Eye in the Sky - Sep 2009

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Tue 29 Sep 2009

Report by Neil Mccain


Report by Neil McCain Bell Hill on Monday was grey and overcast, but for the seven or eight or so who showed up, there was lift everywhere, so pilots were able to zoom all over the sky. Gary P chose to go to Bulbarrow and back, managing to avoid early doors in some sink near the beacons before flying over the digester and back with apparently losing a single millimetre in height! Despite the lack of sun on the ground, from the all embracing high cloud, cumulus were forming and I hooked a thermal low in front of take-off and surprised myself when I realised the vario had beeped constantly and continually all the way round. For a laugh I decided to go with it, and peeled off the back of the hill with just 500ft. I figured it wasn't too great a walk if I bombed out early, but managed to track it to 1200ft ato before it vanished completely. I turned tail and headed for the cricket pitch, my vario equally as steady throughout the decscent as it had been shrill on the way up. Conditions back at the hill didn't seem to have improved to I went home to score brownie points, so that I could come back on Tuesday to enjoy the better conditions that were forecasted.

Twenty and more pilots had the same idea, all rocking up to a sunlit Bell Hill on Tuesday morning, small puffs of cloud forming above us by 10.30 and lots of buzzards circling - very promising! But somthing wasn't quite right... When you looked closely, the buzzards' lazy circles were just that: lazy. Sure, they weren't flapping, but they weren't gaining height quickly either. And many of the clouds seemed to be decaying above us or just behind us. And most frustratingly of all, there was hardly any wind on the hill, despite the cloud shadows moving enticingly towards us on the vale in front.

The upshot of all of this was that whenever it cycled through a swarm of pilots charged for the bowl, flying in very close proximity. This would only last for a few minutes followed by slope landings and hot walks back up the hill. This was the pattern for much of the morning and early afternoon. It was too crowded to be much fun and at about 2pm the sky rather depressingly filled in with cloud and it looked like it might be over before it had properly begun. Yet just half an hour later the sun began to return and conditions improved to the extent that more pilots could fly more of the ridge. I noticed that a few pilots seemed to have caught something big off the spur at the north end of the ridge, and remembering that on Friday there'd only been one thermal good enough to take the gaggle away I wondered if I'd missed my chance. But a minute or so later I was in a beefy-sounding thermal above the bowl, going round in circles with Paul. At about 500ft ato we were at the back of the top field and my vario had subsided a lot and though we were still climbing, I was a bit doubtful. I know that Paul is a Man On A Mission at the moment, and that made me think he might go for anything if it meant xc-miles, even if it wasn't really on. The grouse gullies looked a bit close for comfort, so I shouted over "This isn't very good, is it?" to which the entirely predictable and steel-jawed response was "Well, we're f---ing committed now!".

We drifted along towards Stickland, Paul squeezing every inch out of the avaiable lift and going up, me at best maintaining until I felt I'd be better looking somewhere completely different. A few minutes later I realised that Paul was at least 1000ft above me and I was lower over the cricket pitch than I had been on Monday. I was cross with myself and determined to give it a last go. Russ W had told me earlier that it sometime kicked off near the mast at Stickland, so I crossed the road, thinking that in any case, the field in front of it looked a good thermal-producing colour. I think I was only about 200ft above the buildings there when I felt the glider pitch back and the vario opened up. My first low save! I thought I might have to concentrate to stay in it but in fact I just had to hang on and stay with it - in the strongest climb of the flight it took me straight to base. It was a great feeling and I found I'd nearly caught up with Paul again, and Dave F. For a moment I was tempted to circle in and out of the cloud, but looking across towards Weymouth I noticed a helicopter and decided that (as someone put it later) 'discretion was the better part of clean underpants!'.

We drifted over W. Whitechurch and into a lot of lift. The three of us seemed to be working different cores spread over 500-600m, occasionally crossing over with each other to see if we could climb faster. I got back to base here before gliding above the others towards the woods to the east of Bere Regis. I had a height advantage over Paul and Dave at this point, and waited to see them turn in something at the front edge of the trees - surely that would be the trigger - but unfortunately nothing happened and our glides continued unabated to ground level. Looking downwind, I realised that my point of maximum distance would coincide with the high voltage power lines, and that most of the fields around me had livestock in them, except for the one right underneath me and 300 feet below - decision made.

I walked out to meet Paul and Ian H kindly picked us up, navigating to us using my GPS co-ordinates. My tracklog shows that with turnpoints I hit just over 20km. What with the low save and challenging early part of the flight it was a wholly different experience to last Friday's happy and relaxed jaunt but just as much fun. I confess: I am completely addicted!

