Eye in the Sky - Mar 2010

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Sun 28 Mar 2010

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


I saw that there might be a brief weather window between strong westerlies and wet southerlies.

I was at Barton by 2.30 where I met Danni C and Brian M, also waiting for conditions to come right.

As I took off at 2.35 the orographic was hitting the higher roof tops - no high flights today! I boated down to the golf course and back; the visibility varied between poor and... well, I could still just see the cliff below me.

I cruised back to take off and hovered out in front while Danni put up her wing and after some effort managed to push forward to the cliff and launch. As neither of us wanted a head-on surprise I followed her down to the promontory and she followed me back. From then on we kept each other in sight.

The lift extended well out over the sea so there was plenty of scope for using the whole area without risk of an unplanned beach landing but staying low enough to keep everything safely in sight. By 2.48 I could feel spots of drizzle in the air and decided to land and stuff my damp wing in the boot while Danni carried on - soon completely vanishing from sight.

By 3.10 the drizzle stopped and the sky cleared back to high stratus - at least Milford and Hengistbury Head were back in sight as was Danni, without her cloak of invisibility. Brian brought out his wing... and the next bank of mist came rolling in! With a helpful push from Brian I went off for a second session but he decided to keep his wing dry.

Soon Danni was pulling big ears to land on the bottom path while I stooged around a little longer until the raindrops started to patter on the wing. Cruised in for a very misty top landing and we finished the afternoon over reviving cups of hot chocolate at the Beachcomber.

Report by Alastair Florence


I made an early start for St.Aldehelms today, on arrival the wind was on but a bit light and some thin Orograhic cloud over the Tout and Emmetts hill. The cloud began to clear and the wind felt a llittle better so I launched.

The lift was not great and the air felt a bit sort of fluttery, I feared JC may have left a curse on the site so top landed to re-assess things.

Paul H sauntered over and we put the world and the club to rights for a while, by which time the wind was a bit stronger and soon coaxed Paul to launch followed by me.

Nice air and a smooth 200-400ft ato, after a bit the orograhic cloud began forming beneath and behind us, it seemed to be thickening up and it was difficult to keep a view of the car park although base was 150ft ato with clear air below.

We both decided it was getting chancy so flew back to car park which appeared cleanly ouit of the clag.

We walked back to t/o anticipating another flight but the wind now dropped and clag closed right down.

Report by Shamus Pitts

Not much to say about Ringstead today. The wind was light and off to the west a bit when I got there, and a bit stronger but off to the south when I left a couple of hours later. Alan and I made it to the cliffs but found them not to be working so had to land on the beach €“ thanks to Keith for picking us up! I had 3 flights and a total of 10 minutes in the air €“ woohoo!

Sat 27 Mar 2010

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had about an hour at Bell Hill today, trying out Sean's Ra. Conditions weren't great, with the wind being a bit off to the west and the sky a blanket of grey, but there was plenty of lift to be had €“ probably because the wind was so strong most of the time! The air was quite smooth in the morning despite it looking quite gusty, but as the morning went on the greyness cleared a bit to reveal a few blue patches and some towering cumulus. The wind picked up too and the air became rougher, and by lunch time the few paragliders that had been flying had landed and a couple of hanggliders took to the sky.

The Ra was undoubtedly twitchier than my Golden 2, but it's hard to know how much of that was the wing and how much was because of the conditions, I'd like to try it on a more thermic day to see how it behaves... roll on next weekend!

Report by Richard Chambers


I have just spent the most amazing two weeks in Nepal staying at fellow Mighty Wessex member John Mitchell's hotel (http://www.hotel-garden-nepal.co.uk/). Having only done 10 hours of UK ridge soaring and no thermalling, Pokhara was a bit of a shock to the system. Luckily John took us to Mhandra Dunga for a nice easy morning top to bottom for our first flight. After 2 hours offroading in a taxi and a half hour walk we arrived at take off around 5000ft asl...

John Mitchell giving the site briefing..jpg Reverse launch in the thermal cycles was surprisingly easy and I was soon higher than I have ever been and on my way to the LZ. There were some small thermals but nothing much yet and after 25 minutes I landed next to a school where the school kids packed my wing away for 20 rupees.

Sitting back relaxing and enjoying the view from the best seat in the house..jpg Still buzzing we piled into the taxi and headed off to Sarangkot, the main site in Pokhara. This site we had to share! We sat and watched for a while before building up the courage to take to the air. John again showed us the way and we all followed him into the air. This site is rougher and more thermic and I managed my first ever 360 in a thermal on this flight, although I didn't manage to get much height before I lost it again.

Me doing a perfect spot landing with no cheating going on.

The gaggle circling. My time will come.

Flying over the landing zone with height to burn off. I will have to recalibrate back to UK mode when it comes to wasting height.

Finding time to pose for a quick photo in the smoother air over the lake.

