Eye in the Sky - Jan 2010

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Sat 30 Jan 2010

Report by Gary Mullins

Arrived at Bell at about half 10 to see a bit of snow on the ground and 3 gliders in the air. Gradually the clear blue sky became interspersed by more and more gliders. Maybe twenty or more braved the somewhat chilly conditions - enjoying the gentle thermic lift to to 14 or 1500 feet ATO. Very pleasant. Two of the usual suspects even enjoyed a ride over the back. Later we were joined by Mssrs. Moseley and Staines on their hg's. A nice day had by all.

January doesn't get better than that.

Report by Alastair Florence


Today proved to be one of the most enjoyable winter flying days I have ever known.

Sunshine all day although a tad chilly. A light smatter of snow on the ground and a very icy drive up.

Useable thermals all day gave everyone on the hill good height with many getting well over 500ft ato.

Shamus broke open the xc league for 2010 with a trip over the back, I couldn't let him go alone so followed on the next thermal peaking out at 1400ft ato and making Winterborne Clenston for 6.35km (woohoo) Shamus thrashed me mercylesly by getting to Winterborne Whitchurch whilst Paul H took a one way ticket from Bell - Okeford, this was quite handy as it meant he was near his car to give us a retrieve, thanks Paul.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I got to Bell about midday to find a blue sky, a strong NNW wind and quite a lot of people flying.

Once in the air I found it buoyant and freezing cold, and people were getting decent height from the thermals that were coming through. I pushed out in front and found myself in a blob of rising air which lifted me up and floated off with me over the back of the hill! I wasn't climbing particularly fast but by the time I lost the lift I was half way to Winterborne Stickland and about 1500' ATO. I wasn't sinking too fast so I scratched around trying to find some more lift but to no avail. I found bits and pieces which took me past Stickland but then I started sinking again. The woods beyond Stickland nudged me up again and kept me going and I managed to eke it out until I could see Winterborne Whitechurch in the distance. I thought I would have to land before I got there but another little nudge lifted me over the houses, over the road, over a waterlogged field before I ran out of luck and had to land by the round thatched barn just the other side of Winterborne Whitechurch for 10.05km open distance, or 11.68km with turnpoints. A pleasant surprise for January! Thanks to Paul H for picking me (and Ali) up! When we got back to the hill it felt even windier, but once in the air it seemed much like earlier, although maybe less thermic. I thought about trying to make it down to the masts by Bulbarrow but I was worried that there was too much north in the wind for me to make it back, but after a while the direction improved so I gave it a try.

It was slow going and I was nervous crossing the power lines but I built up a bit of height and crossed them easily. The ground looked like it wasn't sloping very steeply but there was enough lift to keep me off the ground and I slowly made my way right to the end of the ridge by the masts. I wasn't sure if I'd make it back as well but the lift seemed fairly constant so I was hopeful, although I was still a bit nervous about crossing the powerlines again.

The return flight seemed painfully slow but I don't think it was any slower than the outward journey €“ I think it was just that the powerlines seemed a long way away and I was conscious of losing height before I got to them! As it turned out I had plenty of height to get over them and made it back to the hill with about 80' to spare. I flew to the other side of the bowl before returning to the top field and landed.

I think I've said this in every EITS report this year, but this was definitely the best day so far!

Sun 24 Jan 2010

Report by Neil Mccain

When the sun finally began to set around 16:30, there were a lot of happy pilots leaving Bell, after a terrific afternoon of bimbling about all over the sky. It had been a distinctly unpromising start, with take off in cloud all morning. But on the stroke of twelve it lifted like Curtain Up to reveal the vale below, and half a dozen of us launched straight to cloudbase, just under 200 feet ato. Just like yesterday it was very buoyant and periodically lone scouts or whole gangs would make forays out front, with several making the digester (and back!). The thermals kept coming too, so we all practiced going round and round together, very orderly and considerate. Even when a threatening looking black-bottomed cloud approached in strengthening winds at 2pm, the conditions remained do-able, and after it passed we enjoyed perhaps the finest conditions of the afternoon with so much sunshine it could almost have been a late spring day. I should add that the several hangies/rigids that launched into this really showed us the way to go, flying up to base which had risen considerably. A great day for everyone (even Chris found his vario on the low slope after side landing!). I said in yesterday's EITS report that this year promised much, and today it didn't disappoint.

Report by Neil Harris


Bell Hill.

The weather forecast had been consistent for a couple of days indicating decent NW ish wind and so the 2 hour drive to Bell was on.

