Eye in the Sky - April 2012

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Fri 27 Apr 2012

Report by Richard Chambers


A small window in the current 'drought' was predicted for Friday afternoon, so I set off for Barton on Sea. I arrived to see the usual suspects getting ready to launch (wind had just dropped to flyable, talk about perfect timing!). We were all soon in the air and getting good height. Various people achieved xc's, jumping the gap to the west and flying down to Milford to the east. I pushed my luck too much on the flight down to Milford in the weakening wind and bombed out at the east end of the beach huts. I tried relaunching from the cliff top above the huts but in the weaker wind there wasn't enough lift to stay up. I walked west to wear the huts end and lay out my wing in front of the barbed wire fence (eek). Unfortunately there was no magic spot to avoid the rotor so I couldn't get the wing inflated.

Luckily for me a nice gentleman saw my plight and came out of his house to help. With him holding the centre of the wing in the wind I was able to relaunch and fly back to Barton, saving me a long walk. It remained flyable up until about 7pm until the wind dropped. All in all not a bad days 'gay' coastal flying!

Report by Neil Weymouth

I was very pleased to grab and hour before the sun went down at White Horse.
Pleasant flying in weak thermals then 20 minutes of weak lift everywhere.
No other paragliders to be seen.

Tue 24 Apr 2012

Report by Brian Metcalfe

Just thought I'd better put an EITS in for yesterday (Tues) as some of the cross (sic) country hounds seem a bit annoyed that they missed a potentially very good day.

I arrived at Bell at about 1.00 to find a car and a van there but no people. The wind was 6-14, a bit off to the west, and the sky looked good with no nasty looking clouds, but bigger, more threatening clouds to the south. I left a site phone message and as I was rigging a guy walked over from the back field and chucked his paraglider into the van. I asked him where he'd got to and he told me that he and a tandem had got to Stickland and he was going back to pick them up.  Off he went and I finished rigging and took off remembering that the forecast told me to expect strong lift. Sure enough the lift was strong but not unpleasant so I boated about a bit before getting to 1500ft where the wind seemed significantly stronger. I 360d (for the first time since I took off!) and found myself well over the back field. The drift was towards Blandford. This is where the cross country hounds will be calling me "gay". I chickened out of going with it and tried to get back to the hill but couldn't penetrate through the stronger wind behind the thermal and landed in the top field just as the guy with the van drove up with his retrieved tandem pair.

They had to leave so I took off again in a slightly stronger and more westerly wind with a big rain cloud now visible upwind. Again the lift was strong but not intimidating and occasional patches of sink which at one point put me very low in the bowl. But spotting a pair of buzzards going up in the north part of the bowl I sidled round the trees and got nicely booted up to about 500ft ato. After a while of playing around, the wind sock showed me that the wind was now mostly further off to the west, penetration was becoming more difficult and the rain cloud was approaching, so I again chickened out and landed.

I packed up and sat in the car and had my lunch as the rain arrived along with Jeremy Calderwood.

The pilots who were there earlier had come up from Cornwall because a navy exercise had been called off and they had nothing else to do! We all introduced ourselves of course but that was 24 hours ago so of course I can't remember their names now :( I left three site phone messages, honest, but Rich Davis says they didn't get onto the website 'till midnight! But they were on the phone.

I'm sure someone out there could have made better use of the conditions than I did, as indeed Shamus did, but you had to be there ;)

Report by Shamus Pitts

The forecast looked quite good for this morning so as I had the day off work I headed to Telegraph Hill.  There were already some pretty big clouds blowing through and plenty of lift about so after losing a climb in the morning and returning to the hill I finally found a slow climb that eventually took me to 2000' ATO over Cerne Abbas.  A pair of buzzards helped me find the core which I wound up to about 3600' ATO right on the edge of the sea-breeze front.  It had taken me so long to get this high that my hands were freezing so I went on a glide hoping to warm up a bit!  The forecast was for the wind to slowly back as the day went on, and as the sea-breeze looked to have come in far enough to make getting to Swanage a problem I decided to push northeast in an attempt to get past Bournemouth and Southampton airspace.  I'd lost about 2000' by the time I found my next climb which was good and strong and soon had me around 3000' ATO.  I could see the rain clouds starting to build behind me so I decided to push on rather than hang around trying to get to cloudbase.  I could see a likely looking cloud over Blandford which was more the direction I wanted to be going in.  I sank quite quickly as I headed for Blandford and decided to change course as there was a likely looking cloud over Spetisbury that was closer but it meant getting very close to the corner of Bournemouth airspace.  I was lower than I wanted to be so headed for the cloud, found the thermal then slowly climbed as I drifted closer and closer to the airspace.  When I got to 2500' ATO I decided that I had to push on or I would get stuck against the airspace.  The clouds were starting to close in around me too.  Looking to my left the ground appeared to be blotted out under a curtain of rain.  The clouds upwind of me were gloomy and grey and there were only a couple of spots downwind where the sun was reaching the ground.  The only bright area was to my right which was inside Bournemouth airspace.  I decided that now was probably the time to land so I pushed on the bar and glided down the edge of the airspace.  The greyness got closer and it started to hail €“ I kept the bar on and continued to descend as the hail turned to rain.  Part of me was hopeful that I would glide past the rain clouds and be able to carry on but it was not to be.  Rain stopped play for me at Horton where I landed and packed up while the sky cleared.  I walked to the Horton Inn and had a beer, watching the rain which had started again, while I waited for my wife to pick me up! (Sorry about the teeny photos, I must have changed one of the settings on my camera)