After a bit more practice thermalling I decided to have a go at some midday flying. I put the Gopro into photo mode and went for it. Luckily a lot of people had gone XC earlier so the hill was quiet. I took off after my friend and flew straight out into the house thermal. My friend was scratching low he must have missed the thermal cycle and there was only one other wing quite a way above me so I had to centre the thermal myself. By the time I managed to get roughly centred my friend had caught me up and we flew round and round opposite each up in the core right up past the previously higher glider. This thermalling business is such a rush! My friend left the thermal to go XC but I wasn't ready to leave the safety of the hill so I carried on circling in lift as the climb was still strong. The vario was screaming and I was seeing numbers I had never seen before, I didn't even realise that the vario had a second scale. I was concentrating so hard I hadn't noticed how high I was. As the lift died off and it got a bit choppy I looked down and saw the tiny shape of the glider that was above me just moments ago. 8000ft above sea level according to the vario and at cloudbase for the first time! With all this height it would be rude to waste it, so I set off after my friend, who was looking quite low over Mhandra Dunga. Sink, sink and more sink as I flew towards him. A temple ahead at the peak of a hill, the sun shining on the slope, got to be worth a try. As I approached the temple the vario started beeping and then I was looking straight up as the vario screamed. Yanked straight up in the core I felt as if a giant was pulling me up into the clouds. This was much stronger than anything at Sarangkot. I weight shifted over and tried to turn but the core threw me out. Lots of brake stopped the forward pitch and I was turning in the thermal and climbing. I would stumble on the core only to be thrown out again, it just didn't want to let me in. Back up to 8000ft and again I pointed towards Mhandra Dunga. My friend by now was out of sight, he must of landed at the landing zone where we first flew. I get on the radio and tell our driver to pick him up, at least I won't be alone when I land now.

The whole ridge is lifting now and I pass over Mhandra Dunga take off 3000ft above where I started my first flight here. Just past the take off the ridge drops down and there is no lift here. I turn around and see Sarangkot off in the distance. The wind is light, maybe I can make it back. I follow the ridge line back the way I came, past the temple the thermal is still working so I top up my height and start my glide back to Sarangkot. I arrive a 1000ft over Sarangkot exhausted. The air feels rougher now and the clouds are closing in from the mountains so I decided to land. My Gopro beeps as the battery dies, I hope it captured this flight! Over the lake with thousands of feet to spare I try a spiral dive. The rush as it throws me back, facing straight down, the world spinning. How quick the height disappears, I am soon on the ground. My vario says my spiral dive was 2740ft/min a new high for me. A massive flight of firsts for me, my highest, my first XC and my best spiral dive.

Hotel Garden Nepal - John Mitchell's hotel http://www.hotel-garden-nepal.co.uk/ I have to say a massive massive thank you to John Mitchell for making everything go so smoothly. He gives good discounts to Wessex members and couldn't do enough for us. We ate most nights at his hotel as the food was fantastic, although lakeside is walking distance if you fancy some nightlife. I will be going back next year for sure, I hope to see some fellow Wessex members out there next time.

Now I just need to put what I learnt into action and do my first English XC! Cheers Sorry for babbling on Richard

Sun 21 Mar 2010

Report by Wayne Bevan

Sunday was very enjoyable once Ringstead started to work. The initial lift on the cliffs was very light allowing 2-400ft height gains but then the very light 50-100fpm thermals kicked in! ah what a pleasure it is doing flat 360's & topping out at 1700ft asl.

However it was not a day for messing about low as a number of PG pilots began to sink out & landed on the beach/fields.

attempted to push forwards to Osmington but the sink was very high due to the WSW'ly so bottled out! two flights/2hrs 30mins airtime-good company & nice to see Shaun on the HG soaring. glad to give advice.

spring is here.

Report by Sean Staines

I arrived at Bell around 10:30 after a good hunger buster breakfast in Blandford to find Harry and Derek scratching around. It had been good at 9:30 I was told. I flew around for 25 minutes and then headed off to Ringstead which was always my intention for the afternoon.

I had one of those take off and fly straight to the cliff flights, which always leaves me feeling smug when you've been watching people scratching on the take off ridge. The cliffs were working well with a few hundred feet height gain so I thought it was time to give the hang glider a go. By the time I had rigged it wasn't looking so good but encouraged by Wayne (who was flying the Atos) and John Alder, I launched and made it to the cliffs with plenty of height to spare and worked my way up onto the main cliff. Having gained 400ft I was confident I had enough height for a top landing but I wanted more airtime so started playing. I used the VG for the first time, this involes pulling a bit so string to go faster, and pushed the bar down as far as it would go. It lost 200ft pretty quickly but seemed incredibly fast compared to the paraglider, probably about 45mph.

I did some 360s and explored the stall point but after a while I found myself getting low down and could not get back up above the cliff. Time to think about landing so I headed out along the cliff past the houses hoping to hop over the copse and into the long bottom landing field. I didn't have the height to cross the woodland so set up and landed on the beach.

