Eye in the Sky - Aug 2010

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Report by Shamus Pitts



Wow, two good days in a row! Marcus W sent me a text to say that he was thinking of going to Mere Rifle Range today so I decided to meet him there. When I arrived Gary P was already there with Andy D and Chris (?). The sky looked good but there was no wind and I thought I might be wasting my time.

Marcus, Pete C, Nick S and another Avon member turned up, with Nick taking off as a breeze came through and quickly thermalling up and disappearing over the back with Gary and the other Avon member in hot pursuit. This was enough to convince me to unpack and after watching a raven playing about in something I took off in the next cycle. As I turned left over the middle spur I saw a load of thistle seeds flying up the hill so I flew over to them and started climbing. Pete joined me quickly followed by Marcus who unfortunately was slightly too late and couldn't stick with the climb, leaving Pete and I to take it straight to cloudbase €“ very satisfying!

I disappeared in to the cloud so put on full bar to get out. I got a bit disorientated and ended up heading east when I came out but quickly got my bearings and headed for Longleat where I could see some nice looking clouds. Pete was a little way off to the west but decided to join me at Longleat. I sank all the way and was seriously thinking that our flight would end at Longleat €“ things had started so well, how could they go wrong so quickly?!

Pete found the first sniff of lift which we clung to, taking it in turns to broaden the circle to find something better. After what seemed like ages the lift tidied up a bit and we got to base, about 4200' ATO. At this point Pete carried on North while I decided to push west and try for a triangle. My groundspeed was about 15mph but I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. Frome to my north was in sunshine with a nice looking cloud over it so I changed my plan and headed there instead. I sank all the way to Frome and arrived pretty low, the lowest point so far.

Pete had seen me and decided to join me again. I saw him circling in something behind me but I didn't think I'd make it so carried on frantically searching Frome for lift. Eventually I was hit by an uppercut from a strong ratty thermal which I held on tight to and wound my way back up to base. Pete left his climb and joined me quite low, I'm not sure if he was in my thermal or if he found another over a tractor. I left him working the lift and headed over to nice looking cloud over Chantry quarry which eventually rewarded me with another climb to base.

The lift at cloudbase was quite strong and I disappeared in to the cloud. The clouds weren't very tall or wide and Pete wasn't nearby so I wasn't worried. I pushed on the bar and waited for the ground to reappear. I felt the lines go a bit slack and I tipped over backwards but because I couldn't see anything I couldn't tell which way up was! I released the brakes then gave them a jab when I felt myself tilt forwards and everything was okay again! The ground quickly reappeared and I was back in the sunshine again. I must have had a frontal in the cloud due to being on full bar €“ the air was a bit choppy in the cloud so that would explain it.

I looked back and Pete was aiming for my cloud so I left him to it and went on a glide to Holcombe where I found some scrappy bits of lift. Pete joined me and we worked it for a while with Pete finding the stronger lift. We took it to base and headed over to Gurney Slade quarry where we found a weak climb which eventually turned in to a much better climb which took us to base again. I left Pete at this point €“ we were getting close to Bristol airspace so I decided to try for a line of clouds on the edge of the Somerset levels. It was a slow, sinky in to wind glide and I thought I wouldn't make it. The cloud I was aiming for was over a shady bit of Wells so I changed my plan and headed for some sunny fields at the base of the Mendips.

I passed Penn Hill TV transmiiter which was huge €“ apparently 921' high! As I flew over Wells I eventually found some scraps of lift. It was a bit rough but I stuck with it and it slowly turned in to a decent climb. After what seemed like ages I was back at cloudbase again, my hands which had warmed up briefly were now cold again and it was time to head off to another cloud. I headed southwest, thinking that it would be a good idea to put some distance between myself and the airspace, but it was sinky and slow going and the cloud I was heading for looked a long way away. I could see a nice cloud near Rodney Stoke so I turned northwest and aimed for it.

On the way a Hercules flew past, level with me. I waved my wing around thinking he'd see me and change course but he didn't and missed me by about 500'! My little detour had cost me a lot of height so when I saw a tractor in a field with two seagulls circling nearby I felt a lot better! I lost the climb before I got to base, it seemed to get weaker as I got higher and I didn't want to stray in to airspace to find it so I took a couple of photos of Cheddar Gorge and reservoir and went on a glide. I could see the M5 now and the Bristol Channel quite clearly so decided to aim for that. On the way two military helicopters approached level with me then turned about 500' away and disappeared.

I picked up a very weak climb over West Stoughton and worked it for ages, building up a couple of thousand feet but gave up on it in the end. I was going to run out of land quite soon so decided to go on a final glide and land near civilisation. As I got low I spotted what looked like a pub at Watchfield so I landed in the field opposite, phoned my wife, packed up and went to see if I was right about the pub €“ I was but I had to wait 45 minutes for it to open! After a couple of hours my wife picked me up then we picked up Pete who had turned around at Wells and landed at the Bath and West showground €“ he'd found a pub as well! I eventually got home at 9:30 after a surprisingly excellent day! 61.2km with turnpoints, almost a new PB!

Mon 30 Aug 2010

Report by Shamus Pitts



I got to Monks about 9:30 to find it freezing cold and windy. After hanging around for a while, waiting for the wind to drop, I decided to check the wind speed just in case the coldness was making it feel stronger than it was. 12 €“ 18mph, averaging 16, so I decided to unpack and have a go.