Report by Nigel Beaven



After spending the summer in on skysurfer sites i thought it was time to make use of my wessex membership and get on one of the hills. Richard chambers was giving us up dates that monks down was on Via twitter so i packed up my gear and headed down. I got to the hill about 1pm to be greeted by several wings in the air bumbling about in the ridge lift. After saying hi to some old training friends Shamus and Mell it was out with the duvet and see what was happening.

I missed the first large thermal by bombing out on the slope and watched as shamus etc disappeared into the blue and over the trees. Never mind there was still fun to come, the group of us that were left were greeted by a big thermal about 3ish. I was soaring the east end of the ridge and noticed the seagulls from the ploughed field circling up so made a "b" line for them and straight into a peachy thermal which took me up to 800ft or so and over into the back field about half way across I made the decision that I didn't fancy a hike back to the hill so I made my way back to find the whole place lifting, Very nice except that I needed a P stop so I made use of my ears to get me down close to the hill and bleed the rest off easily ...

Smiles all round and the removal of my red ribbon made for a excellent day.

Thanks to Mell Rawlings for this pic of me taking off.

Report by David Franklin


After a long sweaty afternoon with pathetically weak thermals the conditions finally started to improve around 3.00pm.Although this is rather late for this time of year it was nice to to be climbing out a short while later.Initially four of us but in the end just myself and an ozone glider.once at base I headed off for the next reasonable looking cloud but encountered strong sink.I noticed there were now two more gliders climbing well a little to the north so I turned round and went back to join them.They were Neil Mc Cann and Paul Hawkins.Neil got very low after this and looked doomed to land at Stickland playing field but made an excellent recovery near the tv relay mast.We stayed quite close from there on and all worked hard to stay as high as possible eventually all landing around Doddings south of Bere Regis.I am not sure what became of the ozone.

I have just been back up the hill this evening to repair the gate.Someone had cut the lock off last night.I wonder who that might have been?

Report by Paul Hawkins

A late afternoon trip to Doddings was the order of the day for Neil Mac, Dave Franklin and myself. The soaring on the hill went from nothing to nicely flyable but way too busy for my liking so popped over the back with Neil Mac to catch up with Dave F then the three of us trotted on down towards Bere Regis. Nice to have a proper flight with Neil for change and handy to have Dave's (long in tooth) experience...... No offence Dave!

Sun 27 Sep 2009

Report by Tim Pentreath


Story here. Video here

Report by Paul Hawkins

Well there were a few good XC flights on Sunday one outstanding flight and one crap one.....which was mine! Ha ha!

The soaring on the hill was fun if a little inconsistent. I enjoyed soaring the tree line which is handy little trick on light days at Monks (not a great idea in stronger conditions though!) Eventually at around 1400 hours a big old thermal came through and a few of us took it over the back! I was promptly struggling to stay in lift but had my eye on Ian H in the distance he seemed to be maintaing but not really going up. I never got to Ian and bombed out as I watched Tim Pentreath from the Avon club glide over to him and start to scratch hard and claw his way up to Ian. Anyway Tim made it to Lulworth Cove an outstanding flight given the conditions of the day and almost unbelivable! However he sent me some photo evidance! Plesae follow the link for the proof!http://www.flickr.com/photos/timp/sets/72157622342771501/

Report by Simon Jones



A lovely day at Monks Down. A gaggle worked up into a huge thermal shortly after lunchtime and went over the back. Being at the bottom of the stack I missed this one quite splendidly but caught the next one with John. We worked up to about 700'ATO but then John headed back for the ridge. I followed only to find that he had left the thermal because Paula was just about to arrive! Undeterred, I worked back up again, into a thermal that took me and another glider (Aspen? Pink leading edge?) up to 7 or 800'. Surely enough, he headed back for the ridge too. Determined to make my first real XC, I persevered, soon finding myself beyond the point of no return. Climbing to 1500' initially and then to 1800' in the first of three subsequent climbs, I tracked over Sandroyd School and then across to Tarrant Hinton before making for Blandford. Flying through plummeting sink, I managed to make a ploughed field just to the North of the town, which gave me just enough height to hop across into the playing fields at Bryanston, where I landed in the middle of the house footy competition. 15K I reckon. And probably time to put some new batteries in my GPS. Thanks to Shamus and Karen for the lift back to the hill, where I got another 20 mins flying in lovely restitutional lift before heading home as the sun went down.

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


Monk's Down was beginning to look like the previous day... a promising start with a good breeze bang on the slope with the odd small thermal coming through. Small flat cumulus clouds were scattered about before disappearing, the breeze dying and the day deteriorating as the wind died and the thermals becoming very intermittent. Today the thermals returned by 1.45 although the sky stayed blue and the wind came back to a very soarable 12-14mph.