Many thanks to John Alder and Wayne for the help and retrieve.

Report by Jeremy Calderwood



After seeing the forecast that from midday there would be a west south
westerly of 10-12mph I thought it might be a good opportunity to try
St Aldhelm's Head, a site that I had visited many times but never flown.

I was even more encouraged by a sitephone message from St A's left
during the morning. 14mph - west south west - smack on the hill.

I was little surprised and disappointed to find no wings when I
arrived at Worth at 1.30 but drove on to the car park anyway, put my
rucksack on my back and trudged to the cliffs. On the way over the
fields the wind felt quite strong yet when I reached the stile at the
top it was barely reaching 8mph. It was forecast to increase slightly
and back round a little to a south westerly so I strolled to take off,
set up and put up the wing.

I did a short low flight towards the head, put down again and waited
with wing above to see if it might improve a little. A few seconds
later I was lifted slowly away to about 30 feet ato so progressed
further towards the head until I was about 120 feet ato. I knew this
would not be enough to cross the valley to the coastguard cottages so
I patrolled to and fro admiring the view, including the odd sight of a
steaming plowed field (see photo)... but could not get any more
height. This lasted some 15 minutes. A small lull would follow a brief
increase; perhaps it would be better to get back to take off, I thought.

Then it all started to go Pete Tong. Odd bits of turbulence began to
cause minor collapses knocking away some altitude. I tried heading
north - it got worse and now I was dropping below cliff height. I
turned south again, trying to coax some height as close to the cliffs
as I dared but the turbulence continued. It got progressively rougher
and soon the height was falling away - the vario moaning as I lurched
and pitched, getting ever closer to the densely shrub covered slopes
and the boulder strewn beach below. The earlier plan to fly back to
the car park was now a fast fading dream. This was a no fun, serious

Time to find a landing zone in this 'no bottom landing' site... I
needed to find something pretty damn quick. Dense thorn scrub - a big
no no; the sea a bigger no no; undercarriage busting boulders? - no
way! I spotted a small steep scrub-free grassy patch among the thorn
bushes some 50 feet from the rocky shore line - that would be the
spot. A couple more zigs and zags and I was in it and down safely,
pulling the wing over to avoid dropping it on to the bank of scrub
overhanging the back of this tiny 12 foot by 15 foot safe haven. Phew!

After 20 minutes of picking the lines out of two small spiky shrubs I
folded the wing as best I could in the confined space, stuffed it all
back into the rucksack and started back, picking my way down a short
narrow muddy track to the rocky beach. Gradually I clambered back to
the fishermen's hut at Chapman's Pool from where it was a steep, muddy
and exhausting climb back to the top of the hill and the final
footslog, arriving back at the car park an hour and a half after

The reviving pint at the Square & Compass never tasted so good but I
can honestly say that I would have preferred to have toasted a more
successful and less scary outcome to my first flight at St Aldhelm's!


Just saw your EITS report Duncan... sorry I didn't get to St A's
earlier - I think we would have both got good flights with the
stronger breeze - and given each other moral support for our first
flights there, As it was we both had testing times a few miles apart!

Report by Duncan Haysom

A crap end to a crap week of trying and failing to fly.

Set of in the morning to St Albans Head and arrived to find the wind just south of West and about 14mph which I thought would be ideal.

Trouble is I've never flown there before so I wanted a bit of safety in numbers and a site briefing.

Left a couple of messages and hung about for three hours but nobody showed up.

I took a quick trip to Kingston end of Kimmeridge (blowing at about 23mph so went back to St As.

Still no one. Gave up on St A at about 12:30 and thought I'd take one last look at Kimmeridge Drove round to the other end and after a very dodgy drive up to take off, found three paraglider pilots waiting and hoping.

The wind was blowing between 15 and 20 but dropped a bit and so we gave it a go.

So on my fuorth outing this week I finally got in the air...... For the roughest most unenjoyable 20 minutes of being battered around I have had since I started paragliding.

Landed and went round my mum's to console her about her cat dying. Great day=

Report by Shamus Pitts


I was quietly hopeful about today but RASP wasn't predicting epic conditions so I decided to go to Cowdown and see what happened.

Dave W and Paul H were already there and the wind was slightly off to the north when I got there but gusting through to a flyable level. My first flight was quite short but my second flight was better. The air was fairly boisterous at times, with gusts coming through and the occasional thermal. Eventually I saw a crow out in front playing in something so I flew over and found a cracking thermal with a strong, tight core which took me straight to cloudbase about 3000' ATO. I was fairly optimistic now and decided to head over to what looked like a sea-breeze front pushing in. I thought I might be able soar the edge of it and push east but all I could find was sink. The sun was behind a cloud and the ground was all in shade and my optimism slowly turned in to disappointment as I glided towards Puddletown, sinking all the way. I landed just short of Puddletown for about 12km, phoned my wife and went back to the hill, picking Dave W up from Cerne Abbas on the way.

