Eye in the Sky - Oct 2009

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Sat 31 Oct 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts


I didn't intend to fly this weekend as it's my wedding anniversary, but after watching 2 people €“ who turned out to be Mark R and his friend €“ flying for most of the morning on Cowdown I decided it would be rude not to join them for half an hour.

The wind was probably blowing about 12mph when I took off, and slightly off to the north, but the air was buoyant and smooth. There were weak thermals coming through but nothing very useful, but it was good fun all the same. After about 35 minutes the wind seemed to be dropping and so was I so I landed on top while I still had the chance. Within ten minutes the wind had gone round to the WSW, or even SW and dropped off quite a bit, so I had one last try when it appeared to be more on then landed, packed up and went home.

Report by Alastair Florence



Back to Winter flying today then. Started off on St Aldhelms once some heavy clag cleared off. Paul H and me enjoyed an hour and a half (well Paul seemd to have caught faffite-us maybe from Nigel but did launch eventually) height gains up to 600ft ato in a fairly brisk breeze.

Eventually I felt I had been up and down the cliff enough times and was in need of a waz to flew back to the car with a couple of hundred feet to loose.

Paul went home and I went to Kimmeridge, it was ok but well off West.

I was just packing up when an ambulance and paramedic vehicle came racing up from opposite directions, I was beginning to wonder if I was supposed to have crashed but the ambulance crew expalined that someone had phoned in whilst having a heart attack somewhere on the coast path.

The air ambulance found the patient in the end I think, but it makes you realise how difficult it can be to find an injured person if they dont have a clue where they are.

As I left Jacko was swooping around on Kimmeridge and I spotted a wing on St;A's.


Mon 26 Oct 2009

Report by Simon Jones


Autumn flying at Ringstead. By midday a good few pilots, including Harry D, Andy Skysurfer and Derek S, were ground handling in slightly light winds, off to the west at times. We took turns to fight over the intermittent lift, rarely getting more than 50'ATO. Rain stopped play temporarily, so we stopped for lunch. Gaz M and Gordon turned up for a boat about in-between light misty drizzly bits and the rest of us then gave it another go as the misty drizzle eased off just after two. I gained a little bit of height and decided that the cliffs might be achievable. I arrived west of the house having lost quite a bit of height, followed by Gaz and eventually Harry. The cliffs did work quite well for a bit, topping out at about 230'ATO. Gaz made a break for the ridge, but then returned to the cliffs - I had a go as well, but we seemed to be losing a lot of height between White Nothe and the old take-off. After 20 minutes or so at the cliffs we were all at about cliff height and running out of solutions. Gaz and Harry made a run for it and landed in a field of cows. The cows didn't seem too perturbed by this, so I thought I'd go and make sure they weren't lonely. After a jolly walk back to take-off we found that the wind had eased right back, so we all went home for cocoa and biscuits.
Fri 23 Oct 2009

Report by Alastair Florence


Nigel B text me last night wondering if Knitson could be a go-er today, I didn't have a clue as i'm working late pm's and nights and was not that bothered.

I woke late morning and tried Nigel as it looked ok, Nige was on Knitson and reckoned it seemed light but maybe ok.

On arrival I reckoned the wind had picked up and was now strong but not top end.

I launched and found loads of lift out into the valley under forming low cloud which is classic conditions for this site. At one stage I was about 750ft ato over Windmill Hill.

After a while Nigel launched and was doing well.

Conditions were gusty at times and actually brought about my first ever full frontal collapse, no drama and gone as soon as I identified what was making me drop suddenly..

The wind seemed to veer a bit and a large different sort of bank of cloud was aproaching over the sea with moderate towers forming out of it, the lift increased dramatically and the air became more turbulent.

Felt like classic gust front conditions aproaching so we both big eared down, Nigel home for Coffee, me off to work. Peachy 6.