Suddenly a consistent large area of lift came through and soon we were dodging around each other as we cut into various cores coming through. After five minutes or so I found myself with 5 others including Paul H, Ian H, Keith W and Shamus P at 800+' ato going over the back. After settling into the gaggle turn we stayed together for about 4 km before we began to head out in different directions. Shamus disappeared off south still at a good height as the rest of us began to look for landing sites.

I chose a ploughed and raked field next to the road at the north end of Newtown near Farnham (just south of the Larmer Tree Gardens) - 5 kilometers from Monk's. No vast distance but hey, it was my first XC! I get my next chance next Friday - could be good conditions in the cool northerly breeze following a cold front coming down next Thursday night.

3rd picture shows a lone wing flying over some 50 minutes after I landed - the thermals were still around at 3.30.

Thanks for the retrieve, Brian - a pint for you at the Elm Tree.

Report by Shamus Pitts



I went to Telegraph Hill quite early but only found low cloud and dew-covered spider’s webs so decided to have a look at Monk’s Down.

When I got there the wind was blowing about 15mph on the hill, the sun was out and people were flying, so I quickly got in the air. There was plenty of lift to start with but as the day went on the wind dropped and the thermals came through less regularly. It was still good fun though, the cycles were still coming through strongly enough to get a few minutes air time and it never felt crowded.

In the afternoon a large thermal came through and it seemed that everyone was in at some point. I decided to go over the back with it, with Paul H, Jeremy C, Tim P and a couple of others.

There wasn’t much drift but when I was a couple of fields back, about 1000’ ATO I seemed to lose the thermal and could only find sink. Everyone set off in different directions and I headed south. I found bits and pieces but I found the air quite rough and it was difficult to find anything substantial. There were no clouds so no clues in the sky so I just headed downwind and hoped for the best. When I was fairly low I hooked in to the best climb of my flight which took me up to 2000’ ATO where I bounced off the inversion. Looking back towards Monk’s Down it was amazing how black the inversion line was, I’ve tried to get a picture of it.

I lost my best climb and headed downwind again, finding a couple more scratchy bits but not much. I realised that if I didn’t adjust my track I was going to hit Bournemouth airspace. I turned southwest and carried on trying to find some lift, but as I got near Tarrant Keyneston I realised it wasn’t going to happen. I landed by the Wimborne road for 18.9km and waited for a retrieve. On the way back to the hill we picked up Simon J from Bryanston school.

Sat 26 Sep 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had stuff to do in the morning and I didn't fancy going to Monksdown after it was so busty and scratchy last weekend so I got to Telegraph Hill about lunch time. The sky was fairly cloudy although it was quite sunny and there wasn't a lot of wind but I decided to do a bit of ground handling and see if things got any better.

After a while a slightly stronger gust blew through so I took off and found the air nicely buoyant. I flew for about 10 minutes, getting to about 200' ATO then landed when the lift started to die. The next couple of hours followed the same sort of pattern and I managed to grab a 5 minute flight here and there.

The cycles started to get a bit more consistent and on my fifth flight I managed to hook in to something a bit more substantial. I took it over the back €“ the climb wasn't very strong and there wasn't much drift, so by the time I got to about 1500' ATO I wasn't even half way to Cerne Abbas! I lost my thermal before I got to Cerne, but I saw a buzzard not far away and higher than me so I flew over to it and found the strongest climb of my flight. It took me to 2100' ATO but I couldn't get any higher. There were no real cumulus clouds about, just a few wisps so I think I might have hit the inversion. I headed downwind and picked up bits and pieces but when I got near Godmanstone I was starting to get low. I found quite a lot of sink so figured there must be something going up somewhere close, but only found a bit of lift that started off well but disappeared when my back was turned.

I flew down towards Charlton Down thinking that it must be baking in the sun and would take me back up to a comfortable height but it wasn't to be. I went on a final glide towards Charminster and chose a field to land in, but as I was getting close I felt a tug from the direction of the ploughed field to the east. As I flew over it and towards the golf course my vario started to beep. I reckon I was probably only about 400' above the golf course so I didn't think the climb would come to anything but I stuck with it and added 1000' to my height.

I now realised that Dorchester was within range but as I got near it the climb disappeared. I took an unnervingly low glide over the town, picking out playing fields to bomb out in, but I made it across and decided to see if I could pick anything up at Maiden Castle. Unfortunately my flight came to an end a couple of fields short of Maiden Castle for 18.4km, a much better day than I was expecting!

Fri 25 Sep 2009

Report by Neill Franklin


Bell Hill I didn't get a far as some but as I left the hill with little height, I was very happy with my flight and I landed at Bere Regis. I couldn't resist taking a photo looking across to my house.

Report by David Franklin



Report by Adrian Coombe


Bell to Swanage.

As Others have said - A grand day out. Smooth, High and Cloud Hopping.