By now the wind was WSW so after a short flight I landed and headed to Ringstead.

When I got to Ringstead there were a couple of hang-gliders out on the cliffs and a few paragliders on the ground. The wind was WSW and blowing probably 12 €“ 15mph and after watching Danny and Russell take off I decided to have a go too. There wasn't a great deal of lift on the ridge but there were weak thermals coming through, so after a turn in one of them I was 100' ATO and ready to try for the cliffs.

I arrived at the first house fairly low, and found no lift in front of the big house, except in front of the bushes on the eastern end of the small cliff. I worked my height up until I could push over to the outcrop on the end of the first bowl and slowly built my height up until I was above the cliff top. At White Nothe I topped my height up to about 280' ATO and decided to try and make it back to the takeoff ridge. The wind was pretty strong and a good way off to the west so I had to use the bar to make progress back to the big house. I tracked across the fields, getting lower and lower, until I was in front of the scrub covered slope on the eastern end of the ridge. I was just about to land in the field at the bottom of the slope when a little gust came through and hoovered me up the slope where I landed at the top as if it was intentional! Not the epic day I was hoping for (but not really expecting) but pretty good anyway!

Report by Roy Menage

Arrived at White Sheet about midday. Wind was on the hill and a reasonable strength so wasting no time, I got ready to fly. Colin D was there too and took off first. Lift was light and scratchy to start with but improved a little. Eventually a nice thermal kicked off and took us to cloud base (my first time) at about 3500 AMSL. Colin turned down wind and I lost sight of him once I emerged from my cloud. There was very little drift (we were only a couple of hundred metres behind takeoff at most) so I pushed out the front and landed once my height had run out. A group of Avon pilots arrived after spending a fruitless morning at Corton Denham but the conditions never came together again to get away. A good day, however.

Wed 17 Mar 2010

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


After seeing a couple of wings over Barton from Avon Beach earlier I aimed to get there later in the morning.

When I arrived at about 11 I found Henry H and John R ready to fly.

Then Chris G appeared and got kitted up. At just before 11.30 I took off in a variably light to moderate SW breeze which made it scratchy some of the time but quite lifty at other times...

I thought about visiting Milford but the odd unpredictable lull led me to turn back at near Taddiford Gap. A little later I thought I might have another go as Chris G tracked away into the distance.

Chris reappeared at the golf course, turned and started heading back towards Milford as I followed. Suddenly the breeze began to drop off and there was Chris landing on the beach just ahead of me. I grimly scratched on past him half way down the cliff face and flying as close as I dared. Somehow I managed to scrape back up to the top, turned back towards Barton and shouted down at him "Do you want a lift back?" When I reached Becton Bunny I was seriously lacking altitude. I turned back for 50 yards and turned again hoping to gain a few more feet and committed to crossing... and ended up at the cliff bottom on a very narrow beach! A few moments later Brian M's wing appeared, turning back at the promontory ahead. Then a voice called down from the cliff above: "Do you want a lift back?" It was Chris on his walk back...

touché! Forty minutes later I was back at take off. Henry H and John R had departed but soon Simon J, Paul H, Phil V and John B arrived. As the breeze fluctuated between 8 & 12 mph there was much debate whether to fly or not.

Chris scratched off at cliff top height then Brian popped his wing up for another flight until I told him I could see daylight through it as it lifted. There was a one inch tear near the centre of the top surface... soon fixed with his repair kit.

It wasn't getting any warmer, then the orographic mist appeared, clamping down on the tops of the houses and dampening the wings...

that's when I called it a day and left for a late work session.

Still, it was good to get another 58 minutes under the belt.

Sat 13 Mar 2010

Report by Peter Robinson

I'm sorry, David, if I put you off. Maybe you were concerned that I hadn't seen you, which I had from from the outset. Next time I'll wiggle my wings. I remember on one of my first XC's, in 1980 on a hang glider, being forced out of my thermal near Rampisham by a sailplane that joined me and then thermalled the opposite way. Bastard. I shook my fist at him.

Report by David Franklin


Congratulations To all those that had good flights on Saturday.Peter it was me on the grey and orange glider.I very much enjoyed looking down on you thermalling up, but was not so keen when we were around the same altitude and consequently made a poor decision to leave early followed as it happens by a lot more poor decisions.It did cross my mind that it may be you and if I had known for sure I would have been far less cautious.Your flight sounds great I guess it didn't feel quite as rough as it did on a paraglider.

Report by Tim Pentreath


Batcombe was well attended on Saturday with Wessex, Avon and Condors members all present. It started working well at about 1245 and quite a few had some nice xc flights €“ the furthest flight was Nick Somerville's 38.5km landing just past East Lulworth. I made it to Lulworth Cove again €“ see my write-up here: http://flyaszent.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/another-trip-to-the-coast. What a great start to the year!