Sat 17 Oct 2009

Report by Nigel Beaven

A interesting if busy day at monks. Too many wings in a small site made games of who's gonna turn first quiet fun to watch from the ground but as the afternoon progressed pilots obviously decided that being at home in front of the fire was the place to be. It got quiet gusty again late afternoon which made for some "fun" flights with a couple of hundred ft ato achieved just the getting back down was the tricky bit, still four flights and 40 mins in the book made the day worth while

Report by Shamus Pitts


I was on my way to Monk's Down when I got a call from Paul H to say that he thought Hambledon might work better with the east in the wind. I changed course and arrived at the same time as Marcus W, just as Paul and Gary P took off.

While we were getting ready Ian H turned up, shortly followed by Ali F. It wasn't long before I was in the air and sharing a thermal with Gary. We went over the back but Gary seemed to be doing better than me so I tried to follow him. I couldn't find any more lift but carried on searching before trying to get back to the hill. The wind was quite strong and I realised I wouldn't make it back, so I turned tail and fled downwind, hoping to connect with some likely looking clouds to the northwest. Sadly it wasn't to be and I landed about 3km downwind near the river. Gary was still doing well as I packed up so I quickly walked back to, and up, the hill.

By the time I was back at take off the sky had clouded over but there were still people in the air. I took off, but after a few beats found myself at the bottom and having to walk up again! By the time I got to the top for a third time, Paul and Ali had disappeared over the back but the sky wasn't looking too good. I kept trying but didn't find anything substantial. With the northerly element in the wind the tree covered spur was soarable so Ian, Neil W and myself explored that for a while, but in the end the wind seemed to die and we all found ourselves at the bottom.

A surprisingly fun day on Hambledon and about 90 minutes air time (split over ten flights!)

Sat 10 Oct 2009

Report by Everard Cunion


Air-to-air photos of my first flight in my new Airborne 154 Sting 3 at Bell Hill were taken by Roger Edwards, Wessex club mag editor, while flying a paraglider.

Report by Tim Pentreath



Report by Craig Byrne


Lots of pilots had a good fly today at Bell today, reaching skyward in the late Autumn thermals.

I was not tempted over the back but a few got away to Stickland ish, I scooped up Kieth W, Gary P and Andy D from just past there. Arriving back at the hill it was still flyable till late evening so a good day was had by all.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I wasn't sure whether to go to Cowdown or Telegraph Hill today, but as next door's weathervane was saying fairly westerly and Cowdown wasn't far, I decided to take a walk up it.

The wind was already blowing 16 or 17mph when I got to take off at 10:15, and quite a bit off to the north. I flew for about an hour and a quarter but the wind seemed to be getting stronger and with it being off to the NW was also quite bumpy at times. There were thermals coming through but the air didn't feel right and in the end I landed. Besides, I could see people flying at Telegraph hill and they looked like they were doing better than me! I drove to Telegraph and found the wind slightly off to the west and quite strong €“ pretty similar to Cowdown! Who would've thought it! There were lots of people there, with an even mix of Condors, Wessex and Avon. I boated about on the ridge for a while, before Martin F found us a lovely big thermal to take us over the back! In the thermal were Me, Martin F, Paul H, Paul G, Tim P and someone else. It seemed to fizzle out about 1200' ATO and we spread out trying to find it again. We each found bits and pieces but after scratching about I realised that we weren't really getting any higher and if we didn't find a thermal soon the flight would be over.

I headed off downwind towards a big blob of clouds. I was desperately low when I got over the piddle valley but eventually my vario started to chirp. I could now see that the blob of clouds was a cloud street and Tim P was making the most of it. Paul H and Paul G joined me in my thermal, Paul H outclimbed me and I followed him to base, about 1900' ATO.

We bimbled along the street, trying to keep it going as long as possible. When we went in to cloud we chose an edge and flew out of the lift, before returning to build up height again. All good things must come to an end, however, and the street fizzled out near Tolpuddle. I headed back in to wind to try and coax a bit more lift out of it while Paul H headed downwind and Paul G tried to pick something up over Tolpuddle.

All I found was sink so I turned and fled to where Paul H was scratching low over a ploughed field near the A35. The air felt like something was going on but not enough to keep us airborne. We both landed in adjacent fields, packed up then walked to the road where my lovely wife picked us up and took us back to the hill.