Opted for an easy open landing in an empty field surrounded by other empty fields but the farmer was grumpy. Perhaps he was having a bad day! I lost a small Black Panasonic Lumix camera at Bell or on Landing so if anybody finds one...

Report by Ian Hobbis



I watched all the smart people leave in the best climb of the day and then I tried to follow, in desperation, in a very weak climb.

Finally caught up with the xc hounds at base over Winterbourne Stickland and spent the next couple of hours having the time of my life. It was so nice to spend time in the air with really relaxed xc flying in such close company of others.

At the end of the valley between Winterbourne Stickland and Winterbourne Whitchurch I watched Adrian C race off into the distance and then get some height before disappearing out of sight. I also watched Carl (?) take a more SW track and get some height as we bimbled on down towards Swanage. Eventually the three grand plus flying came to an end as I followed Neil M and Gary (?) on the respective Sky Antea & Sky Anarkist (?) to the Purbeck ridge. I thought it was all over when I arrived on the ridge with 1400 alt and sea air to contend with but the two Skys had thankfully found a climb above and ahead of me and I was able to stay in it to 3500 alt.

Neil and Gary seemed to fly off along the ridge towards Swanage while I was squeezing my three and half out of the climb and Gary P (the other Gary) was still climbing behind me and Andy (?) was also there over Corfe. I could see someone with massive height on the coast while I was climbing and I assumed it was Adrian C. I thought I could easily glide to Swanage so I left and headed for the goal. I flew over Adrian in a field just shy of Swanage (and heard the farmer going mental at him from 2500) and to my surprise I got another climb.

The Skys had been going around in it I think but I had a touch more height and it was so good I didn't even have to turn in it. I flew over Swanage and contemplated the ANO and a beach landing then I contemplated rotor from ... everything .... and then I watched Gary P land just outside of town and thought ... that is someone with contacts and a route home, beats being rotored onto a beach anyday. Thanks guys it was magical flying with you all, it may not have been the longest flight ever but it was the best and will really take some beating.

Report by Gary Mullins

Bell Hill was somewhat subdued when I got there just after 1. Not a lot seemed to be happening.

Neil Mac asked if I would like to have a fly on the Sky Anakis (LTF 1). After reading the reports, I was happy to see what it was like. So, out of the bag she came and, as if on cue, conditions picked up a little.

Two and a half hours later I was one of half a dozen, or so, happy pilots packing up in a field at Swanage. So, back into the bag she went ! My questions were well answered. Gary P ( P for Puhl, that is) and Ian H organised the transport to take us, (myself, Adrian C and Neil Mac), back to Bell. 5 people and 5 bulging rucksacks in a taxi. Well, you can imagine the squeeze. We'd only gone a k or 2 and we stopped to shoe-horn Andy D in as well. Very cosy.

There were 2 or 3 others who left the hill at the same. One of which, took a more southerly route, and was an unexpected "arrival" at a wedding INSIDE Lulworth Castle. His reason for landing there was that he was sure to get a drink! Nice one.

Hopefully more of that will come from the man himself.

Tues 22 Sep 2009

Report by John Alder

Ringstead Bay: arrived early afternoon to find only1 parawaiter (Geoff) + some aeromodellers. Wind was on the strong side but OK for direction; the sky was, however, totally overcast (high stratus + some lower orographic Cu). Rigged the C2 and flew over a fairly wide area for an hour or so. The sky didn't clear unfortunately, so I amused myself by doing some fast runs (e.g. 2km on a straight westerly track at a steady airspeed of 80km/hr; scratching up above the orographic cloud to reach 400m ATO). So €“ a worthwhile flight although it was not the best of Ringstead days - it was my 1st flight of any sort for over a month.

Monday 21st Sep 2009

Report by Jon Harvey

Arrived about 12.30, and wind was quite westerly, but about 15mph minimium, so thought I'd give it a try. Launched no problem so came back and landed.

Update flyphone and a few others with personnal calls etc, and went up again. Good height at Thorncombe Beacon, but quite big sink going out to Doghouse Point. First time ever, going around this headland below cliff top height, but soon gained height towards Seatown ridge. Eventually joined by John P.

Many attempts to cross to Golden Cap, but just no lift the west side of Seatown, eg lee side of Golden Cap.

Wind speed gradually increasing all afternoon, but still no improvement in direction.

After third flight John said he'd try and jump Westbay harbour onto the golf course, but I just didn't fancy a walk back to Eype, with a dodgie hip, so opted out. Both flew out to Thorncombe where John then returned to the Bay, and I had a session again above Seatown. Returned to land at Eype, and could see John above Westbay golf course. Eventually made contact with him to arange a retreive, and found he'd landed at Hive Beach. He said that he was only some 200/250 ft Eype take off, when he made the crossing of the harbour.