Report by Neil Harris

With the thought of a two hour drive to a busy Bell Hill I plumped for the closer Coombe Gibbet. I was greeted by around twenty gliders, not doing much as per Bell to start with, but by the time things got moving there must have been more like fifty on the hill which was interesting to start with and led to a few abortive flights as it was so crowded.

Eventually a few got away, the wind picked up and it thinned out long enough to get up and have a couple of hours boating around.

A couple of short video's of the hill on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz7X-ouuVT8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm8U6RBMia8

Report by Peter Robinson

As I headed north towards Bell I could see that the place looked BUSY.

I was down to about 1700ASL so the sight of at least 3 paragliders climbing away was too much to resist. As I joined, a couple were just below my height and one (grey with an orange LE) was above. From a sailplane (G-DEGK) paragliders seem almost stationary and I made my turns a little way away from their core. I hope I didn't cause too much anxiety. I wish I'd had my camera.

I eventually found a 4 knot climb back close to base and the top paraglider seemed to come in beneath me at that point. I left to head north again, turning back just short of Gillingham. Went back south to Corfe, to the west of Dorchester, then back to the Bovington field and a cup of coffee - 130km, nice for an early season flight but probably could have done better if I had felt bolder.

Report by Pete Chalmers

Saturday 13th March Bell Hill Decided on Bell rather than Combe or Monks, partly because it was more pleasant for Kate who, unusually, had agreed to come along. Wind enroute looked decidedly North and light so Kate's comment that she would pick me up in Swanage was greeted with a knowing "I should be so lucky".

Sure enough we arrived on the hill to find very light cycles and the assembled masses grounded. By the time I was ready the weak cycles were keeping the brave up for a few minutes so gave it ago. It was hard to start with in the crowd but the lift gradually improved. After several climbs to the back field and push forward for the next got a more solid climb so decided to go for it with Gaz M and a new yellow Gradient (Martin B?). It was good to have company as the lift was weak until I found a core at 3000' amsl which whizzed me to base at 3600' over Winterbourne Stickland. A glide across a blue bit another weak climb near Whitechurch and another near Bere Regis. I then went on what I thought was going to be a death glide over Wareham Forest. Just when I was working out if I could squeak over the large pylons I got a very weak climb then zeros towards the caravan park. As has happened before here I got a good climb off the upwind caravans back to base.

By now my hands had been numb for 45mins and I was shivering and the weak thermals meant lots of turning. At 3000' near Corfe I had enough and went on a glide which to my surprise took me to Swanage. Initially I was going to land West of the town but the lure of a shorter walk had me landing on a football pitch near the central car park. Probably not a good idea as the final approach was in rotor. But I kept it all together thank goodness.

Kate arrived to whisk me home to thaw out. 40k for the league after a couple of very lean years, I was very happy. Roll on the warm weather.

Report by Paul Hawkins


Well what a day on Bell! A new harness for me so I got there early to set it up on the swing.......Let the madness comence! Scratchy at first but flyable for those that could time the thermic cycles, which by the way was not me! I spent most of the morning walking back up the hill. If you chuck having to fly through a bush to avoid a mid air whilst launching you have a near perfect morning! Anyway the wind came round and the thermals picked up and we all had a nice fly. I missed out on the first gagal of gliders that left the hill. Pete C made it to the coast and Gary M got to Wereham. Gary Pull and myself left the hill shortly after but we only made it to Stickland.

On my return conditions had changed a fair bit and I managed to spin my glider at around 250 ft above the back of the hill! Nice! I was trying to get into a very strong thermal core and it was trying to resist my advances on it. My glider lost speed/energy on the inside as the core pushed back I lent in just a bit more and WHAM......"Goodnight Mr Bond"...... I managed to recover it very quickly which was so satisfying that I shouted a loud "Woo hoo" I landed shortly after to think over my mistake. On the one hand a stupid mistake, I span my glider by being to aggresive for the conditions but on the other I made a very good recovery so I learnt from it! Back on the horse as they say, it was 4pm by this time so I did a nice litlle 22km xc (with turn points!) to Wareham Forest. I flew down the street that Richard M and Jeremy C had flown up wind on. Then I cloud hopped a bit but as the wind had gone more westerly I ran up against airspace in a very nice thermal so unfortunatly I was forced on a death glide to the forest. A very nice flight if not a bit more gentle than normal with the thermaling due to my earlier incident. Thanks to Shamus for the retrieve.