Sat 21 Apr 2012

Report by Alastair Florence

Todays forecast was not that enthusing, an increasing WNW wind with heavy showers and cloud tops to 22000ft+ was my take.

Telegraph seemed worth a punt early before things started to kick off. Me Paul H, Nigel R and Rob K from Avon arrived about the same time and contemplated launching after deciding it probably looked ok for a bit.

Nigel was first up (and first down(involuntarily)) we all had a reasonable flight with a fair bit of lively lift about and some sink (well Nigel found some anyway).

As a large dark cloud front approached I felt the air changing and decided it was probably coming to the bit of the forecast when it turned bad. Paul and Rob were tempted to XC the dark cloud but thought better of it. Soon we were all back on the hill top, a wind meter reading was showing 33mph+ in gusts so maybe best we landed.

Sun 15 Apr 2012

Report by Sean Staines


Monksdown - Great conditions this morning enabled me to do a flight to Dorchester. Base was high and there were cloud streets to follow. Quite punchy thermals at 7.5m/sec on the vario! Landed with a lot of sciatic back pain, and whilst rolling on the floor in the landing field a passer-by stopped to give me painkillers €“ but it was worth it for the flight. Heroic retrieve by Andrea.

Fri 13 Apr 2012

Report by Neil Mccain


An enjoyable flight at Southbourne today, with a good mix of interesting weather and testing conditions to make it interesting. I arrived to see Nigel R and Simon J both making their maiden crossings of the Boscombe pier gap, so hurried to join them. At about the time I took off Roger E arrived and the wind eased slightly. I waited for Rog and approached Boscombe Chine as Nigel and Simon passed me in the opposite direction having completed their run. Looking back I could see that Roger was working hard to get some height closer to take off and I sensed the day would be trickier than I'd expected. I made a couple of beats over the trees and couldn't seem to get higher than 'marginally ok'. I pointed the U-Sport at the other end of the Chine and let it show me the way. We cruised effortlessly over to the middle section of the run. but from there the height really was more difficult to maintain, with the best lift just by the Cumberland Hotel. I wasn't convinced I'd make it across the next gap so hung around trying to decide if conditions were improving or deteriorating. Whilst I umm-ed and aah-ed I saw Nigel cross Boscombe towards me, and we pootled about together, getting extra lift by flying extra close to the hotels. Eventually we decided to give it a go, me in the lead and (crucially) 20ft higher than Nigel as we left the good lift. I scraped into the lift-band by the BIC and Marriott, but looking back i could see Nigel had just missed his chance and was momentarily soaring the beach huts before nailing a sweet landing in an empty patch of beach. The Marriott was its usual reliable source of lift, and I soon had enough to push on over the tricky low cliffs that separate the many little chines just to the west of Bournemouth Pier. I was flying more into wind now and thought briefly about flying back, but instead I pressed on, adjusting my target as I reached each landmark. Alum Chine, the Nature Reserve, even Branksome Chine disappeared below me until I was over Canford Cliffs. Progress was really quite slow now but I couldn't face being the one that didn't reach the hotel at the end of the cliffs... With a deep breath, arms tucked behind my risers, lying as flat as I could and tweaking the controls to maximise my glide, I reached the hotel's western wing and executed a fast turn to run back to Canford. Super speedy downwind, I didn't lose much height until I'd reached the safety of the Marriott, where I was able to top up for the cruise home. My little excursion to Sandbanks had taken the same time as for Nigel to pack his wing and walk a quarter of a mile, so I posed for some pics above him before flying home. Roger was just committing to the Bournemouth Pier crossing himself whilst I had a leisurely waft over the last five km before we landed pretty much together back at take off.

