promising, but unfortunately Kimmeridge didn't seem to know this with the wind blowing in my left ear all the way up the track. XC Weather on the phone showed lots of Northerly arrows. Never mind I thought. I'm sure it will change soon, an luckily I have brought the paper, and a book.

It does feel odd seeing clouds appear behind take-off and get whisked out over the horizon in front of you!

After finishing the paper, the book, my flask, and a bit of dry stone wall repair work I decided that it wasn't going to happen. Particularly as I was STILL the only one up here on the top. 'Well at least I can get some ground handling practice in on the top landing'. So in the unusual paragliding position of facing Corfe Castle I had a couple of hours of very useful practice. This was to the bemusement of walkers who stopped to watch me undertake some spectacularly inelegant hops about the field. I even found I could make the glider do what I wanted it to do as opposed to the other way round!

I eventually decided to pack it in, but luckily did another check on XC Weather. The arrows in the west had started to turn south westerly and the kite kept falling out of the sky as the wind abated on the top.

Another hour (and TWO pairs of sunglasses found in the top landing field... see me at the club if they are yours) and the wind rewarded me with some sea breeze! Feeling a bit lonely up there I eventually plucked up the courage for a real take off when some walkers asked what I was doing . 'Good question I thought. What am I doing sitting here looking like Worzel Gummage on a bondage trip? Get into the bloody air you pillock.'

Up, and off for a couple of good beats down to Swyre Head and back, then the inevitable fall out of the front of the lift and the climb back up the hill. ...... three times. (Next time we buy a hill I suggest we get sponsorship in kind from Stannah Stairlifts). On the 4th time up, another paraglider appeared from the West just before the lift shut off. 'Who is that and where the hell had they come from?' I thought. It turned out to be Dave Moores from Bell! Bloody hell, no wonder he was grinning!

Always keen to know how I was getting on with my flying the conversation went along the lines of:

'Hello Neil. Why are you at Kimmeridge when everyone else is at Bell? Where do you live? Have you got a car? Can I have a lift?'

So after collecting up Pete Robinson at Corfe we toddled to the Bull at Wareham to meet the rest of the Bell escapees who were being generously collected across Dorset and being ferried back by Dave Daniels. (What a fine fellow!)

So learning points for the day: 1. Get a better grip of weather forecasting. 2. Use the time on the hill for something useful. 3. Stick XC weather in your WAP phone and use it. 4. Get flying when the weather goes right, don't sit there waiting for it to get better still.

Report by Nicole Barnard

Having enjoyed a wonderful morning groundhandling, scratching, practicing multiple side landings and enjoying the lovely sunshine and spring thermic conditions, I managed to add to the comedy of the day by flying my wing into one of the only hawthorn bushes on the side of Monks following a particularly scratchy thermic cycle. Thanks to everyone - Dave T, Dave D, Peter R, Kris B, Dave W, Ron and Ron's saw - for helping me to recover my wing out of the bush in no time. A special thanks to Ron for ridding the hill forever of this menace (tee-hee) and sorry guys for keeping you at Monks that 15 minutes too long to be in time for the 4 O'clock thermal at Bell. I still owe you all a beer!

Report by David Daniels

Photos from Neil Harris:

Opinions, and numbers, were split between Monks and Bell. Not much wind on either, but the forecasts were for the wind to back from NNE to NW and strengthen so the numbers at Monks grew all morning.

The wind, or what there was of it, was pretty much smack onto the hill - and from early on there were thermal cycles coming through enabling everyone to get in some flying. Only Peter R managed to get away - to Tarrant Gunville for some 8km. Also on the hill were Kris B, Nicole B, Everard C, Andy D, Ali F, David and Neil F, Simon J, James M, Brian M, Richard M, Julian P, Rob P, Nicola R, Derek S, Ron S, Dave T, Dave W.

Around 3:15, after the wind had been very light for a while and what there was had backed, there was a slow migration to Bell Hill, and there were 5 or 6 wings in the air as I approached. It transpired that they had been having much the same conditions most of the day - with the wind coming along the hill from the N most of the time and nobody getting away. Since the comp versus Avon had been sat there all day, this had been rather disappointing.

However, just as I reached the top of the hill there was a scramble into the air and despite my efforts I was just to late to join the gaggle that got away - but I did get in another 45mins of pleasant flying.

The "gaggle" included Craig B (Winterborne S - 4.5km), Dave M (Kimmeridge 31.8km), Peter R (Corfe 31.5km) , Jim C (Owermoigne Garden Centre 23.4km) and Neil H (East Chaldon 24.5km) .... so that's a win for Wessex? :)

Dave M decided to land at Kimmeridge t/o when he saw a paraglider wing flying there. It turned out to be Neil "Mr Bell Hill" K who had decided a sea breeze was the thing to fly, and gave Dave a lift back to Wareham where he and Peter were retrieved by me driving Jim's car having already picked up Jim and Neil.

There had been many others on the hill at Bell - those that I saw were John B, Charles C-S, Luigi D-E, Sean L and John R.

A Good Friday in both senses!

Report by Roger Edwards

First thought of the day after checking out the web weather reports was 'who stole the wind?' Good forecasts all week and now zilch. As I owed Andrew Pearce of Flying Frenzy some cash I decided to head out with them for the day, starting at Eggardon to catch any north wind that was around. Just after midday conditions were light variable with the wind off to the N (Eggardon is NNE), occasionally rising to a consistent 10-13 for ten minute spells. New member Dave Strong (Dave S) turned up and we both got short flights in with only a few beats before ending up down the bottom, our optimism unrewarded. Further entertainment was provided in extricating a student and wing from the traditional bush landing - this really should be in the training syllabus because it seems to happen to us all at some point. A ragged looking, very hungover Mike D arrived also, still wingless :(

The wind moved round until well off the hill so Flying Frenzy decided to move to Telegraph(Batcombe). We had heard that not much was happening at Bell so followed along. On arrival a few Condor wings were at a good height - Hurrah! Sadly it wasn't as good as first appeared despite the wind being bang on the hill but conditions slowly improved throughout the afternoon. The best was towards the end of the day with smooth lifty conditions, possibly restitutional lift from the trees below. Dave S got about 30 mins in as did I and Mike D yet again blagged a wing and got some time in the air as well. I think he's worked out that he doesn't actually need a wing as he gets to fly every time he goes out anyway. And that hangover - I reckon that having realised he can get by without a wing he's spending the money in his new wing piggy bank on beer instead.

7 April 04

Report by John Blessing

Weather forecast suggested it would be too strong, but in the morning xcweather.com was much more optimistic. When I arrived at Bell Hill, Nicole B and Dave M were already in the air. Ron was on the ground (I believe both he and Dave M had flown their HGs). After 30 mins or so flying, the approaching rain squall suggested it might be better to be on the ground. Other pilots arrived (Russell W, Martin Hayward). For the rest of the afternoon it was light winds (except for the scary gust fronts of the frequent rain squalls) and rain/hail, although we had a brief flyable interlude towards the end of the afternoon.

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Eye in the Sky - March 2004
Eye in the Sky - February 2004
Eye in the Sky - January 2004
Eye in the Sky - December 2003
Eye in the Sky - November 2003 - Part II
Eye in the Sky - November 2003 - Part I
Eye in the Sky - October 2003
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

Eye in the Sky - 2001 and before