Report by Mark Tattersall

Monks for lunch and Bell for teatime cloud streets flying: From the forecast I had thought Bell would be good, but on the way diverted to Monks as it was quite northerly. I left a sitephone message and flew at Monks for half an hour or so between 12 and 1, where there were smallish thermals, but quite fun and no crowds at all (2-3 max in the air), but from 1pm onwards it was getting too light and went increasingly West €“ so eventually went to Bell, where I counted 26 PGs and 1 HG in the air when I arrived just before 3. Decided I would need to get high quickly to get out of the crowds, so after leaving another sitephone message I took off at about 3pm without ballast and hooked into a nice elevator to cloudbase (about 3,000' asl and rather cold) at the northern end of the ridge. By now the wind was getting up and the clouds were streeting, so (by now regretting the lack of ballast, as could have done with a bit more speed) I spent 1 ½ hours thermalling without a single 360, just flying out front along and among the cloud streets. If I didn't look at the ground I could pretend my PG was a sailplane - but it took about an hour to fly 5km out from the hill (to beyond the scrapyard at appropriately named Knacker's hole - I never knew that was there before!), and only a few minutes to fly back as the wind at that height was about 35km/hr. By the time I landed at about 4.30 the sky had suddenly gone completely blue, and the wind seemed to be about 35km/hr on the top of the hill as well, so it was one of those interesting landings in the field behind takeoff, running to catch a wing tip before it all went to hell.... The crop stubble that helped me with doing this (by snagging the lines on the wingtip I landed first so that I had a sporting chance of catching up with it)) was nearly the undoing of the chap who landed before me as he had his reseve deploy while he was being dragged €“ the handle had caught on the stubble (could have been nasty, but luckily the reserve wrapped around him rather than properly filling with air and dragging him on a challenging ground level xc).

The cloud streets earlier were drifting ESE-SE , so flying downwind to the coast might have meant some crosswind flying to avoid airspace restrictions(although downwind at that windspeed the glide angle would have been about 20:1), and also a bank of taller and more serious cumulus developing along the coast looked like it might cause trouble€“ but really it was the thought of trying to get back to the hill so late in the afternoon that put me off, even though that morning I had the xc to swanage in mind as a possible goal for the day.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I got to Bell Hill early today, hoping it would be a good one! When I got there the wind was well off to the north but forecast to come round so I unpacked and got ready. Thermals were coming through so I had a few short flights taking off in to the bowl and picking the thermals up as they drifted along the spur. I managed to get to about 700' ATO in one of them with Gary P but it didn't feel quite right so I flew back to the hill.

As the day went on more and more people turned up - I've never seen Bell so busy, I counted 37 cars at one point and 21 wings in the air! About midday it was getting a bit crowded so I stopped for lunch. Just as I finished, I got a call from Paul H saying him and Gary P were in Winterbourne Stickland so I went to pick them up. We saw a red and black wing fly over quite low and went to find them, but we couldn't work out where they landed so had to give up in the end.

When we got back to Bell the wind had picked up a bit and was now properly NW. I quickly took off, and after a while found myself on the northern end of the Bell ridge. The thermals were causing the wind to gust through quite strongly and after a couple of turns in a knife-edge thermal I ended up behind the bowl north of the Bell ridge. I pushed forward and got to the bowl but the wind was so strong I was almost pinned. The air was incredibly rough too, I was in the lee of the Bell ridge. My first thought was to use the speedbar and carefully push forwards until I could transfer to the Bell ridge, but the air was too rough and I was nervous about getting a collapse. I moved over to the more westerly face €“ the furthest from Bell €“ and found I could soar it although it was just as rough as everywhere else. A snotty, violent thermal came through which hurtled me skywards and I clung on to it until I was about 300' ATO. I thought I might have the height now to push back to the ridge but it wasn't to be. I gave up and decided to push forwards as much as I could and after a while I found strong, smoothish lift. I kept going forward, climbing quickly, until I was about 700' ATO. I started to turn and carried on going up so I decided that this was the thermal to get me out of the rotory mess I was in and take me downwind for a bit.

Although the wind felt strong the drift didn't seem much to start with. I quickly got to 1500' ATO but I was only a few fields back. I kept losing the lift after that, but then finding bits again, but by the time I got to Stickland things seemed to have gone wrong. I was sinking fast, when only a moment before I had been climbing well, and I couldn't find any lift. My instincts were to stay close to the road but the drift was taking me towards Blandford. I could feel something tugging at my lines so I allowed myself to drift but I was getting very low and the air was getting rough again.

I was about 400' above the ground near Thornicombe and getting spanked all over the place for some reason €“ I could only imagine it was rotor coming over the Bell ridge €“ I found something going up very slowly and managed to claw back 100' but the lift wasn't consistent. After being battered around the sky I saw some smoke from a chimney that had been blowing across the fields was now going straight up so I figured there was something that might interest me and headed over. I found a strong, rough climb which took me from 100' below takeoff to 1500' ATO €“ which was nice €“ before I lost it. I searched around and quickly found a nice smooth climb that took me to 2400' ATO, the highest I think I got the whole flight.