Last outing for the Parrotcam in its current incarnation - adjustments need to be made to the drogue (I think the 'feathers' make the whole rig shake in the wind) and the mounting point (can't swivel the head to left and right). So, no video to put up (too boring and irritatingly it ran out before I crossed Bournemouth Pier) but some screen grabs instead.

Report by Gary Puhl


Unexpectedly good day at Barton.

Arrived as the sea breeze was forming.

It was strengthened by the abundance of Cunims forming inland which caused us to be wary, but it stayed flyable all day. After 5 hours of worrying about cloud suck it was replaced by pub suck.

Report by Paul Hawkins

Had a nice flight at Southborne. Some BIG clouds about but flyable all the same.

Thanks to new pilot Jules [web: the cat?] ( I think) for helping me sort out my lines!

Thu 12 Apr 2012

Report by Ruth Kelly


A frustrating day at bell Hill today. The forecasts had been looking good so I ruthlessly shunted meetings out of my diary, bagged the day off and went for it. Unfortunately it was just too active for comfort - massive towering cumulus between home and the hill, plenty of Cu with menacing dark bottoms out front, wind gusting from 5 to 17mph in the thermals, cu-nims scudding by to NE and SW. Several people flew and had interesting flights, getting hoovered up and then dumped in massive sink. We didn't fly - although it was intermittently possible it didn't look pleasant or even safe at some moments. We could have held on for an evening flight, but after six hours hanging about - and driving about - we'd had enough. Never mind - it was a great day for cloud spotting!

Wed 11 Apr 2012

Report by Gary Mullins


Good fun at Bell this afternoon, once the big stuff disappeared and things settled down. Heralded by the midday rainbow over the village.

Pretty quiet........even for a wednesday..........??...Just me, Derek and a few others.

Sat 07 Apr 2012

Report by Shamus Pitts


Managed half an hour at Maiden Castle today.  The wind was blowing 14 to 18 mph when I got there but it didn't last long and was soon quite light with only the occasional stronger gust.  I stuck with the lower ramparts for a while, hoping the wind would increase like it was forecast to do but it didn't really so I ventured up to the higher ramparts to find the wind blowing stronger and more soarable.  There were bits and pieces of weak thermal coming through but nothing useable €“ not great but better than nothing!

Fri 06 Apr 2012

Report by Alastair Florence


Had a bit of a back to front day at Bell today, I couldn't really decide where to go for a start as Monks sounded a bit of West and Bell was alot off North.
Then dispite the morning being sunny there was very little lift, plus didn't help with the wind coming along the ridge.
Afternoon came and so did a front of cloud giving almost 100% cover.
Strangely at this point the wind came slightly more on the hill and it became more lifty.
I struck lucky and climbed out slowly in a weak dribbly climb which after a while dribbled to a halt, I could see Will P downwind a bit and a couple of thousand foot higher so thought i'd pimp his thermal.
That worked and I soon joined Will under a patch of cloud around 4000ft amsl that kept us slowly drifting downwind.
Near Bere the lift petered out and Will headed West in search of more, I had an agenda to get toward Swanage as my daughter had left a car there that needed taking to Wareham so would have kind of sorted a retrieve.
No such luck as I couldn't find anymore lift and ended up on a glide to near the glider field. Peachometer 7

Almost forgot my manners, many thanks Paul H for todays retrieve and same to Shamus for last weeks, I must be due a bad day soon so I can return the favour !

Report by Paul Hawkins

Funny day on Bell today.
Way off to the north and working just about with early efforts from Shamus and Ben f (avon).
I hatched a plan fairly early to get some hight and make a dash for the aerials by Bulbarrow hill as it faces more north and the thermals on Bell were just sort of trickling across the face of the hill and not really releasing in a get up and away manner!
The chance came to execute the plan and I went for it. Arriving low at the aerials I managed to stay up in bits and pieces of lift as I watched the whole of Bell hill climb out and away!  
Or so it seemed to me from my rotor hole!
To my joy I hooked a very small tight little thermal marked by a buzzard and began to work the lift.......until I lost my bottle looking at the options of falling out of lift behind the hill, a sort of wooded spine back death trap! I Cut my loses I flew to the model flying spot and landed out.

Thanks to David the expert model flyer for driving me back to the hill and well done to Ali and Will for doing at least 20km a peice on a tricky day!