Quite disappointed to see the cloud on the hill when i arrived as I hadn't bothered looking for the cloud base height. Still, around an hours wait resulted in the cloud lifting and a walk up the hill for me.

Five or six in the air by the time I was ready and off into a very steady wind for the time of year. There was even some thermal lift around taking you to the cloud at about 150' off the top of the hill for most of the first hour.

Eventually it began to look more ominous in the distance and I opted for waiting a while on the ground before having another 15mins later.

Packing up brought the sun out and on driving away there looked to be half a dozen flying again at about 3pm.

Although cold, it could be worse for January

Report by Alastair Florence


Me, Dave W and Paul H decided to go to Telegraph today as conditions looked to be suiatable.

Base was lifting above the hill as I arrived and soon reached +300ft.

Paul and Dave turned up. it was a bit light but was picking up.

Dave wind dummied again and proved it flyable.

Thereon the rest of the day proved flyable apart from a short period around lunchtime when it got a bit strong and only Shamus was flying, he did looked a bit pale when he landed but blamed the cold (not convinced myself).

Russell, Martin F, Paul G, James L and a Condor who's name escapes me also joined in.

Turned out to be a great day with good wind strength especially after the sky cleared in the afternoon giving plenty of lift and thermals, personally I had plenty of time between 2 - 400ft ato.

A long overdue good days flying.

Report by Shamus Pitts


The forecast this morning wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped but it still looked doable at Telegraph Hill so I met Paul H, Ali F and Dave W there at about 10:30.

There wasn't much wind to start with and the sky was a bit uninviting but by 11:30 the wind had picked up and Dave took off and showed that it was soarable so we quickly followed suit.

As there was a bit of west in the wind the area to the left of takeoff seemed to work the best and it was possible to follow it round and soar the bowl above Hillfield Friary. With the thermals coming through Paul and I managed to thermal up to cloudbase (unfortunately it was only 311'!). After about 45 minutes I had to land because my hands were freezing but once I'd warmed up I took off again. This time the air was horrible €“ the wind was strong, gusty and rough so I landed again quite quickly! By now Martin F, James L, John M and Paul G had turned up so we waited until conditions improved and then took off in to smoother air! As the day wore on the thermals became less regular but the air remained buoyant and the wind quite strong at times so 200' ATO was quite easy to achieve and when the thermals did come through it was possible to get higher.

By 4 o'clock I'd had 2 ½ hours in the air and I was cold so I decided to call it a day €“ the best weekend so far this year, hopefully it's a sign of things to come...

Sat 23 Jan 2010

Report by Richard Chambers

To my novice eyes it looked too light Wessex way so I decided to take a trip to the Devil's Dyke and say hello to my instructor. As we arrived cloudbase was on the hill and the wind was Northerly and a bit light. Cloudbase soon cleared and the wind picked up with it, so much so that my first flight was cut short when I stupidly flew into the venturi in the bowl and did a spot of gale hanging. After flying out of lift and top landing I walked back to launch for a bit of parawaiting. Encouraged by my more experienced friends I took off and headed down towards Truleigh, my first time leaving the security of the site. I was making steady progress along the ridge when I came to the powerlines. I bumbled about a bit before gaining the courage to fly over the lines (with loads of height in the end). Out of the murk I spied the radio towers at Truleigh and before long I was soaring the bowl and picking up good height, I had made it! At this point I remembered that I had places to be and if I bombed out the long walk back to the dyke would make me late and use up precious browny points with the other half. I headed back nervous about bombing out (my speciality) but I need not have worried as staying up was easy about from the final approach to landing. The three of us just sneaked into the corner of the landing field for our first successful Truleigh run.

I filmed the whole run on my Gopro Hero HD but youtube limits videos to 10 minutes so I have only posted the return leg.

Truleigh to Devils Dyke Paragliding Ridge Run A brilliant days flying and I'm now only 30 minutes away from losing my red ribbon, hopefully this coming weekend at Bell Hill.

Report by Neil Mccain

Monksdown at half ten this morning was a grey and cold place, seen only by Danny von M, Hangie Steve and Mr Puhl and his passenger. Steve patience at rigging and de-rigging his glider was tested by the wind, which stubborny refused to settle to a speed above 13mph (and so allow him to stay up), but it felt stronger than that in the cold, and at first there wasn't too much enthusiasm shown by us floppies to get out there.