Thurs 08 Oct 2009

Report by Neil Mccain



Got to Monks about 10.30 to see a lone glider wafting about, and Phil V tottering towards a launch on his sprained ankle. We were soon joined by a host of hopefuls, the usual suspects and some less well known/visiting pilots, launching into a fresh NE wind.

Lots of lift everywhere, with pilots swanning about all over the ridge and out front. Larger cycles seemed to come through about every 15 minutes or so. I aborted my first attempt over the back at about 800ft ato (I worried about rotor behind the gully), so I worked a thermal out front (nicely marked by Brian M) and went over the back with a little more height and in a surer climb. Ian H had (finally!) worked his way up from the doldrums and joined me in a jaunt over the back.

The thermal pushed us very close to the Compton Abbas ATZ - we tracked its eastern edge using our GPS units - and we were forced to glide from much lower than we wanted to the next source of lift. I had a slight height advantage on Ian and managed to hook the next thermal whilst he was forced to turn into wind and land just a few km downwind of launch. I carried on for a little longer, flying from brown field to brown field for lift. I couldn't seem to get very high before the thermal petered out, though, and glided back to earth at Pimperne. Not my longest flight by far, but my first over the back from Monks and over utterly gorgeous scenery in the bright autumn sunshine which made it a joy.

Not many of us got away (Neil F did and got hassled by an oaf of a gamekeeper for his efforts), but lots of pilots enjoyed a good soaring day, with many still flying when I left for home around 16.30.

Thu 08 Oct 2009

Monks Down. Populous for a week day €“ I counted 18 cars parked by the fence. Brilliant sunshine, cloudless sky, freshening NNE wind: a truly fabulous early autumn day. Some pilots got away but I was content to bimble about on the ridge on my PG: I got some enjoyable soaring but as I topped out at only 85m ATO it wasn't very relaxing so I decided to cut my losses and leave early in order to forestall my otherwise inevitably ending up at the bottom! That is to say that the breeze was quite weak/easterly at times and one incautious move or minor mistake could easily lead to one bombing out as some pilots did.

Wed 07 Oct 2009

Report by John Mitchell


Pics from saragkot nepal.

Fri 02 Oct 2009

Report by Marcus Webster


Bell Hill -Poor quality photos taken with a mobile phone and very cold hands approaching Wareham.

Report by Neil Mccain

I led the work-shy to Bell this morning, personally hoping to make it five xc flights out of five visits to the hill - in a week! Despite being greeted by wave bars and colder air it wasn't long before I had a few hundred feet underneath me and I began to think it really might happen.

The usual suspects joined me in patroling the ridge, Derek taking his place at the top of the stack and marking out the onset of another thermal for us. Those who fancied the trip over the back latched on, and soon Richard W and Colin had opted to go with the rising air. I couldn't hang on to Richard's thermal, and resigned to waiting for a better chance. As I did so, I heard the unmistakeable thrum announcing the presence of a helicopter and sure enough in came a Sea King from the direction of Milton Abbas. It flew towards the ridge, and I was under the impression that very soon the four or five gliders on the ridge had been spotted by the Sea King's crew, for it turned in a lazy clockwise arc towards Blandford. This put it on a course bisecting the two wings that had gone over the back... Had they seen either glider? It was very difficult to estimate proximity from the ridge, but almost at the last moment, the 'copter clearly changed its bearing and climbed up as if to avoid Richard. Speaking to him later, Richard confirmed he'd had to take avoiding action ('I put my hands up!') and that it had been far too close for comfort.

In the meantime the sky had filled in with cloud, and the wind strengthened from the west. I got to 900ft above the top field a couple of times but lost the thermal just as I was thinking of committing, each time forced to trudge back to the ridge. By 12.30 it was all but blown out. The air was buoyant, but height gains were restricted to a hundred feet or so. It looked less and less likely that anyone else would get away. By the time Richard got back to the hill, we were all on the deck, hoping the brighter weather out front would lift the flagging mood at Bell itself.