Admitted that he was quite low once over on West beach. Crossing over the harbour wasn't any problem, with very little sink, but once above East beach, sinky conditions, but the cliffs raise quickly to gained the lift. (Can even ridge soar this beach, so long as nobody sat on the ridge) Eventually made eastwards to Freshwater caravan site, where there is a very wide beach before the next ridge, and really didn't expect to cross, but didn't loose any height, and eventually touched down on Hive Beach at Burton Collected him and went our ways, then met Keith B, at home and so back to Eype, by 6pm. wind now 18mph min, and even more to the west. discussed possibilities, and really decided it wasn't safe to take off in 20 mph+, but then saw a wing creeping round the from Westbay into Eype bowl below cliff top height, and making quite slow progress but in a steady climb. Must have taken off in the Bay. Dark blue wing and very eliptical profile, didn't recognise, and we decided decided to stay down as only about 40 mins, before darkness.

A good day, just on 3 hours.

Just to make life interesting, we had three Harrier jump jets practising bombing runs against naval ships out to sea. Dropped numerous smoke bombs. Several times these Harrier jets dropped rapidly from the west towards our area of coast, then turned hard right and screamed out to sea, at extrememy low level, only visibly by the dark exhaust. Bombs dropped, and into tight turn away. Brings back memories of the Falklands conflict.

Unusual for this to occur on Mondays, normally Thurs is the day for the RN to practise war games.


Stop Press.

The owner of the bungalow at the bottom of Westbay cliffs, who was forever making spurious allegations, has now put the bungalow up for sale.

Report by Keith Burridge



Due to the kindly left accurate sitephone messages from Ringstead I decided to head for the coast.

I arrived to the pleasant site of four wings soaring the cliffs. Russell W, Marcus W, Jassim J and James ? (I think). With the wind a little off to the west and the large brown ploughed field in front creating lift it was a case of inflate, lift off and a doddle of a glide to the cliffs. Definitely the quickest outward trip I have done. I then spent a while boating about and practising a few little spirals over the sea.

Gaz M, Gordon C and Harry D also arrived at the cliffs. Harry pointed out some peculiar cloud formations rising from the sea a couple of miles out which were odd to say the least. One actually looked like a miniature tornado water spout heading slowly east but also getting closer. After three or four beats I finally realised that the accompanying thunder to the clouds from the sea was actually a warship having a bit of target practice off Portland. Any way a good unexpected hour on the cliffs was a welcome tonic.

Sun 20 Sep 2009

Report by Alastair Florence


Monksdown, first time i've been flying here since about March I think, Started light, got good, got busy, got light.

Some nice but weak thermals passing through in the morning but seemed to weaken further by after lunch making any decent height gains hard work.

With the amount of pilots on the hill dodging around to try and stay in lift and memories of the Long Mynd mid air fatalities still in my mind I decided to slope off and try Okeford.

Picture 2 shows a view of Okeford you dont really want to be seeing as it means there wasn't enough lift to stay up and you now have a hard walk back up the hill, especially if the BMX recovery vehicle is not running bikes back up the hill so there's no chance of a lift.

Went home then to pub!

Report by Neil Mccain



The busiest I, and many others, have ever seen Monks: 'It were like Piccadilly Circus, our Mam!' Conditions were scratchy for much of the time too, which made for some very close flying. Given that, the standard of flying on display was first class with very few post-flight-quiet-words needed.

To stay out of the melee, a spot of tree-soaring was in order. The real frustration for most, me included, was not being able to connect with the promising-looking cloud streets above. In fact, I spent the first hour not flying but hauling cars out of the grass-hidden gullies at either end of the parking strip. Tant pis, and glad to be of service! Later we tried to extend the day at Bell but without luck - the wind went to nothing, leaving just a couple of top-to-bottoms flown.

Sat 19 Sep 2009

Report by Gary Mullins

Arrived at about 9.30 to be greeted by ..............no-one. Not even a cowpat. It was hardly surprising the hill was empty; wind 2mph NE and a heavy ground inversion. Not a good sign but it could change. One by one the hopefuls arrived. Conditions did change......... to 2mph NNW. Better, but......... By midday the inversion was starting to break and small cumulus were forming. "Gentlemen, start your engines".

Soon we had a dozen or so wafting about. Got lucky and had a great time sharing a thermal with Paul Hawkins. Text-book stuff. Opposite sides of the thermal chasing each round and round. Going up nicely, but straight up! No drift. Nice. Twas only when we reached about 1,000ft ATO that any drift was noticed. There was one other glider above us. Gary P. (P for Puhl, that is). By this time the sky had filled in a bit and the Cu had quickly reached congestus stage. Not exactly liking what I saw, I followed Paul back to the hill leaving GP on his toddle. He arrived back at the hill some time later, so all was well.