Danny von M showed the way, more eager than the rest of us after his six-month honeymoon in SE Asia. (A moment's respect for the lad's stamina, please...) Gary and I followed, enjoying buoyant, steady conditions, although it was blooming' cold, especially on the fingers. Windstopper brake mitts? We were soon joined by the thronging masses of eager pilots glad of the opportunity to fly at last. Oh, sorry, that should read: the ridge at Monks remained surprisingly free of gliders, with only a handful of pilots turning up to join in the fun (Brian, Danny, Shamus, Simon J, Stuart, Sean S, Roy (?) and a couple of others, sorry I don't know everyone's name).

I think we were all a bit surprised at this - for sure it was cold, but the conditions were peachy for getting back into the swing of things, wingovers, big-ears, rules of the air, going round in circles, GH and top landings, demo gliders. Were we at the wrong hill, or has the media hype surrounding a smidge of wintry weather bamboozled everyone into staying at home? For a while, there was even sunlight! Shining through breaks in the cloud behind the ridge it cast our shadows out in front, they got closer to the farm buildings than we could hope to. Shamus explored the ridge to the west, getting as far as the modellers, and at one point four or five of us enjoyed the rare treat of flying with a pair of red kites. Sean S thought it was the perfect time to grab a flight on his hang-glider, but Hangie Steve's decision to pack up earlier seemed justified as Sean had a frustratingly short flight to the bottom.

Ah, the 2010 season promises much, but it always does after nearly three hours in the air in mid January. Fingers crossed.

Sorry I haven't any photos to accompany this - it really was too chilly to fiddle around with my camera.

Report by Shamus Pitts


It looked cold and overcast when I looked out of the window this morning, but a message on the sitephone from Monksdown eventually persuaded me to venture out.

There were only 3 or 4 people there when I arrived at midday, but the wind was on the hill, maybe very slightly off to the east, and blowing about 15mph so I quickly unpacked and took off.

There was plenty of lift about and even bits of thermal coming through and I was able to make it down the spur to the left of takeoff, round the corner and all the way down to Win Green Hill where the modellers were flying their gliders. I've never been that far before so I was really pleased €“ on the way back a thermal came through which I managed 2 full turns in, taking me to 400' ATO so I made it back to the hill with plenty of height to spare! After an hour or so the wind seemed to have picked up a little and getting down was a bit tricky but I eventually managed to side land just below the top of the hill.

Once my hands had warmed up I took off again, determined to see if I could get past Win Green Hill. The wind was now slightly off to the NNW so every time I tried to get round the corner I ended up being drilled over the trees. After about 5 attempts I made it round but I was low and the ridge wasn't working very well. I got down to the bowl before Win Green but I was very low and the air was starting to get quite choppy so I turned back. On the corner where the power lines are there were 2 red kites playing and I managed to scratch my way up to about 60' ATO. I should have flown back to the hill but I thought I'd try and cross the bowl again now that I was higher. When I got to the bowl I was even lower than before so I turned back. This time I couldn't scratch my way back up so in the end I had to land on the side of the hill where I watched the red kites for a while before packing up.

Over 2 hours airtime so the best day so far for me this year! Roll on tomorrow...

Report by David Winn

Okeford hill was agreed this morning as the place to be between Ali F, Paul H and myself so I set off there to meet them. I have never flown Okeford before so after a briefing from Ali I took off and with a bit of flapping going on above my head, entered the bowl of trees. Plenty of lift, with the wind in the right direction I gained height above the bowl with Ali & Paul eventually joining me. Wonderful boating around the sky was had by all and thermals YES THERMALS taking me up to a staggering 935 January feet above t/o. What a great site, with good potential for xc but maybe a sting in the tail with the trees for the unwary. Gary M, Simon J, Keith W, and a couple of others were also there.

Report by Danny Von Mutius

Looked at the forecast last night and decided to give monks down a go. Initially i thought that perhaps it might be too light but once there it seemed to be a little top end to start. Warmed up a little in Nials car then decided to give it a go. It was BLOODY FREEZING! but having said that there was loads of smooth lift everywhere. I flew without my vario but Nial said he had 500ft ATO at one point. Had about 1 and a 1/4 hours flying which is awesome as i haven't flown for about 6 months or so. Anyways, it's good to be back and hopefully see you all on the hill some time soon.

Thu 21 Jan 2010

Report by Paul Hawkins

Bournemouth cliffs worked today. I had an hour and a half of constantly changing conditions, ranging through smooth, light, strong, rough and on and off to the east..........oh yeah rain and sea thermals. All this under a murky unforgiving sky.......Very interesting flying and the rain was a bonus as the wing needed a thorough clean!