In the air the wind was quite strong and pretty rough at times, I counted 26 cars parked along the lane but no-one was tempted to unpack and join me in the air! I realised that top-landing in this wind was going to be tricky so when I hooked in to a tight little core I decided to see how far I could take it €“ not very far as it happened! I climbed to 1300' ATO before losing it and headed off on a glide towards the steam fair. There were no clouds to show me the way and I ended up landing at Tarrant Hinton for about 10km. Huge thanks to Nigel B for coming to get me and take me back to the hill.

When I got back to the hill there were 5 or 6 wings in the air and the wind seemed to have dropped a bit. There were a few clouds about now so things were looking up. I quickly unpacked and took off and soon found myself in a good climb which I decided to take over the back. I stuck with the climb until I got to about 3300' ATO where I lost it. I was quite close to cloudbase but for some reason, for the whole of my flight, the lift didn't seem to strengthen with height and I never made it right to the clouds.

I went on a glide towards a likely looking cloud and found a little bit of lift but not as much as I was expecting. The cloud wasn't working well so I left it and headed downwind to a different cloud, hoping for something better. I sank strongly most of the way and started to worry that I would be on the ground before I got to the cloud. A sailplane flew under me and started circling under the cloud but soon drifted off towards the steam fair, which was closer to me, so I headed that way instead.

The sailplane was circling in weak lift and I joined him. By now we were about the same height but flying different circles in the same thermal. The lift wasn't very good and the sailplane soon left me to it. I gave up on it in the end and decided to head over to Blandford and see if there was any lift about there €“ there must be mustn't there? Well, no, not really! All I found over Blandford was sink so I headed past it towards some likely looking clouds.

I started to worry again that I wouldn't reach the clouds so flew over to some brown fields with a couple of tractors in, surefire thermal generators! I started to think my flight was over as I was sinking still and getting low but my vario started to chirp intermittently and I found a bit of scratchy lift. I widened my circle to try and find something decent and the lift seemed to be better towards the clouds I was heading for although they were over some shady fields. The lift I was in quickly turned to sink and any height I'd gained in the last few minutes was almost instantly wiped out. I headed back to the sunny fields in a last vain attempt to find some lift and bumped in to a scorching rough climb €“ I didn't mind the roughness I was just pleased to be going up!

Unfortunately the climb was over almost before it began! I desperately searched for it but found only sink so I went on a glide towards another field with a tractor in it and clouds nearby. I was just about to give up hope when I hit my best climb of the day. Holding on tight I wound it up to about 2500' ATO before it fizzled out when I got high.

I flew towards Wareham forest and picked up another decent climb which took me to 3300' ATO, still not quite cloudbase! I glided over Briantspuddle, wondering if I had the height to get over the woods and land somewhere decent. As I drifted I picked up a bit of lift which I worked until it turned in to a reasonable climb, topping out at 3700' ATO near Moreton, the highest point of my flight but still not quite cloudbase. Up until now the flight had been quite hard work, but now things got a bit easier. I had enough height to make it to the coast but my into wind speed was only about 3mph so I didn't want to get too close to the sea in case I got blown in to it! I decided to push crosswind towards Weymouth and picked up another climb at Poxwell. I was a bit nervous about taking any more climbs because I knew that while I thermalled the wind would be blowing me towards the sea so I only allowed myself a couple of turns every now and again.

Typical, when I needed a thermal I had to look hard for it and now that I didn't need one they were everywhere! I glided past the White Horse then on towards Weymouth, allowing myself a couple of turns over Sutton Poyntz. I thought briefly about heading to Portland €“ I thought I could quite easily get the height to make it €“ but it didn't look like an easy place to land, particularly in this wind strength, so I aimed for the chesil bank instead.

I never realised there were quite so many big power lines around Weymouth! My plan to fly to chesil bank was ditched when I saw the criss-crossing maze of powerlines and I decided to find a safe field and land there! A bonfire with vertical smoke indicated another thermal so I flew over it to give me a little extra height to get over the first pylon. I chose my field €“ no powerlines €“ burnt off a bit of height then landed near South Buckland Farm, Chickerell, for 52.4km €“ my longest Wessex flight so far!

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


After a three week gap I managed to get a bit of useful airtime in the at times rather crowded conditions but arrived too late for the earlier short xc window. I did have a few anxious moments when while turning probably just a bit too tightly in a thermal I got a big asymmetric which promptly spun me towards the hill. After a bit of a topsy turvy flailing about while heading for the trees I managed to get the wing under control a lot closer to the ground than I would have liked.

Pictured are new members Ruth and William who, with a few other red ribbon pilots, managed to get in some useful time getting used to flying with a lot of company as well as practicing side and top landings - good stuff!

Report by Everard Cunion

Light conditions like this afternoon at Monk's Down in a hang glider require patience that I am slowly acquiring. I stood clipped in for hours watching the paragliders fly out, up, and down to land back on the hillside. One or two experts soared the 'cliff' of trees along the top of the ridge.

My stomach was grumbling for lack of lunch while the other hangies sat on the hillside and, at 16:00, suddenly the lift arrived, taking the weight of my wing (a good sign) and the few paragliders airborne started to climb. I launched straight into lift -- followed by about twenty paragliders...

The lift seemed disorganised, but turning in it usually gained me height. I maxed out only about 400 ft above launch, but the sun was shining and in less than five minutes I took 11 photos from my wing mounted camera. (It is a film camera, so the results are in the future.) Visibility was just about infinite. The clearest air I recall ever seeing.

Report by Marcus Webster


Enjoyable flight from Monks Down, never getting close to cloud base, maximum 3,300`asl.

On arriving just to the East of White Horse Hill I made a bad decision and turned left and headed for Ringstead, thinking I could see Paragliders in front of the car park at take off, and hoping for any easy retrieve back to Monks .