At about 2pm, the wind seemed to have dropped a little and there was a lot more sunlight getting to the ground. It was still off to the West, so the hangers-on began flying that end of the hill. It got thermic quite quickly and quite punchily. To stay in them meant cranking in some pretty aggressive turns and flying close to each other. Richard, Martin F, Marcus, Rob, and myself were all on this crazy merry-go-round, whizzing across the take-off face of Bell: scream if you wanna go faster! Most times we headed back to the start with just a few hundred feet gained and then in one, I realised I was still going up across the top fields and clung on. This was no magic thermal of the kind that had blasted us all skywards on Thursday, but it was at least staving off the dismal, Donald-Duck drone of my old Fairhaven vario that tells me I'm going down. The grouse-gullies looked familiar too, but I could see sunlight on brown fields near Turnworth, everyone else at ridge height suggested there were no more getaway options coming through so I decided to go for it and flew off the back with just 800ft to spare.

At Turnworth I began to think about landing options! The drift was so north-easterly that the cricket pitch at Stickland was a cross-wind glide away, and impossible without a top-up along the way. I headed for what I hoped was a likely source, the point downwind where a brown field was bordered by a wood, and got something, enough to at least get me into the cricket pitch. I kept the circles going, reasoning that the ground was now rising (the 'spur' to the north of the Stickland mast) and it might lift at the high point. I felt like I was flying two flight paths at the same time - the first one final approaches to landing, the second the hunt for lift usually enjoyed with a couple of grand's grace. The thermal did lift for me - punchy, broken and erratic but enough to postpone thoughts of landing for a little while, lifting me up and to the north of the mast.

The ground below was still in sunshine, but I could see it was duller downwind. And although I was turning in lift most of the time, I sensed my track across the ground was quick - the thermal was being pushed over by the prevailing wind. I started thinking about landing again and decided to head for Charlton Marshall on the basis that it looked just glide-able,it was straight downwind and I might pick up something on the way. It wasn't to be, but after a safe touchdown in a suitable hazard-free field, I saw from my GPS that I'd made the entire journey never more than 800ft above take-off - it was an 11km flight of landing options! My good lady retrieved me, before we all celebrated a helluva week in the Fox.

Report by Ian Hobbis


Quite a few went over the back amazingly late in the day, about 4.30pm! Thank you to Ali F for finding a most excellent climb that saved the day for me.

As I climbed over the back I met Paul H and Gary M returning who joined us. I wondered whether to continue so late in the day but then I saw Neil M downwind who was low one moment and rocketing up past us the next. Decision made, thank you Neil, an excellent find. We all headed over and spent the next hour drifting and avoiding Russian Roulette in the cloud.

Some people far more brave than me headed out in search of better things. Gary P and Neil M disappeared into the distance. Having pimped my way up to base I wasn't about to leave so I hung around with Ali F, Paul H, Marcus W and Gary M.

I was the last to leave the fading zeros after Paul H but I had lost sight of him. After gliding past the range, I scanned the fields for everyone. I phoned Paul to ask him to guide me in! Unfortunately I had to leave a message on his voicemail. Finally I found some of them - I saw Marcus on the ground and a few hundred yards away I saw Gary M atop a grassy knoll so I landed next to him - 100 yards from the Halfway Inn - misnamed I reckon, it was nearly three quarters! (We were just SE of Stoborough Green and it was 5.45pm... in October!!) It was really nice to end the flight with a pint in the pub with almost everyone there. Thanks loads to Roger E for picking me up, extremely kind, and Gary M / Richard W for picking up others. Don't know what I would have done otherwise.

A short poor quality vid of our time at base

Thu 01 Oct 2009

Report by Gail Swift


Para-waiting at Bell

Report by Neil Mccain

Pretty much to the second, the 'four o'clock thermal' came through and sucked a whole bunch of us into the heavens. I was lucky enough to be in there too, and after various shenanigans, got up to base over Winterbourne Stickland. And what an amazing place it was: a huge grey room with no floor! I circled round in a huge dome about 500m across at it's widest point, not actually in cloud but 'inside' it. I'm sure it was echoey in there too - very surreal. Anyway, like a chump I left it for better things, and rued this decision on the deck south of Bere Regis as the smart money slowly drifted past, still under the dome, about 20 minutes later.