I was now a bit more relaxed and could think about the rest of my flight. I realised that my drift would take me towards Bournemouth airspace so I decided to adjust my track. There was a cloud street to the east so I aimed for the biggest cloud, pushed out the bar and tried to close my ears to the sound of my vario singing €œ7 down€! As I got close to the cloud I realised I was low over the start of Wareham forest and that if I got much closer I would be too low to glide clear of the trees to land in a field. I decided I wouldn't have a plan €œB€ if the cloud didn't work so headed off across the trees for a field downwind. As I started to sink I realised I hadn't left myself many options and headed for a field with only small power lines and little trees in it! I plopped on to the ground with a satisfying thud and managed to get my flapping wing under control before it could leap the hedge in to the road. As soon as everything was under control Martin and Pete from the Avon club pulled up in their car alongside me and offered me a lift back to Bell €“ thanks both of you! I was quite pleased with my flight but my glory was shortlived - within a minute of getting back to Bell I got a phonecall from Paul H to say that he'd landed near Wareham forest as well! I packed my car and set off for Wareham forest!

Report by Jeremy Calderwood



After Gaz's 'Has anyone booked a coach for Saturday to get everyone back to the hill' forum entry earlier in the week I was beginning to think he'd put the mockers on any XC potential.

Although the hill was crowded with all the usual suspects and then some, the light wind was still a fair bit off to the north when I arrived and no one was actually flying.

Little by little the wind began to back round to a more or less smack- on north westerly and the weak cycles began to get stronger lasting 5 to 10 minutes... then it was all back on the ground again. I had one very low save just a few feet above the dense shrubbery in the bowl.

Definitely at bit too close for comfort! I decided it was a good time to try the Mitsos - As and Cs - take off.

Couldn't quite get it right and went for a short drag which brought a couple of welcome hands dashing to my rescue... thanks guys. I'd been pulling the Bs - doesn't really work that way! By 2.15 the cycles were long enough to get enough altitude for some to stay up continuously and it wasn't long before I counted 19 wings in the air and a gaggle of 3 going over the back. A few minutes later 2 more went.

I took off for my 3rd flight at 2.44 and found some consistent lift at the northern end near Okeford Hill. A cloud street had developed and 3 of us started flying upwind under the street gaining altitude the whole time. At times I was getting '5 up'... the vario was getting very excited... what a lovely sound! We all carried on until we were a couple of kilometers or more out in front. I topped out at 1450' ato - my highest at Bell at that point and then it went a bit sinky. So it was back to the hill arriving with still 960' to spare.

The gap in the cloud street went by and then it was back into the climb again. I headed towards Bulbarrow where I topped out at 1566' - a very happy rabbit! As I came back to the hill I noticed I wasn't making any headway so out with the bar. By now - 3.45 - no one was taking off and all were landing in the back field. I practised a couple of wingovers and a tentative spiral dive... wow, doesn't the altitude fly off fast! Took the elevator down gently into the back field for a very slightly backwards landing, turned, grabbed the Cs and dropped the wing.

By now only the hangies were still flying - with all the sky at their disposal.

Also spotted and buttonholed at Bell today was Reech from the Avon club flying his red and yellow Nova. No doubt he'll be adding another video to his YouTube collection - arrr! Another great day at Bell.

Sunday 7th March 2010

Report by Sean Staines

Report by Sean Staines The forecast for Sunday was perfect for a trip to Pandy in SE Wales. I was hoping to fly the Hang glider but when we arrived there were no other hang gliders on the hill, so I got the paraglider out for the short walk to the low take off. There was lift everywhere for the flight down to Black Darren quarry, although the strong early conditions prevented many people from flying. 45 Minutes later I got back to launch to see about 8 Hangliders partly rigged. Late starters these hang glider pilots.

I landed and was extremely grateful for the offer of assistance carrying the hang glider from the car park to take off. By the time I had rigged all the other hang glider pilots were long gone and I was a bit nervous of the launch, but in the event it was extremely easy. I did my first 360's and thermalling on a hang glider. Everard had been right when he told me at the AGM there was no feeling like thermalling on a hang glider. Not at all like a paraglider.

After 35 minutes in the air I decided to land and, despite a crap approach, made a good stand up landing in the bottom field. All in all an excellent days flying.

Sat 06 Mar 2010

Report by Shamus Pitts


I wasn't really sure where to go today, but after phoning Ali I decided to meet him and Paul H at Okeford. They were about ready to go home but walked down to the takeoff with me to find the wind an encouraging strength although off to the NE.

Due to the rotory nature of the takeoff and the strength of the wind I seemed to suffer a small frontal as I inflated which caused me to be yanked off my feet, towards the fence which was quite close behind. I managed to get a foot on to the top of the fence post and guide myself over in to the field behind and land safely. I watched Ali takeoff then walked back and took off as well.

There wasn't stacks of lift to start with, with just the spur working, but, although the sky was overcast, there were some gentle thermals coming through and I managed to work my way up to about 300' ATO before heading back to the hill. The next thermal took me to 600' ATO but the climb wasn't strong and I headed back to the hill, running out of height when I got to the spur and landing.

The wind seemed to have picked up a bit and gone round to the east more, and my next takeoff attempt was similar to my first one, except with an element of thorn bush thrown in for good measure.... and a bit of a head-landing! Luckily it didn't hurt and caused much amusement for Paul and Ali, but we decided to call it a day after that!