No Paragliders and a very stiff offshore breeze ! Thanks to Grant and his Wife for the lift back from Bere Regis where I was stood beside the road with my thumb out.

Report by Grant Oseland


Not much to say apart from, turned up at Monks and it was to windy so waited and a lot of other people turned up. The wind dropped a bit, but not much, so rigged and launched then got to Durdel Door, which was nice.

Sharing the air with Marcus most of the way. Oh, and it was very cold at cloud base.

Sat 28 Aug 2010

Report by Everard Cunion

At one point I counted 13 hang gliders at Bell Hill, flying and preparing to fly, including a bunch of visitors. There must have been more than that in total. A couple of times I was unable to turn in lift when I wanted to because another glider was in the way, but there was plenty lift to be had in amongst the sink. (Caution reigns: Myles Dunlop recently collided with Steve Gale in Wales. Last I heard, Steve is still in intensive care.)

I encountered one chunk of air on the west end of the main ridge that was only moderately turbulent, but so random as to be completely unpredictable. I normally don't quit a thermal unless I have to, but man, I lit outta there. In contrast to that and to all the other strong but rough thermals, one large and slow one took me from ridge height to more than 1,000 ft above launch with very little downwind drift. An effortless climb.

Landing approaches needed extra care because of the crop. One of the visitors landed exactly on one of the two-foot wide paths that snake through the crop. "We were well briefed," he explained. In a later flight towards evening he specked out low to the west. Looked like he made it to the radio masts (and back) which is a difficult task.

Report by Shamus Pitts



I thought it would probably get blown out quite quickly today so I got to Telegraph Hill at about 9am to find it already blowing 12 €“ 19 mph and slightly off to the west.

I was in the air by 10am and although fairly strong the wind didn't seem too bad. There was plenty of lift, with large, fairly weak, thermals coming through. Although the thermals were weak they pulled me towards them, away from the hill, so penetration wasn't a problem.

I followed the ridge along to the west then pushed forwards from the nudist camp along the north facing part of the ridge until I got out over Hilfield Friary, the furthest forward I've been. I started to cut back towards takeoff and found a reasonable climb which, because I was so far forward, I had the space to put a couple of turns in before worrying about going over the back. I flew over the nudist camp at about 750' ATO so decided to stick with it and slowly made my way up to 1500' ATO.

There seemed to be weak lift everywhere and I could see Poole harbour in the distance, beckoning me, and I thought €œthis is it€! Unfortunately my joy was short lived as it wasn't long before all my lift had been blown away, leaving me in sinky air and heading in to the Cerne valley. There were a couple of likely clouds about but some indecisiveness on my part and not enough height to look far and wide for lift left me zooming across the ground, over Cerne Abbas and along the eastern ridge of the valley. I dropped down in to some ridge lift which I worked for a while but due to the strength of the wind I was worried about taking another climb only to end up being rotored down in to the Piddle Valley so I decided to follow the Cerne valley down and try and land on reasonably high ground.

The approach was a bit rock n roll, which I was expecting, but the last 20' or so were quite smooth, which was nice! Only 6.5km but after not flying for 3 weeks I was happy to have finally flown!

When I got back to Telegraph Hill James L, John and Lynn M and Viv and Phil F and a guy from Long Mynd had arrived and the wind had picked up. After a while it was just about takeoffable and James took off, shortly followed by me. There was a cloud street above me, extending right out from the hill and I just flew forwards and slowly climbed to about 500' ATO before the lift died. The clouds were looking quite dark ahead of me so I decided to have a look on the north end of the ridge were the sky was bluer and some nice clouds were forming. I was a bit worried that the big dark clouds might cause the wind to increase even more so I stayed well out in front of the hill, but when I got to the north end of the ridge I found that because the wind was off to the west a bit, getting back again was going to be slow!

The wind was pushing me closer to the trees so with some careful bar work I slowly crept out from the hill, sinking as I went, pushed around the hill and out over the fields below. As I came in to land it was even windy in the landing field and quite gusty and rough but I landed safely and packed up. Not a bad day, almost an hour in the air, but it was just a bit too windy to be much fun!

Sun 22Aug 2010

Report by Richard Chambers


On a wet and drizzly day at Barton, we met Gary Puhl from the Mighty Wessex, who had kindly agreed to give Anna a tandem flight. The weather didn't look promising with rain the whole drive down, but it was forecast to clear in the afternoon. We got to Barton and it was cloudy and wet so decided to skip off for a pub lunch. After that the weather wasn't much better so we sat in the car to wait. Every so often the rain would stop, but only for long enough to get the gear out and wet! Eventually, with the weather not looking like improving, Gary set the tandem up in the very light drizzle and strapped Anna in. With me as anchor man and Anna briefed, the wing was soon above them, but the wind appeared to be too light, typical! After a little bit of a ground handling master class from Gary, the wind seemed like it had picked up a tad, so the command was given to run. Off the edge with a scream of excitement and they were away. Gary hugged the cliff scratching his way back up and managed to turn and fly back past us just above cliff height. Within another beat they were at a comfortable height and could relax.

I filmed a bit and took some pictures from the ground for a while before deciding to join them in the air for a bit of aerial filming. I couldn't seem to find somewhere to park the wing that was in the airflow, but with the help of my ground crew holding the wing up my launch was not bad at all (even if I do say so myself!). It was quite refreshing flying around with the drizzle in your face in the lovely English summer weather. After around 40 minutes of boating around the rain increased so we all decided to land.

Anna was over the moon and can't wait to start learning to fly herself. I have lost a retrieve driver but gained a flying partner! I can't thank Gary enough for taking Anna up on the tandem, just need to save up for a new wing and training for Anna now.