Sun 17 Jan 2010

Report by David Winn


St Aldhelms turned out to be the right place to go as I had a full hours flying before anyone turned up to join me. Blew away the cobwebs getting 250ft above t/o when the wind started to wain I landed and went home. Years of DIY car repairs and I now take my car to the garage

Report by Alastair Florence

One of my daughters came in yesterday and asked if car brakes stop working sometimes, seemed an odd question so I asked why ?, reply was well mine made a grinding noise and the car kept going, so question answered, yes they do stop working sometimes if the pads wear out.

Hence spent most of Sunday trying to find brake pads and fitting them, finally got out about 1500 hrs and went to St.A's where others had been flying earlier in the day, The wind was pretty light so decided to try Kimmeridge, First flight ended up with a walk back up the hill, 2nd gave me 1/2 hour scratching with a bit of a pick up in the last 10 mins. Several groups of Deer under me in the gorse gave something to watch.

Report by Neil Harris


Forecast to be ESE and fairly strong until around 3pm at Dunstable today. Although several flew before this, it didn't look fun and I stayed on the ground until 3pm ! They can get it right sometimes I guess.

Not really comfortable flying in case it picked up again as there is no where over the back to go - its the barbed wire fence / road / trees / quarry in that order. So I stayed well out front dicing with the Sailplanes and tugs.

I'm not really selling this site am I ? Still it blew the cobwebs away and gave me a chance to try the new video camera. ContourHD1080P. I shall put a clip on YouTube and you can make your mind up.

Sat 09 Jan 2010

Report by Duncan Haysom


Had a great day at Bell and then Monk's. Must have been in the air for 3 or 4 hours.

Bumped into Paul and his snowboarding mate at Bell so we ventured to Monk's together.

Oh no that's behind the wheel for 3 or 4 hours Bell of to the north, Monk's too strong Had a bit of fun getting to and from Monk's with a couple of side-ways events.

All in vain as so often is the case of late

Thur 7 Jan 2010

Report by Marcus Webster


Bell Hill -First flight of 2010 and first proper flight in over twelve weeks on a gloriously sunny but very cold Bell Hill.

Pete Chalmers very kindly picked me up in his 4x4 on his way through Wimborne and negotiated the snowy lanes beyond Blandford and straight up the track to take off without any problems unlike the poor lorry driver parked at a jaunty angle across the road near the quarry below Bell and by all accounts still there the next day.

We were joined by Karl B and Neil M who both left there cars at the bottom and walked up and enjoyed an hour and a half of eye wateringly cold flying with bumpy small thermals coming through off the farms in front giving us about 200ft above take off and enjoying being able to 360 and just reminding myself why I enjoy this sport so much , roll on the spring !.

Sat 02 Jan 2010

Report by Neil Harris



My New Years resolution is to report more of my flights on the Wessex Web Site. As I live near Windsor I fly outside the area a fair bit and thought maybe some of you may like to see and hear about these sites and perhaps meet up sometime during the year and try somewhere different.

Dunstable was fairly westerly, light to start with, but picked up after around 1pm and even encouraged a couple of hangliders to give it a go.(Along with the usual sailplanes !) Too cold for very long in the air but had around an hour and half spread over a few flights. Not one of my favorite sites as it is in Luton airspace and has loads of flying restrictions, limited take off and landing and the gliding club to contend with.

Good to get in the air for the new year all the same. See you soon hopefully.

Report by Simon Jones


Portland West I had half a mind to give Bell a go, but it looked a bit light inland, with Henstridge showing 'calm to 2 knots' after a civilised late breakfast. However, a call from Russell W at Portland provided inspiration and moved me to action. I arrived at Portland shortly after noon and James Tawse arrived shortly after me. Although Portland West has a bit of a reputation (the site guide grades it as 'Pilot Advisory') I found it an extremely interesting site to fly. Take offs and landings are certainly tricky - we used the small grassed area to the South of the War Memorial in front of the Hotel. This site is not to be underestimated, as can be easily determined from the site guide. Once in the air, the views were astonishing, the lift was abundant, and the air was smooth. Most of the time. After an hour or so, we decided to knock it on the head - not wanting to spoil a great days flying by pushing it too far in increasingly firm wind conditions.