Fri 05 Mar 2010

Report by Jon Harvey

Eventually settled for a coastal flight I intended to go to Batcombe as knew it was flyable, but wanted to check out our local northerly site, between Bridport and Dorchester first, as xc weather showed Portland and Yeovil nearly N. Driving through Bridport, saw the flag on town hall wafting in from the sea. A sea breeze?? Went to West bay, to check that my eye sight wasn't really that bad, no it wasn't, definitely sea breeze, though only 10mph max at sea level. Drove to Eype, and more strength, reasonably direction, so update condors flyphone etc, and away.

Thorncombe Beacon ok but no further, wind too west, so stayed awhile, until wind seemed to be decaying. Scuttled back to east side of Eype and remained flying, until later joined by Gary Frecknall. Again made across the gap to Thorncombe But no further. Gary made a vain attempt, to get round the Beacon, so low in fact looking as if he was walking around. A numbed brain obviously kicked in, and he returned to Eype, ok. Enjoyed over 90 mins airtime.

Report by David Franklin


Here is a few pictures from from the cold and slightly tricky flying today. Once we had left the hill bonfires and birds were about all we had for help today

Report by Colin Davies

A beautiful blue day at Bell with many people enjoying the flying. After a couple of little excursions and walks back to the hill I managed to climb out above Ibberton with David Franklin. There was a clear inversion at 2100' ATO that we could not break through. The climbs down wind were weak and small - it was great to have an occasional a few circles where the vario continued to beep all the way round. David landed at the edge of Wareham Forest but I was fortunate to be high enough to safely cross the pylons and found a thermal on the other side that got me up above Wareham. From there it was smooth bump free glide, admiring the view of Poole harbour and the Isle of Purbeck, to land at Norden near Corfe. The icing on the cake was David being kind enough to call and offer a lift back to the hill after organizing a retrieve - Mega!

Report by Craig Byrne


05/03/2010 Bell The day started not good, my central locking locked me out with keys in ignition and engine running, sorry to pilots who could not get past. Then as i tried to break in it pop ed open happy days lets go flying.

Lots of pilots on the hill and in the air, it was a brilliant day with some good climbs to 2500 asl. I ventured over the back once and after reacing base did not find any more lift and bombed after stickland still just enough to get in in wessex xc league :-) I was lucky and Neil W gave me a lift back to the hill where we all had a good afternoons flying and even Everard was there on his HG.

Spring has most defiantly sprung.

Report by Richard Davis


Got to Bell around 12ish to find, blue sky€¦ sunshine.. perfect wind strength.. and the car park filling up rapidly! After re-acquainting myself with my wing as I've not seen it for 6 months! [a scene also being repeated by many on the hill] €“ got into the air and enjoyed a gentle waft about punctuated by the occasional thermal.

Gary's café opened for business and was soon doing a roaring business! A good afternoon had by all€¦. even Everard came out to play!

Mon 01 Mar 2010

Report by Gary Mullins

Very light winds everywhere. So, White Horse it is then and wait for a sea breeze. It did eventually pull on but twas pretty weak and lasted for a couple of hours or so. Long enough for a bit of "swoopy do" fun. Was joined by Derek a little later which, corresponded with the arrival of the friendly landowner who commenced to do a bit of gorse burning directly in front of the take off area. Not a word or warning just set fire to it all. Mad dash to scoop up glider and run away from the ensuing floating embers. What joy ! We both had another go but gave up. Nice while it lasted though.

Report by Neil Mccain


Pete's lunchtime sitephone message from Bell didn't sound too promising, but there seemed plenty of sun about and lovely cloud streets at about two grand, so I thought I'd take a chance and head towards Monks and try out my new hot ship, the Warrior. There aren't too many of these being flown by UK paraglider pilots at the moment, but they've got some nifty design features, such as an integrated harness, flight deck and comms system, together with an awesome top speed that makes them a must for budding and experienced xc pilots alike.

Once strapped in, it's easy to forget how complex the technology behind this wing is: the materials felt solid, the handling straight-forward and easy. A smooth level take-off was achieved from a short, committed forward launch and I was soon several hundred feet above take-off. The air was exceptionally smooth and the wide cloud streets were a dream to fly under. Blandford approached quickly, just as quickly giving way to the Drax estate and the edge of Bournemouth's airspace. The controls are particularly sensitive, with banked turns very easy to achieve, so your arms don't get tired. This is where the integrated flight deck really comes into it's own - it's almost a head up display and means you can keep focused on your goal whilst checking airspeed, climb-rate and angle of bank.

Amazingly for such a fast machine it showed no tendency to spin, even when cranked into a 60-degree bank. After half an hour or so putting it through its paces I landed without any drama, gliding low over the trees to come in parallel to the ridge. Awesome! For light wind days, you really should consider giving this beast a go...

Photos show the integrated flight deck (one with Poole Harbour behind) and simple colour scheme on the leading edge above the World's End pub.

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