Oh and you don't realise how big a paraglider is until you try to spread it out indoors to dry!

Tue 17 Aug 2010

Report by Alastair Florence


Finished work at 1000 hrs today (to be fair I did start at midnight) horrible morning, foggy, wet and windy so had a mooch in Falmouth.

Still showery by lunchtime, I figured that what ever I did if it was outside I would probably get wet so it seemed logical to go surfing.

Hayle (Godreevy) seemed the best beach to head for locally with a NW wind blowing. Either the waves were crap or I have forgotten how to surf after about 30 years lay off, probably a bit of both, still practice makes slightly better.

After an hour or so I noticed the sky was much clearer. I made a call to the KHPA local sites officer for a site brief supplement and headed for 'The Towans' on Hayle beach, basically its a gurt long sand dune with cliffs at each end.

I had the brief to use the visitors launch site which means you basically inflate on the beach, walk back up the sand dune until you become airborne. I had a nice little boat up and down and was then joined by a couple of local wagga aces who were swooping up the dunes and beach.

This inspired me to have a go as well and I spent a while chucking the wing about happily, the dunes are great for fun, you could fly down so your harness virtually scraped the beach then swoop it back up. loads of fun.

Only down side Sand gets everywhere, never buy a wing off a corn, the newness will have worn off.

Monday 16th August 2010

Report by John Alder

Bell Hill.

I arrived at about 3 o'clock to find Gary Puhl and Chris (sorry, I didn't get his surname) waiting for the 17 - 22mph NNWly to abate. I rigged the C2 and had an exciting hour in the air (pretty rough and thermic). I topped out over Turnworth house at 2000ft ATO and whizzed forward to beyond Belchalwell church using full VG, only losing 1000ft in the process.

Rounded off a strenuous but enjoyable flight with a faultless landing in the stubble field to avoid fighting my way through the linseed field. Gary and Chris very kindly came over and helped me through the gate and with my packing up - what a boon that was! Many thanks to you gentlemen - so sorry that the hoped for calmer breeze in the evening didn't materialize for you.

Sun 15 Aug 2010

Report by Wayne Bevan

It was good to see Sean at Harting in breezy conditions. The air was NNE gusting between 15-20mph! It didn't get any better with height! The 'home ridge' was quite bumpy & I indicated to Graham (red ribbon) to land which he did.

Progress to Beacon was easy on the Atos. Beacon has a NE'ly wooded bowl which normally works but was rough! Progress east means a glide across a low section before connecting with the ridge at Treyford & then on to Didling. From 1000ft ato it was easy! It then requires a decent thermal to cross the Cocking gap-but not today as the wind had picked up & gusting to around 30mph! Thermals were rough, broken with some heavy sink! Being within 200ft of the ridge meant the Atos was being bounced about! I saw Sean's glider safely on the ground around Elstead-good decision as one doesn't want to get low there as landing options are interesting! The glide back from Beacon to take off was interesting so after a 40minute flight I landed & called it a day!

Report by Sean Staines

Sunday 15th August.

The forecast looked good today to try out the Skysurfers HG only site, Harting Down, near Petersfield. I arrived around 1pm to see a few other gliders making their way to the rigging area including a couple of red ribbon pilots who got in some good soaring flights.

The wind was quite strong and my progress along the ridge was pretty slow, but with a few thermals to assist me, I managed to make it about 5km along to Didling. I had hoped to make it to Cocking and back but I wasn't very high, about 150ft above the ridge, and a heavily wooded spur sticks out there which could have left me with no landing option.

I hung around at Didling for a while and eventually hooked into a great climb which took me nearly 1200ft above take off, the highest I've been so far and the first time through the 1000ft barrier. The views back to Chichester harbour were great.

With my 1200ft I set off back towards take off, but the lower ground around Elsted wasn't working for me and I pushed out for a bottom landing.

This is a great site with a lot more potential than Monksdown. Flights to Devils Dyke have been known to happen.

Thu 12 Aug 2010

Report by Alastair Florence


Not exactly flying related unless you happen to fly into one, but I thought a few people might be interested in a couple of pics of some wind turbines we are putting up at Goonhilly.

6 x 2 mw units are replacing the 14 smaller older units that were in place the 14 old ones are for sale for about £25k each if you want one for your back garden, it will probably cost you all most as much again to have it delivered though plus a bit more to have the anchor base built.

The new units are approx 90 metres in blade envelope diameter against 34 metres for the old units.

Each blade is 40 odd metres long and the Nacelle (bit that the blades fix onto and generates the power) weigh about 70 ton each.

All seperate units are delivered full size on extending trailers overnight to avoid congestion on the narrow Cornish roads.

Wed 11 Aug 2010

Report by Roy Menage

I decided that a trip to Bell might be worthwhile after work so made my way there to arrive just before 6:00pm. There were a couple of gliders in the air but clearly it was strong at times. I decided to give it a go and launched during a bit of a lull. The wind on takeoff wasn't horrendous but it soon became apparent that despite the late hour, there were still some rather punchy thermals coming through with focused active flying being necessary.

After about half an hour I decided it was time to land but even though I was getting almost to the surface near the bottom of the hill with ears in, as soon as I released them I found myself back above takeoff.

This just got annoying and since the farmer had let his cows back into the bottom field (and I didn't fancy a walk back up either), I decided to try for a top landing. I made my way back to the bowl and magic tree where it actually proved easy to get enough height to land safely in the stubble field... nearly half an hour after deciding I'd had enough.

The landing, despite my fears, proved to be very easy. I waited around another half an hour when it seemed to drop a little so I launched again and boated around for about 10 minutes in still rather rough conditions. Landing back in the stubble field was once again easy.