The sky soon cleared again and good height gains were made. This time it was Paul, Shameless and the Chairman who decided that it was time to check out the countryside.

When I left, early evening, there was still a dozen or so having a nice time in the gentle conditions.

Report by Simon Jones


A good day at Bell. Many arrived early to find the wind on the hill, but frustratingly light. Paul H was despatched to act as a wind dummy and showed quite clearly that a little more parawaiting might be in order.

By early afternoon Gary P had made a few good flights, with some nice thermals coming through. Inspired, more pilots launched into what turned into a really good few hours of flying. Four intrepid pilots went over the back: Stuart M making the North end of Winterborne Stickland, Shamus making the South end, Paul H getting as far as Winterborne Whitchurch and Gary P landing just short of Bere Regis. Other pilots out to play were Jim Coutts, Derek S, John, Ali F, Adrian C, Newly-wed Neil McCain, Dave F, Gary M, Craig B, Richard M and many more! I did take some video footage - in part for a video for school - but this should appear on uTube in due course.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I got to Bell hill about 1 o'clock to find a few hopefuls already there but not a lot of wind. Quite soon a few small clouds started to pop through the inversion and gentle gusts started to come through, giving a couple of people a few minutes in the air before it died again. The gusts became more frequent and prolonged and by about 2:15 there was enough going on to stay up.

It was still very hazy without many clouds but gentle thermals were coming through. I took a couple over the back field but didn't feel confident taking them any further so flew back to the hill. I found myself in a thermal with Paul H and Stuart M and Paul was heading over the back with it so I decided to go too. The climb fizzled out for me at about 1000' ATO so I headed over to some sunny fields near Winterborne Stickland. Stuart went the other way and found some lift but I didn't think I would make it over to him so stuck with my plan, which didn't yield any more lift! As I flew fairly low over Stickland the air became a bit bumpy and as I turned in to wind over my chosen field I realised how strong the wind had become. I landed and phoned Simon J who kindly agreed to pick me up. He also picked up Stuart from the other end of Stickland, Paul H from Winterborne Whitechurch and Gary P from the A31 near Bere Regis €“ thanks Simon! When we got back to the hill the wind was blowing 12 to 14 mph and the air was very buoyant. We took off to find gentle lift right out in front of the hill and flew for the rest of the afternoon in the restitutional lift, with people exploring the ridge towards the masts and flying out to the farm out in front, it was a magical afternoon!

Report by Alastair Florence


Bell started off very light but improved as the day went on, not that great for xc potential but that didn't stop Gary P, Paul H, shamus and Stu M getting away, I missed this opportunity myself as I thought it may be interesting to see what happened if I flew into the bowl North of Bell, what happened was sink and I ended up scraping in over the trees to land short of Bell ridge.. A fair few others on the hill but not over busy.

Late PM turned into a lovely evening still a bit hazy but with an abundance of lift and gentle weak thermals allowing ventures out in front and off to the sides with plenty of height, just like summer evenings should be. Peachometer reading a 7.

Sun 13 Sep 2009

Report by Simon Jones



I arrived at Maiden Castle shortly after 11 o'clock to find Alan Webb (pictured) who had been flying, and Gary P who was about to launch. Although the wind was initially off to the East, it soon came on to the ridge and we had a good hours flying in surprisingly lifty conditions.After being joined by Brian M, we landed and had some lunch.

The wind became rather light, and Alan decided to try to fly to the car park. Upon launching, it quickly became clear that there was still quite a lot of lift about and Alan and Gary each had a good flight before landing carefully in the field. I launched and quickly hooked into a big pile of lift, topping out at about 500'ATO with a big rustle, right over the middle of the castle. The wind gradient was quite pronounced and I struggled to penetrate. However, big ears and some bar soon resolved the issue and I landed next to the car park. A nice enough day in an otherwise windy week.

Sat 12 Sep 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts


I wasn't particularly optimistic about today as RASP was predicting only a mildly thermic day and the wind was already pretty strong when I left home to meet Paul H at Hambledon.

I was with Paul on top of the hill by about 9:30 and the wind was blowing 14-18mph, gusting up to 22mph at times. We sat in the sunshine on the lee-side of the hill and waited to see if the wind would drop at all. Gary P turned up the Marcus W and at about midday we decided to have a look on the windy side of the hill again and see if things had improved. The sky now had the odd cloud scooting across it and the wind was a fairly constant 16mph, although it was still gusting through occasionally, so I decided to give it a go.

The wind was probably slightly off to the east and low down it seemed pretty rough at times, I suppose it was tumbling over the trees a bit, but there was definitely lift about, although the wind was a bit too strong to be able to do much with the weaker cycles. After a while I saw Paul and Marcus disappearing over the back, well, around the side, so I flew over and started circling. They were both higher than me and drifting downwind, but after a few turns I lost my lift. I headed off downwind, finding bits and pieces on the way but it was hard work. I think we were all less than 1000' ATO as we crossed the river towards Okeford.