This IS a good site, but it clearly deserves a great deal of respect. The alternatives in a Westerly wind direction are essentially Cowdown (XC Launchpad), Whitesheet (a bit rock 'n' roll sometimes) or St Aldhelms (...on my list of things to do...) - so perhaps we should be using it more often...

Report by Shamus Pitts


The wind at home was blowing quite strongly from the WNW so I decided to brave the icy roads and have a look at Bell Hill.

When I got there the wind was light and off to the west and a few hopefull people stood shivering by their cars. John Welch turned up with Mary-Ann, his tandem passenger, and flew a couple of top-to-bottoms before the wind picked up enough for James L to soar the western end of the ridge (the wind was still well off to the west).

John and Mary-Ann took off again and flew to the far side of the bowl where they picked up some height and soared for long enough to encourage me and a few others to unpack and take off. The wind was strong enough to keep us up despite the westerlyness (is that a word?) of it and I found the best lift to be right on the far northern spur. I only managed about 50' ATO and the wind made it hard to get back, so I ended up landing halfway down the hill.

I took off again but the wind was lighter now, and even further off, and my plan of flying past the bowl to the spur didn't work and I ended up landing on the far spur. I walked up it and took off again but I couldn't build enough height and ended up landing back on the spur and walking back.

I stopped at Cowdown on the way home and found the wind smack on. It was probably only about 10-12 mph when I took off but it quickly increased and was soon 16-18ish, silky smooth and nicely buoyant. I got to about 180' ATO but the light was fading fast and after 25 minutes I had to land.

Another pretty good day - I should have probably gone to Cowdown sooner but I still managed about 40 minutes in the air.

Report by Alastair Florence


Much like a couple of weeks ago, went to Bell as wind direction looked to be WNW going more West. Very icy roads on the drive in, even 4x4's arn't ice proof as the one on its side in the middle of the road near Winterborne Kingston proved.

Bell was nice and sunny once the clag lifted but off West a bit and getting more so and more to point to light. Still it gave Sean S the chance to work off a few more grams of Turkey excess hiking back up the hill whilst trying to get a flight.

No sign of improvement by lunchtime so went home via St.Aldhelms on the off chance of suitable conditions with Paul H.

Almost due West and 10-13mph on arrival so kitted up and launched. The wind seemed to increase a bit and we had some reasonable sized sea thermals wafting in giving up to 600ft ato.

Nice conditions and not quite so cold now but with a due West all can really do is soar the main cliff. Both had an hour plus and flew back to the car park satisfied.

Report by Craig Byrne

Wickham (Paramotor Flight) I had an interesting Paramotor flight this morning.

I took off and climbed to 1500ft ato quite quickly then realised I was not making much progress as it was windy higher. After dropping to below 500ft I did a bit of ground scudding before landing. Also trying to run dressed like a Michelin Man is interesting! Bloody freezing but a fun start to 2010 :-D

Fri 01 Jan 2010

Report by Alastair Florence

Not a bad way to start the new year, although it will probably be short lived. Sunny sky and a light Northerly with the occasional and as the day went on more so bit of West.

A fair turn out of pilots at Monksdown with a few absconding to Bell.

Nothing fantastic but at least flyable to some degree from early morn until mid afternoon. Could have done with a bit more breeze really but compared to things since last October pretty epic (like you could actualy get your wing out the bag ! ) Obviously cold with frozen ground on the hill, plus point of this is no moisture so left with a nice dry wing. Didn't really get high enough to warrant getting the camera out.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I couldn't be bothered to trek all the way to Monksdown this morning, especialy as it was so cold, but the forecast was for the wind to go northwesterly in the afternoon so I decided to wait a bit then have a look at Telegraph Hill.

Just as I got to Telegraph the farmer turned up on his quad bike and offered to give me a lift to takeoff - things were looking good! The wind was freezing cold but appeared to be on the hill and was blowing 10 to 13mph. I quickly took off and found the air smooth and buoyant with little thermals coming through. After about 15 minutes I had to land because my hands were going numb but I quickly warmed up and took off again. I managed a couple of 360's and built my height up to about 275' ATO and just enjoyed the lovely conditions! There was a buzzard enjoying the air too, climbing high then diving down, before climbing back up again, over and over again.

My hands got cold after 25 minutes and I landed again to warm up. My next flight started off okay but I lost too much height exploring the other end of the ridge and had to land at the bottom.

I had one last try but ended up at the bottom again after 10 minutes. The wind had gone more westerly by now and dropped off a bit so I decided to call it a day and go home - what a great start to the year!

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