Overall, it was good to get airborne. There wasn't anything particularly scary in the air. It was just not very pleasant. Good active flying practice, however.

Sun 08 Aug 2010

Report by Richard Chambers



Well Sunday was promising to be fantastic at Bell Hill, then the good weather moved to Combe, and then in the morning the good weather seemed to have disappeared! After looking at RASP hoping for somewhere that maybe, just maybe might be flyable, it was looking a bit pants. Hmm the south coast looks like it has a breeze and it is looking like WSW or maybe even SW. After talking Neil into a 2 hour drive to Dorset we decided to head to Ringstead rather than St. Albans as I hadn't yet made it to the cliffs despite flying there twice already. Neil had never been to Ringstead so it was going to be a new one for both of us.

The whole drive down we were looking at the trees not moving a bit and thinking that we have made a horrible mistake. But we pulled up at Ringstead to a 14mph SW breeze! Neil was off first and after boating around the bowl for a bit went down for a slope landing.

I took up as the wind picked up again and the air was surprisingly thermic and rough. I gained quite a bit of height and pointed towards the cliffs. I flew over the trees giving me a lifty line and made it to the houses where I did a few beats to gain back some height. Once over the main cliff the lift band was massive and the air the smoothest I have ever flown in (hence the large amount of photos!). Neil soon joined me on the cliffs and you couldn't drag us away from the cliffs. Flying out over the sea and doing spirals before racing back to the cliffs to climb back up, what a laugh. It was lovely to be able to kick back and enjoy the view for once without worrying about going down or keeping the wing above your head in rough thermals. I certainly wouldn't trade thermalling to base for this, but why not have your cake and eat it! My vario battery died about two and a half hours in and a bit later the call of nature decided it was time to land. An easy glide back into the rough(er) air of the bowl and straight into the back field for a nice touch down next to Shamus.

Report by Sean Staines

A tricky forcast on Sunday had me looking further afield than usual for somewhere to fly. According to XC weather it looked good for Rhossilli on the end of the Gower so I decided to try my luck there. Most of South Wales had reached the same conclusion. Andrea counted thirty paragliders in the air at one point including five Tandems.

The lower take off was covered with paragliders, pilots and spectators but they let me have some space to launch my Hang glider (the only one there). I had been fearful of not getting up but as soon as I launched I knew it would be ok and I had gained 250ft by the time I reached the other end of the downland, 2km away. This increased to 550ft as the day went on at which point my vario battery gave up.

My aim for the day was to practice spot landings on the top of the hill. I managed 4 out of 4 on my chosen target within a 15m radius, mostly 5m short. I opted for a constant aspect crabbing approach rather than the traditional HG downwind, base and final. Seems to work well for me. The great thing about Rhosilli is there are no hedges, fences or gates and its easy to kite the glider back to take off for another go.

I also did a few gentle stalls and practiced trying to 360 efficiently.

It was interresting to fly with so many paragliders, ranging from red ribbon pilots under instruction to people practicing spirals, sats and B-lining. I wasn't at the top of the stack but always towards the top, particularly as the wind increased later in the day. I think the trim speed on the HG is about 5mph faster than the hands up speed on a paraglider, about the same sink rate. I didn't have any problems flying with so many paragliders. The lift band was huge and the ridge is big. There were only a couple of minor incidents. A guy 360'd in front of me and realised this put him on a collision course. I could see it long before it became a problem and put in a big turn to avoid him. Looked like he may have needed to change his trousers though.

Just for a laugh I thought I'd do a speed run along the length of the ridge and locked my arms with the bar at my knees. It was a bit like on star trek, when they engage warp speed, and all the stars become streaks of light. It is so much faster than a paraglider.

Eventually I decided to call it a day and decided to try and land on the lower take off (pimple). I spent quite a while trying to figure out a landing approach. On the the first attempt I realised I was going to overshoot which would put me down in the middle of the take off, littered with paragliders, pilots and spectators. Not good. I dropped back to prone, pulled on speed and did a go around. The second attempt was perfect.

All in all a great days flying. 2H20m for the log book and two more pilot rating tasks finished.

Report by Roy Menage

Having spend Sunday morning in Bournemouth doing "Family Things", I ventured over to Barton to find it rather strong so I binned the idea of flying and wound my way home doing "More Family Things".

Called in to Bell on the way home to see a Flight Culture student doing yet another top-to-bottom with the wind a little off the to the west and Joe M telling me that there were a few cycles coming through but nothing really going on. I got my wing out anyway hoping that whatever was holding up the prevailing wind (sea breeze?) might eventually go away to allow a bit of evening boating-about.

After several attempts to stay up ending up in a landing a little way down the hill, I bravely ventured over to the "Magic Tree" where I was able to get a little above it for a sustained period of time before venturing back to the main slope for yet another landing a long way down the hill. Fortunately there was enough breeze to ground handle back up the hill.

Derek S turned up obviously hoping, like me, for a bit of evening flight. He also ventured over the tree for a short while before returning to land just on the mown grass and then packed up and left (you should have stuck aroung another 10 minutes!). Whilst chatting to a newly-qualified FC student (Anna C) I noticed that the breeze had increased a little and a visiting Avax pilot had taken off and was gaining height (perhaps as much as 50ft!) so I went to join him. I was now comfortably above take-off so I went back to the tree where the lift was much more plentiful. Avax man joined me and between us, we managed to get up to just about 170ft but staying between 120 and 150 was relatively easy. A couple of buzzards took off and maintained height but didn't really mark any lift for us. This continued for nearly 30 minutes when it became apparent that the the lift was once again dying so I went back to takeoff, packed up and left.

