Eye in the Sky - Feb 2012

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Sat 25 Feb 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had almost 2 ½ hours airtime at Telegraph Hill today. I met Rod K there at 11am and found the wind on the hill and blowing 11 – 18mph. It was a bit rough at times, as you would expect, but also quite buoyant and nicely thermic, although nothing I felt I could take over the back. About midday there was a bit of a lull and we both found ourselves at the bottom. As we walked up the muddy track Steve H appeared in his Jeep Grand Cherokee – unfortunately the mud was quite deep and he didn’t think he’d be able to reverse back up the track! We piled in and he was right, the jeep wasn’t going back up the track so we slid and slithered our way down the track until we emerged in the field at the bottom. We drove over to the track that looked like it lead to the farm and twisted our way down that too, until we ended up on a bit of concrete by a cowshed, with a deep muddy track, swamp and slurry ponds ahead of us and a muddy track leading off in to a field. The swamp / slurry pond route looked like it was leading towards the road but looked impassable so we got out and started exploring. There was another track further back that we had passed so we walked back to it and followed it for a while only to find it ended in a field. We walked back to the jeep and explored the boggy / slurry route – it lead to a field but joined a track that went to the road. This track met up with the track that led from the concrete to another field so we slithered our way along it, skirting a water trough on the way, and finally found ourselves on some good hard tarmac! Less than 60 minutes after being “retrieved” we were back at takeoff and ready to fly again! The wind had dropped a bit by now but was still averaging about 14mph and had gone off to the west a bit. It was still a bit lumpy in the air and there were still thermals gusting through but it was flyable, albeit in quite a small area of the ridge. As the afternoon went on the wind slowly moved back towards northwest, stayed strongish but smoothed out a bit. The sun came out too which made for some beautiful afternoon soaring! Some good flying and a bit of off-roading, a good way to spend a Saturday!

Mon 20 Feb 2012

Report by Richard Chambers

The forecast was for strong winds but also good thermals. It looked like it would be blown out until at least 3pm, and the further west you went, the quicker the wind was dropping. With that in mind, I thought Bell Hill was the best bet. My usual wingman Neil was hung over so I decided to go it alone. Al Jones and Andy Hasler had headed off to Combe but I thought the chance of flight was better at Bell.

On the drive to Bell I could see huge CuNims over Dorset and I drove through a few heavy hail showers, not a promising sign! I arrived at Bell Hill around 2pm to the sight of Craig landing on tandem. The wind was flyable but a little gusty for comfort. The CuNims were keeping everyone else grounded too.

By 2.30pm the clouds looked like they were losing energy and the gusts were no longer as strong. Derek Sadler was the first into the air, not bad for someone in their 80's! Everyone quickly followed and there was soon around a dozen wings in the air. It was surprisingly gentle in the air, a nice change from Butser on Friday. Gentle thermals were coming through and you could push way out over the road and just waft back in lazy circles, fantastic! After about an hour the lift died and everyone floated back down to land on top. Everyone, that is, except for the speck that was Alastair Florence! He had managed to connect with a cloud street out front and was following it away from the hill. After a while even he started to descend, eeking out the last of the lift to scrape over the bushes onto top landing.

It seemed to be all over and most people packed up and left. I took the opportunity to practice some ground handling. The lift picked up a bit and Sean Staines (back from a 25k xc on his hang glider) took off on his paraglider. He seemed to be doing ok so I took off and joined him. I managed another 15 minutes or so of floating around in the last of the lift. I packed up in the last of the light and walked back to the car satisfied.

Photos here

Sun 19 Feb 2012

Report by Craig Byrne


Bell Hill.

Had a nice flight with Kiwi Steve, after the wind eased off having waited all day. It was very nice at first with good climbs and only Richard and John for company. Sean had headed off XC, brilliant flying Sean :) There were showers off to the east of Bell, and the cloud headed our way was getting darker so we landed before it arrived.

Report by Sean Staines

An excellent day at Bell today. Good thermals enabled me to get away for a 25km XC to just past Wool. A personal best distance on the HG. Cloudbase was quite low at around 2000ft ATO. I had to hang around Bere Regis circling in weak lift for quite a while as I drifted towards Wareham forest. Eventually I connected with a good climb back towards base but had to leave it early as there was a light fall of hailstones. The Piddle valley didn’t look a very inviting option for landings so I headed for Wool and landed near the road to West Lulworth.

Report by Shamus Pitts


Having visited Swallowcliffe last weekend but not flown it I thought as it was quite windy and Swallowcliffe isn’t very steep it might be the place to go today. I got there about 11:30 and found the wind blowing 15 – 25mph but forecast to drop later on. I waited for a while and after a short hail shower the wind seemed to be a bit lighter so I unpacked and took off. The takeoff was fine but once in the air the wind was all over the place, gusting up and down and generally giving me a pasting all over the sky! It wasn’t helped by the first of the spring thermals which tugged at the wind, and my wing, as well and I seemed to spend most of my half hour in the air trying to maintain an even pressure across my wing! I saw somebody else arrive so I landed to find it was Neil from Salisbury.