Report by Gary Mullins

Again......arrived at bell at about 1.30 and............. nothing much happening. Not so an hour and a half later when quite a few left the hill in, for some, was a fairly rapid ascent. 8, 9 or maybe 10 ended up bimbling in and out of the grey wispy stuff at over 4,000 ASL. Mighty chilly it was too ! Amazingly after nearly 2 hours, the 5 left, all landed more or less together at the Halfway Inn pub some 30k distant. 5 different gliders : Golden, Aspen, Omega, Malula and Anakis.

Thanks to Roger E and Rich W for taking the time to come and get us.

Report by David Franklin


When Bell switched on today it was quite exciting seeing Richard W going up like a rocket just in front of me so I wasted no time and got in there.A nice climb ensued with myself and Adrian C circling together.I was feeling particularly groggy today so once at cloud base and not far behind the hill I thought it would be good day to have a crack at flying home.Although this is only four ish miles north of the hill it is something I really fancy acheiving.

I got back in front of the hill using the speed bar and gps to try and keep as much height as possible.The wind was quite a bit stronger than when we had taken off and progress was very slow and to keep my altitude it was necessary to head a little more west under the cloud street.When i reach Robert Alners at Droop I was sinking rapidly and had to head even more westerly,away from my goal.I took a decent climb back up but at the top of that found myself over bullbarrow so infact over all, going in the opposite direction to my plan.

Plan B "I'll see if i can get to Mark Russells house".Sink all the way so I landed just short of the new goal.16k of great fun and a nice short journey back to the hill,happy days

Report by Alastair Florence


I was fortunate enough to give myself a day off today as reward for working a 21 hr shift the day before, couldn't sleep in so went to Bell.

The day started off fairly strong with alot of cloud, but with promise. By lunchtime it was as busy as a summers Sunday and the wind had gone. it seemed the day was over when at last the breeze picked up again allowing good soaring in weak climbs.

A big dark street formed over the hill and many wings began an upward climb. I sooned joined up with a few other wings and we headed off to South East.

We lost a few wings along the way until Myself, Paul H, Ian H, Marcus and Gary M were left in a sometimes close, sometimes well spread gaggle.

The cloud street was fairly well spread and at times it seemed we were flying under a totally overcast sky. We just kept following along it taking turns to find the abundant patches of lift to help the gaggle along on a slow cruise toward the Purbecks.

Cloud base was easily reached and I was frustrated that it seemed base was only about 3000 ft, I realised later I had forgotten to switch my vario to amsl and was still on ato.

The gaggle stayed together well, until past Bere Regis when Gary Ian and Paul took a more Southerly track whilst Marcus and me took a glide toward Wareham.

It was about 1715hrs by now and I figured the lift would soon give up so decided a glide was the best option although the others were climbing behind me.

As it happened we all landed within about 500 mtrs of each other.

As I wrapped up small deer came over toward me until Paul flew over and scared it off.

We all met at the half way Inn where Richard W and Rog E were kind enough to come and retrieve us almost immediately.

A good flight albeit slow going and nice to keep the gaggle going that long. Peachometer 8.5

Report by John Alder

Marleycombe, Having abandoned Monksdown on grounds of wind direction (NNW) and Winkelbury on grounds of interfering cattle, we (myself, Colin Davis, Simon Jones and Mike Bretherton) decided to give Marleycombe a try. It was flyable, clean and livestock free too! Colin, I think must have flown back to his car because he left the hill and, when we left, his car had gone €“ the rest of us (having been joined by another pilot whose name I forgot to ask, sorry) persevered for a while with varying degrees of success. About 6 o'clock everyone packed up and left but at least we all had a bit of flying €“ most of us were new to the site: I recce'd it years ago and decide it wasn't much good for HG; now I've flown it on the PG, I may well go there more often to avoid the crowds at Bell.

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