On the Ali Florence patented Peachometer scale... 9.5

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


St Aldhelm's Head... Having spent the afternoon back at the Square & Compass with a couple of friends (only one pint, honest!) it looked like a late evening trek to the cliffs might be a good move. I'd read with admittedly some chuckles Ali's EITS report of his 'JC' moment the evening before (sorry mate but it did make for an amusing read!) but I felt pretty confidant that this night would be OK. After first making absolutely certain that the wind was coming from the right direction (soaring crows and seagulls, hovering falcon, wind ripples and streaks on the sea) I set up to launch and called the Sitephone but as is usual here there was no signal.

Only problem was the cool SW wind strength - a fairly constant 14-16 mph - a bit top end for me. After half an hour of several draggings involving a couple of flips, a nasty crevatte and some rather too close encounters with the barbed wire I persevered and finally subdued the wing long enough to launch away from a slightly sideways sitting slide at 8.15. I quickly settled into my harness in the smooth air and pushed out and along the cliffs. By the time I was at Emmet's Hill I'd reached 200' ato and everything was looking dandy! I turned and worked back along the cliffs continuing to gain height, turned again and cruised across to the Head at about 230'. The sun was blazing low in a sky draped with swirls and streaks of high altitude snow crystals falling from delicate, ripening peach coloured cirrus clouds - quite stunning.

I made a few beats to the end of the headland and pushed out over the sea - it was all very beautiful as the warm shades reddened.

Gradually though, the wind was veering further round to a more westerly point so I set off back - I didn't want to find any rotor from Houns Tout to spoil a whiz back to the car park. I left the cliffs near take off with 270' and flew slightly cross wind back towards my destination. There were a few distinct patches of slight bumpiness but nothing to cause a panic - I turned back into wind and landed about 100 feet shy in the short harvest stubble. The flight had lasted just 21 minutes but worth all the hard work.

As I was still hot and sweaty from my pre-launch exertions I quickly peeled off the layers back to a T shirt and packed the dampening wing away. It was surprising to find the dew falling so early in August...

My two friends arrived back from their walk to the coast guard cottages and chapel just as I was zipping up the glider bag - great timing.

Thanks to Cay Hickson for taking the photographs and Rosy Peters for providing the camera. Perfect end to a lovely day. Peachometer 9+.

Report by Alastair Florence

Spent the morning on Bell chatting to people and playing with all sorts of different dogs, didn't do any flying coz there was no wind or useable thermals.

So Nigel B gave the heads up that Kimmeridge seemed ok, several people left Bell for various locations kimmeridge being my choice.

Nige B and Quenten were in the air, others present were Nige R, Paul H, 3 visitors, keith W, The chap with the cross Morrocan land rover who's name I dont know.

Ruth and Will showed up but as we were all discussing how rough it was when we landed they may have been a little put off at first. Hope you got a fly as it did drop right off later.

Apart from being a little bumpy at times (like most of the time) it was actually quite good with loads of lift and thermals giving good height. It didn't look like there was much wind over the water though so it seemed wise not to try a run to St.A's.

Probably the busiest day this season so far on this site, good to see it getting used again.

A farmer (not one of the Holes) was having a grunt about parking on the side of the green lane as he felt the transit van parked by someone (that'd be me in trouble again then) was part blocking the track, did seem there was plenty of room to get a double decker bus past but I guess we all have different perspectives, please remember to park considerately as there is only a right of access on a green lane not a right to park.

Report by Shamus Pitts


After a disappointing (but not unexpected) morning at Bell Hill I threw in the towel and after spending some time trying not avoid going to Ringstead, I er.. ended up at Ringstead! When I got there the wind was on the hill and blowing about 16 mph, with half a dozen people on the cliffs with plenty of height. I quickly took off and found the air quite rough and thermic on the ridge. I built up about 120' ATO and cruised easily out to the cliffs, picking up bits of lift on the way and not having to worry about topping up at the first house on the way.

The air on the cliffs was smooth as always so I built up my height to about 400' ATO, pushed west as far as I could before heading back to plentiful lift! I wafted about, tried a few wingovers, wafted about some more, decided to experiment with a bit of speed bar to try and push further west, realised speed bar wasn't connected one side, took a glove off, rummaged around trying to find brummel hook, found brummel hook, reconnected speed bar, tested speed bar, tried pushing west again, didn't get much further! I decided to try and pick up a thermal on the way back to take off so flew over the farm but found nothing. Back on the ridge the air was more fun €“ rough but lifty and thermic. I played around for a while before heading back to the cliffs for a few minutes, then returning to land in the landing field.

A surprisingly fun hour at Ringstead made up for the wasted morning at Bell Hill!

Sat 07 Aug 2010

Report by Alastair Florence

I had a bit of a JC moment on St.Aldhelms Head tonight.

St Aldhelms head looked like it could be ok tonight, the wind had dropped and all the usual indicators suggested W with maybe just a hint of North but nothing that hasn't worked fine before.

On take off things felt ok, it certainly felt due west again maybe just a faint drift of north of West as I tested the air with thistle down.

I rigged up and pulled up the wing, still feeling good. As soon as I launched I realised something was badly wrong, the canopy felt like it was being sucked downward and I lost maybe 30ft straight away, everything felt turbulent, I was maybe half way from t/o to the marines memorial now and maybe 50ft below t/o. I turned back North planning to slope land below t/o.

I now found myself flying North and straight into wind, sinking and now badly lee side of the slope. Fortuneatly I was now in the wind shadow of the slope so there was not enough wind to be violently turbulent although the air was all over the place, I sank out until I landed safely on the fishermans track at the foot of the hill.