The wind was blowing 15 to 25mph again so we waited for a while until we were sure that it had dropped a bit. Takeoff was no problem again – I took off from the top field this time and didn’t have any trouble getting over the fence. If anything the wind felt a bit stronger this time though! The rollercoaster was still going flat out and we both decided to land within about 10 minutes of taking off, there might even have been a moment of “backwardsness” somewhere near the top field! I packed up, realising things weren’t going to improve but by the time my gear was safely back in the bag the wind felt like it had dropped a bit! Further monitoring of the situation revealed that the wind did indeed seem a little lighter. We unpacked and took off again to find the air still a little rough but a lot friendlier and pretty buoyant. I picked up a climb off the SW end of the ridge that took me up to 1000’ ATO without me having to do very much at all. I turned a couple of times but wasn’t ready to take it over the back so kept pushing forward. Eventually it passed and I started to sink again. The ridge wasn’t working quite as well now and I couldn’t find enough lift to give me the height to get back to my car. I managed to get about 150’ from the modellers section of the ridge (they weren’t there) and landed in the field next to the one I parked in, just as 2 others (who I’ve met before but whose names escape me, sorry!) turned up. I’m not sure if they flew or not as the wind seemed to have dropped quite a lot by the time I’d packed up.

Not the most enjoyable of conditions but worth it for the last half hour – just one site to go now!

Report by John Alder


Bell Hill. Thanks to Martin Butcher’s sitephone messages, I didn’t omit to load up my Hang Glider! Sean Staines and Richard Mosley were busy rigging as I arrived and got airborne before me. Having taken off, I hadn’t even zipped-in my legs when I met a good strong thermal that took me most of the way to cloud base (570m; I reckon cloud base was about 6-700m) what a lovely surprise for February! Unlike Sean, who flew XC to Wool, I just bimbled about in the Bell area, enjoyed the stupendous views, my gorgeous Airborne C4 and some exceptionally nice air. I rounded off my flight with a faultless landing and thus ended up boosting my confidence too.... great day! View album

Thurs 16 Feb 2012

Report by Neil Mccain

The atmosphere of an old school reunion at Bell today, with people wandering about saying things like 'Do you remember when we used to come up here all the time?' and 'Gosh, it's all changed since I was last up here! Feels like years ago - hasn't the gorse grown!', and even 'Anyone noticed the wave effect coming off the Donegal Mountains?' The party vibe continued in the air too, with lots of splendid bimbling about all over the ridge. Too many to list everyone's names, but there must have been a dozen wings and more in the sky at any one time, including a tandem and a new pilot (Peter ?) making his debut at the site.

It got quite thermic too so there were plenty of opportunities to practice going round in circles. Height gains improved as the morning drew on but so did the wind strength, thinning the field as pilots 'landed' in the top field.

Eventually just three of us were left, with Nigel Rendell leading the way with plenty of height out front, Will Palmer sniffing for lift at the end of the ridge and me, sitting above the back of the top field wondering what to do. A discussion had broken out at take off about my next move too, with the general consensus that I would go over the back rather than deal with a tricky landing scenario (the cheek!). I had the last laugh, using the heat generated by this idle chatter as a boost to the weak lift I was in and wafting over Turnworth at a whopping 1200' ato. Thereafter I spent my time checking downwind for signs of lift (none) and upwind to see where Nigel and Will were - surely they would come too? I landed just downwind of the Stickland aerial. Retrieved by the splendid Simon Jones (Esquire), I wasn't surprised to see Will in the car too, just that we hadn't seen each other in the air. A howling wind greeted us back at the hill so although it wasn't far, it was good to have taken the chance whilst we had it.

Wed 15 Feb 2012

Report by Steve Whitfield

I had Bell hill to myself this afternoon except for a few fox hunt supporters trying to catch a glimpse of the action going on below in the bottom landing field. Conditions were top end for me at 20-25 mph but the air was smooth and not too unpleasant. I had four flights in total with height gains upto 500ft. Ground handling was a real struggle and there was no way I could open the top gate without dropping the glider flat so I decided to take off over the fence. This was a surprising amount of fun, not sure why. Roll on spring! Highlights can be found below.


Sun 12 Feb 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


I met Ali at Swallowcliffe this morning – it was good to see our newest site but unfortunately the wind wasn’t strong enough (although it was a lot stronger in the field where we parked – weird!). I persuaded Ali to come with me to Marleycombe (I’d already phoned the landowner) so we headed back to the cars, meeting Martin B on the way.

At Marleycombe the wind was a bit off to the north most of the time and blowing probably between 11 and 15mph. I had three flights, totalling about 45 minutes and i would say that for at least 38 minutes the air felt rotory and a bit unpredictable – not exactly rough but very twitchy. It might have been caused by fragments of thermal pulling the wind about but there was nothing strong enough to circle in. Every now and again a load of crows would take off and fly out from the hill, leading the way to a patch of buoyant air. It was possible to get to 50’ or 60’ ATO in these buoyant patches but then the wind would change and it would become a bit more hands on again.

It was my first time at Marleycombe so I’m glad I’ve now flown it but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to low airtime pilots if today was anything to go by!

Report by William Palmer


For EITS: Freezing day at Bell. Many waited a while to fly but few could take the cold for more than an hour or so in the air. Wind was light all morning so I though I'd bring some with me and when I arrived it became flyable. Sprinkles of snow made for a nice view, shame the blue sky couldn't make an appearance. Busy day considering the conditions. 

Sat 04 Feb 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


It was a toss-up between Swanage and Mere today but in the end Mere won. I met Rod K (new member) in Yeovil and we got to Mere about 10am to find the wind SSE, pretty light and freezing (FREEZING!) cold. There were a couple of people already there and we ground handled a bit until the wind picked up enough for one or two to take to the air for some low flying.

The wind stayed quite light until midday before picking up enough for all of us to get in the air. People started packing up and it wasn’t long before Rod and I had the hill to ourselves (with Dave and Dan O taking pics). By about 2pm the wind was getting quite strong and we were getting cold so we landed and packed up just as the snow started to fall

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