In front of Okeford the lift seemed to tidy up a bit and I managed to work up a bit of height. Near Bell, Paul and I found ourselves in the same thermal and we circled up to cloudbase together. I saw a sailplane circling slowly under a cloud so I headed over, while Paul decided to steer clear of it. I rummaged around above it for a while trying to find a decent climb but there wasn't much about. The sailplane flew off and I found a few more bits and pieces before finding another decent climb. I took a glide over to a cloud near Buckland Newton and started climbing again. By now I could see Cerne Abbas and I realised that my goal to fly home from Hambledon was within my grasp. Once I was over Cerne Abbas I knew I would make the glide home so I left my lift and flew over to my house. As I was nice and high I decided not to land and continued over the A37 towards Maiden Newton. My GPS flashed up with a message to tell me the batteries were low so I had a dilemma €“ should I try and change the batteries mid-flight, should I land or should I hope they'd last a bit longer€¦.

I got some more batteries out of my flight deck and put them in my pocket. I was going to change them but I realised the ground was starting to get close so I thought I should find a bit of lift before I did anything else. The wind was blowing pretty strongly and I was getting a bit of turbulence from the A37 so I decided to go on a glide and try and connect with some clouds that didn't look too far away. Unfortunately they were too far away and I ended up choosing a field in Toller Porcorum to land in. As I got near the ground the wind hoovered me along over the next field and the one after that until I was committed to landing in a sloping field facing in to wind. As I turned in to wind I realised my ground speed was probably about -1mph but I landed gently and quickly got my wing under control! As I was checking my GPS to let my wife know where I'd landed the batteries died completely so I landed just in time! A brilliant day, my longest flight this year €“ 34.6km and my goal of flying home from Hambledon complete!

Sun 06 Sep 2009

Report by Neil Mccain


I was with the early crew of Russ, Sport4-man, Dr Charles, Ian and Dave at Ringstead, some of us taking off just after 9am in surprisingly light conditions. It soon strengthened, and it's marked southerly component meant it was a bit more of a challenge getting out to the cliffs. Once there, nice and straightforward, 'though I was only getting around 360' ATO. The only other pilot at the Nothe at that point (on the Sport 4) showed me the way round the corner, and we went off for a short cliff run almost to the Door and back. I'd not been past the cottages before, so it was all very thrilling, especially as the uniform lift band I'd been expecting wasn't there, and the landing options are all awful. Once back at the Nothe I could see the wind streaks on the water and decided to go straight in to land, doing so pretty much just as Shamus was leaving for the cliffs...

I knew the wind was going to be unmanageable for most of the day, but I thought RASP showed it dropping off in the evening, so I went to Southbourne, kept measuring the wind at takeoff and saw it drop from 20+ mph at 6pm to a steady 15mph just after 7. I phoned in ('This evening, I will be mostly flying my fantastic yellow and green Anakis!'), and had a pleasant hour cruising to the crane and back. Nice pay-off for the journey down - at one point the cresent of the rising moon looked like celestial paraglider coming over to join me! I didn't include any pics of this flight as camera made all the pictures look like it was midday, except for the last which was blurred because it had gone pretty dark just before I touched down.

Report by Jeremy Calderwood

Sun At a little after 4pm I met Brian M, Sean S and a couple of others whose names escape me waiting at a very breezy Barton on Sea. The wind was almost bang on the cliffs but blowing between 16 and 18 mph - too strong for a cliff top launch.

At Brian's suggestion we all trooped down to the undercliff path at the east end of the site below the golf course where we set up at cliff base. I'd never done this before but one by one we all got away floating up in front of the cliff face then pushing out to stay away from the venturi. It was 5pm as I got away on the 3rd attempt.

Every now and again I had to use a bit of bar to stay well out in front but after a few beats we were all getting good height.

I watched a couple of wings head off towards Milford but decided to follow the other two (Brian and Sean I believe) westwards towards Highcliffe. Soon I had passed my previous westerly limit at the mobile home park and was heading towards Chewton Bunny and the café. With a bit more bar and careful positioning we all got over the gap and headed onwards to the tree-covered cliffs and past Highcliffe Castle. Every now and again the wind would increase slightly requiring more bar before moderating again.

Progress slowed as the cliffs gradually curve to face more SSE than the SSW at Barton but we all got to the flagpole at the end of Avon Beach where Friar's Cliff drops down to just 10 feet or so above the beach - a new personal best for me.

As we headed back we were joined by a hang glider - a Moyes Litespeed 8 - enjoying the strong conditions (for us). I watched him cruise effortlessly back and forth, from as far as Mudeford Quay to way out towards Milford. I don't know where he launched from nor landed but he certainly was having fun.