Normally my dodgy moments are over quickly and I dont have time to feel fear, this time I had maybe 20 secs to think about how many bones I could break if the wing folded up in the rotor.

I have flown plenty of hours here and know the site well but tonight it suckered me in 100%.

The site guide clearly says dont fly this site if its North of west by any degree. Virtually every time I have a mishap at this site its because I try and do something the site guide says its not good to do.

Strange thing is, who wrote the site guide for this site ? Me ! As I walked back up the hill I watched a Sparrow hawk pointing into wind at least 45' off the hill.

In hindsite the only clue that suggested the wind was this far off was as I walked over initially I smelled barbecue, I assumed someone was barbecueing down in Chapmans Pool suggested direction was good, as I walked back I could still smell it and only then noticed a couple 45' North of the track with a barby. I missed that one and it could have cost me.

Thu 05 Aug 2010

Report by Craig Byrne

Liddington Castle. After waiting for a while for showers to clear and wind to drop a tad, it finally came good as Ian H arrived. We both set up and Ian was first off, then I joined him and flew more west into a brilliant climb getting rocked up to base by a rough as old boots 1083ft a min climb. It pitted out a bit after that and I just hung in there surfing the dark clouds and flying over fields that had been cropped. I finally was decked after an hour and 23k but great fun.

The Golden3 seems to work! Thanks for the retrieve Ian :-)

Wed 04 Aug 2010

Report by Everard Cunion


I reported recently that I threw my film camera in the bin. Well, I got it out again because I cannot find a digital that does everything I need...

Here are two photos at Bell Hill, both with Tony B and his Avian Elan also in view, and one I took with my experimental camera rig on the way to the bottom field at Ringstead. To read more about the latter, see my web site: http://everardcunion.wordpress.com/hang-gliding/

Tues 03 Aug 2010

Report by Shamus Pitts


I spent a rotory morning at Hambledon with Neil €œLoafer€ McCain today. I was hoping for great things but my hopes were dashed as soon as I approached the hill as the sky was filling in fast.

The wind appeared to be on the hill, but as is usual with bowls it wasn't particularly! It started off well off to the west and ended up well off to the south but we both managed a couple of flights. About midday the wind was blowing strongly enough to convince us to have one more flight although it was off to the south by now. The northern end seemed to be working okay, all though it was a bit rock n roll with weak thermals and strong rotor! After 15 minutes we decided to land while we could still get in on top. We had talked about flying down and landing at the bottom but there were no fields at all really that looked any good! Once we'd packed up and were walking back down the hill the wind had picked up and was blowing strongly €“ it's a good thing we landed when we did as Hambledon is a difficult hill to top-land in strong conditions and we'd already decided that there were no suitable bottom landing options available.

Mon 02 Aug 2010

Report by Duncan Haysom

Had a great day at Combe on Monday Added all the flights up at the end of the day for a very nice 3 hours 30.

Also got to cloud base (1500 m) for the first time on a nice little 22k XC late in the day landing next to the A34 for an easy retrieve by Chris (who kindly did all the driving and got in a good few hours in himself) Gary P arrived fresh back from his Italy trip and took off straight into a thermal that took him to Petersfield for 47k. He was only at the hill ten mins. Very impressive.

I never know which hill to go to in a NW wind Bell or Combe but it seems we got it right this time.

Only downer was that the GPS didn't seem to have recorded the flight details. I'd like to have known how many hundreds of circles I did on the way to base.

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


Bell Hill After a promising forecast the hill was soon fairly packed. The breeze was a little north of north west but quite doable and by 11am the cumulus was popping up everywhere. By lunchtime though, many had spread out cutting off the sun and the air started to become a bit gnarly. By 2.30 some sizeable patches of blue sky allowed some ground heating but the breeze picked up making things very rough when the cycles came through - several of us found ourselves body surfing at speed through the grass... From time to time the odd wing or two went over the back but for most of us it was up and back down, battling the gusts trying not to get pinned or just sitting it out waiting for it to calm down a bit. Good 'active flying' training for the low airtime pilots.

Finally at 3.30 I got a decent few beats across the bowl and a nice climb out front but it was rough! Then I found a small intense thermal which shot me up to about 800'. I hung in with it and was soon spiralling away downwind over the back. I reached about 1200' as it petered out but as I approached Winterborne Stickland gliding down to about 400' I found another weak climb and followed it for another kilometre before it too fizzled. I saw a wing about 1/2k ahead landing in a field by Fairmile so I decided it might be a good idea to do the same. Getting down the last 100' was a pig in the gusty wind but finally I landed among the foot-high rapeseed stubble. The other wing belonged to Neil F. 20 minutes later we were grateful as his brother Dave arrived to take us back and told us of the spanking some got at the hill as we flew off downwind. Several people suffered frontal and asymmetric collapses causing a few frights.

I took all the photos earlier on - it was a bit too rough to risk taking my hands off the brakes so no aerial shots this time. Instead you can play 'Spot your wing'! At last I've made an XC from Bell. Only 6.8k straight distance but a start... just a matter of time and Wareham then Swanage could be in my grasp!

Report by Neil Mccain

hey showed up at the hill, desperados all, their brows furrowed, chins you could strike a match from, a nod, a grunted hello. Drawn to Bell by the forecasted possibility of a jackpot, our swarthy players declared their intentions with their opening bids, their unshouldered kit thrown to the ground like casino chips (I'll see your Golden 2 and raise you an integrated GPS/vario!).