When I got back to Barton a couple of guys landed down on the beach but I decided to head on down to Milford. Crossing Taddiford Gap I did get quite low before connecting with Hordle Cliffs - the top end southerly wind was now making penetration more difficult on these SW facing cliffs.

At last I got right down past the first lot of beach huts and almost to the car park but with an altitude of less than ten feet above the shrubs I decided it was time to turn back.

By the time I got back to Barton everyone else had landed but I did enjoy the exceptionally good lift above the cliffs - I must have been a good 150 feet above them - before flying out over the sea and landing on the beach. It was now 6.15 - what a great 75 minutes of exciting top end flying. This was my furthest distance out-and-return flight at this site (16.1km/10.0mls) - probably one of the best Barton flying experiences I've ever had. Thank you Brian for the excellent bottom cliff launch advice.

Report by Alastair Florence



Me and Paul H had pretty much decided that today had little xc potential. Hence we met up at St.Aldhelms fairly early as it had looked WSW ish. On take off it had alot more South in it but we had a go. When I found the cliff was working better South of the Coastguards lookout than the main cliff it proved a point that we were in the wrong place.

So relocated to Kimmeridge in a strengthening wind, Direction would have maybe been better on Knitson but I think would have been to strong, Paul seemed keen on Kimmeridge so thats where we went.

It was well off South at Kimmerdige and fairly strong, Martin W arrived about the same time as us and very wisely decided it stronger than he wished to fly in. I measured the wind speed and decided that maybe the 22mph gusts were a sort of venturi effect, by moving out of a corner things were more realistic.

I launched followed after a bit by Paul, Martin again very wisely stuck to his decision and went ground handling (thanks for the message Martin).

It was quite strong and to far South to be much fun flying the ridge really so I battled the head wind and flew out via Swyre Head over the sea cliffs with Paul following.

We went to Houns Tout first which was working nicely, I then shouted at Paul that we should go to Clavells Tower, which we did, this was almost a bridge to far as the last bit of cliff was out of lift and I had to bar my way back to something that was working.

From here we flew back opposite Swyre Head, Paul built up height over Eldon Seat and flew back onto Kimmeridge ridge, I went back to Houns Touit then back to Kimmeridge ridge via Eldon seat.

I was tempted to try and get to Gad Cliff and got well West of Kimmeridge village in small thermals with plenty of height, I seemed to have stopped moving forward though so guessed the wind must have gone up a notch or two, so decided to fly back to take off again whilst I could.

All together an interesting and fairly technical flight plus very satisfying to get back onto Kimmeridge from the cliffs.

P.s Paul was moaning I never send in pics of him above me so there's one just for him.

Report by Shamus Pitts

I arrived at Ringstead just after 10am to see a couple of wings on their way to the cliffs. The wind seemed pretty strong and off to the south but I got in the air, built up 100' then headed for the cliffs. About half way there I saw Russel W turn back and I realised that was probably the right decision as we probably weren't going to make it. We landed at the bottom of the hill but only had to walk up a couple of metres before we could launch again.

This time I built up 200' ATO before pushing out to the cliffs with about half bar. I thought I was going to get there easily as I set off but I was only a couple of feet above the power lines as I crossed them and had to land on the short grass by the path on the cliff edge behind the bowl. I was expecting a bit of rotor and I was ready to turn back at the first signs of it but there was nothing to speak of (luckily!) To save walking back I decided to try and take off in to the bowl, so found a €œclear€ space on the cliff edge and inflated€¦. The wind was pretty strong by now and as I scurried towards my wing I tripped over one of the many boulders or bushes on my chosen take off area and my wing blew off in to a hawthorn tree. It took me a while to get it out but I managed it!

I decided to clamber down in to the bowl and find a lower take off. After climbing about for about half an hour and finding boulders, bushes and brambles I spread my wing out in a gully and tried to inflate it. Unfortunately there were so many teasels, thistles and brambles that my lines were getting more and more snagged and I was getting more and more angry! I decided to call it a day and pack up. I climbed back up the bowl to where I landed, packed up and walked back to find everyone had gone except for a couple of hang glider pilots and the wind howling in from the south!

Sat 05 Sep 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts


A windy morning at Cowdown, with the wind gusting up to about 21mph. I had a 20 minute flight at about 9:30 but decided that the gusts were too strong and landed at the bottom. While I was packing up Paul H phoned to say that he was at the top with Ali F so I walked back up. Gary M joined us and the wind didn't seem quite as strong so I had another go. The sun quickly disappeared and the rain clouds approached so I landed again. I could see a couple of wings flying at Telegraph Hill although I didn't think there was enough north for it to be working. They had plenty of height though so something must have been right!

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