Shamus 'The Cat' Pitts was the first to show his hand, swiftly followed by Dave 'Bolero-boy', Russ 'The Mad Doctor', and Derek 'The Sleeper' Sadler. The wind was well off to the North and for every two seconds of lift, there seemed to be ten seconds of sink. The lively air attracted more players, Will 'The Rookie' Palmer, Gaz 'Righty' Mullins, Quiet One Rob and Tazmanian Devil Nicky and Neil 'Nineteenth' Weymouth to name but a few.

In any high stakes card game you have to know who to keep your eye on. Today the wind gods were dealing tricky hands - knowing when to play or pass would mean the difference between skying out and losing out. I stole a glance at the others, searching for the LeChifre-style tick that would give the game away... At first I couldn't settle, half an eye on Will (another one, a keen new face in the crowd) and half a mind to land and sort out my dratted drinks tube which had disappeared behind my back. For that lapse I nearly missed the main play, as Ali 'Feathers' Florence zipped up a thermal off the far side of the bowl. The Rookie, Nineteenth and The Cat followed, but by the time I'd joined the fray, The Rookie was on the deck, hurrying back to takeoff with a mushroomed wing. Perfect! My target was in sight, his feline features covered by a red flying suit. When he saw me circling to join him he tightened his turn, climbing harder, raising the stakes. I wasn't sure - was he calling my bluff? I couldn't see Feathers any more so I decided on a showdown: The Cat against me, mano a mano. Higher and higher we went until there were over 2000 big ones under us. Every time he went round I matched him - he couldn't shake me until... As we drifted over Stickland, The Cat found an extra couple of hundred (did he sell his watch?) and it looked like my pockets were empty.

I turned downwind and reconsidered. My drift seemed to be on course for airspace, but as I pondered my next move, I was yanked heavenwards in something small and gnarly. I cranked round to the left and began climbing, looking like a bell-ringer as my arms pumped up and down to control the pitching and surging, and spotted The Cat several hundred feet below! For the first time, I'd been able to call it, and his bluff was blown apart! The climb didn't last long but it was enough to make him fold. Our glides took us towards Winterborne Kingston, The Cat just shy of it, and me just beyond it - Yes! Back at the hill after Quiet One Rob's kind retrieve, a new hand was being played. The Cat and Simon 'Landy' Jones packed up to go home and Feathers was taking a break, so I thought I'd sit out this round and was almost glad I did. Phil 'Scotty' Venn and Gordon 'Bennett' Crisp both had fairly hefty collapses as the wind picked up and the thermals ripped through. The strong conditions kept most people on the deck, with only Jeremy 'Let's XC!' Calderwood and Everard 'Stinger' Cunion in the air later on.

And why was I 'almost glad' to have sat out of the game? Well, you've got to know who to keep your eye on. Quietly, covertly and quite convincingly, The Rookie had taken off almost un-noticed and flown nearly to Wareham, scooping the day's jackpot in fine style with 22km. Well done Will!

Report by Shamus Pitts



I've got a few days off work this week so I was pleased to see that the forecast is looking pretty good! I arrived at Bell Hill about 10 o'clock to see quite a few cars there already, I didn't realise there were so many €œgentlemen of leisure€ in the club! The sky looked good and the wind was blowing about 12mph but off to the north a bit.

Once airborne the air was thermic and buoyant, although the northerly element in the wind meant sometimes you had to work hard to stay in the air. As the morning went on more people turned up and the clouds started to spread out, blocking out the sun, although it remained buoyant.

At about 1 o'clock I found myself in a weak thermal with Neil McC, and with nothing better to do we slowly took it over the back. It was one of the weakest climbs of the day, the sky was a blanket of grey so I don't know why we bothered really! There was less drift though than previous thermals and the weak lift was over quite a large area so that's probably why we chose to stick with it. As we approached Stickland we were about 2000' ATO but the lift fizzled out.

I headed over to a column of smoke that had recently been going straight up and found a few bits of lift but nothing rock solid. Neil headed off downwind and was now higher than me. I went on a glide, hoping to pick something up along the way but the ground was in shadow everywhere. I saw some seagulls milling about in a circular manner but the lift there only seemed strong enough to sustain a 2lb bird so I carried on, sinking all the way. I was pleased to see that Neil was having the same problem (sorry Neil!)

I thought he'd found something shortly before but I think I was just sinking faster than him! I landed in a field just outside Winterborne Kingston for about 12.5km. As I was packing up I watched Neil land the other side of the village. Thanks to Russell for arranging our retrieve and Rob for performing said retrieve! When we got back to the hill the wind seemed okay but once in the air it was a swirling, horrible, rotory, gusty, sinky mess! After about 20 minutes I'd had enough and decided to land. I got caught in a bit of a gusty moment over the top landing field which was quite exciting but got down safe and sound in the end. A couple of others had their own €œexciting moments€ so I suppose the wind had just €œgone bad€!

Sun 1 Aug 2010

Report by Neil Weymouth

In a small window of opportunity I managed to get away from Bell today, slow climb to 2000ft ato above Blandford but with no cumulus to head for lost it to land at the golf course 13km.

Report by Alastair Florence


Kimmeridge to St.A looked on the cards this morning but did that last week, so went toward Bell, from Bulbarrow could see cars on Bell but no one flying, looked toward Telegraph and saw 3 wings up so headed that way.

Spotted Paul H around base on his way to Bell so only 2 other wings (Phil and Viv F) on the hill. Very light on the hill but with a bit of luck and a thermal or two once above the trees it was easy to maintain 300-900ft ato. Had a nice waft, landed for lunch, had another waft, then stupidly left the bit of ridge that was working well and ended up with a walk up the loggers trail, nice conditions though.

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