Report by Shamus Pitts

A disappointing start at Bell Hill today.  I couldn't decide whether to try Monksdown or Bell but after checking various forecasts I thought that there was more chance of a decent XC from Bell once the wind had come round.  Unfortunately it didn't come round very much or very soon! I arrived at Bell at 10am to find not much wind and what there was was almost due north.  After a while it seemed to have come round to NNW ish so I had a go and found it quite thermic but a long way off the hill.  I even got dive-bombed by a buzzard (although I didn't realise at the time!).  i landed after a quarter of an hour and the wind died for a while then went back to north.  Every now and again there were moments were a couple of brave souls would take off and stay up for a while but it didn't last long.

As the afternoon progressed a bank of cloud arrived and it all went a bit overcast.  The wind picked up and it became flyable €“ it was even quite thermic, although still off to the north.  Ali F and Will P got away in a scratchy thermal that I left to go back to the hill €“ i thought it was a waste of time but they made it to somewhere near Bovington!  Shows what I know! The day ended with an impromptu Zaggi lesson from an expert model flyer who gave Paul H a lift back from €œsomewhere down the ridge€, which was good fun but quite tricky to control.  All in all a pretty Good Friday but I should've gone to Monks first!

Report by Sean Staines

I arrived at Monksdown around 10:30 to see a couple of wings flying. Conditions were lovely with lift all along the ridge and climbs to 1000ft ATO. After a while I hooked into a good climb and went over the back for an XC landing near to Blandford camp. Andrea retrieved me for a second attempt. Loads more people had arrived and conditions weren’t as good with the wind appearing to be off to the West. I bombed out in the bottom landing field, crossed the fence and kited up far enough to relaunch, immediately hooking into a great climb which I shared with a Dover Pilot on a Nova Mentor. We parted company near Tollard Royal. I made it as far as the old airfield at Tarrant Rushton but was nearing Bournmouth airspace so needed to push West. I aimed for a flock of seagulls thermalling in a field but arrived quite low. A small narly thermal got me going again in a reasonable climb but straight towards the corner of airspace again, so I left it to push further west and bombed out in Tarant Keynston. The Dover Pilot made 34km to Wareham.

Tue 03 Apr 2012

Report by Sean Staines

I had a very enjoyable XC from Bell hill today. Conditions were pretty weak and I doubted I would make it to Stickland after the first climb but I stuck with a very weak second climb taking me towards Blandford. Thirty 360's gained me about 800ft. When it eventually stopped working I set off on a glide hoping to get over 10k and a scoring distance. Buoyant air around 100ft above the ground let me skim across 4 more fields to land near Charlton Marshall for a 12.8k score including turn points.

Sun 01 Apr 2012

Report by Paul Hawkins


Managed to get away from Hambledon on Sunday. I missed the first gaggle and the second which would of comprised of only two of us, myself and Marcus! Still not ready to give up I climbed out on the wooded spur to the east of take off and managed a glide to Oakford hill/quarry.

The next part of the flight was quite entertaining basicly soaring quite low in a mixture of thermals and turbulence kicked of by the bell ridge. My new Aspen behaved itself nicely in these conditions! Climed up again at the north facing spur near Bulbarrow hill to around 3300ft and pressed on.

I landed north of Piddle Trenthide and was picked up by Shamus from the pub who also had Ali in tow from his xc.

Shame not to make more of the day but a very satisfying flight all the same.

Report by Shamus Pitts


Great day at Hambledon today.  Not much wind but the usual suspects were all there, hopeful for some thermic fun.  The thermals came through regularly and quite strongly at times €“ if you could get high with the first one then they were coming through regularly enough to keep you up (with a bit of luck!).  I took a few thermals up to about 450' ATO then lost them, but pushed forward and found something else before I got low enough to think about landing.  There were some horribly rough thermic punches at times but eventually a climb came through that was strong and reasonably smooth and I stuck with it over the back.  I found myself about 2500' ATO while still looking straight down on the hill €“ there wasn't much drift at all.  I headed over to Okeford hoping to find something there.  There were a couple of wings laid out but nothing much going on.  I found a couple of nibbles of lift but nothing great so carried on searching towards Bell Hill.  Nothing much there either, although I wasn't losing too much height either, so i decided to head out over the flatland in front of Bell, as that seemed to be where the slight drift was taking me.  There were some brown fields so I was fairly hopeful that once my vario started screaming €œSink€ there would be a thermal at the end of it.  Alas, it wasn't to be!  I sunk all the way down, landing at a place called €œDroop€ (seems apt!) just outside Hazelbury Bryan.  After a quite enjoyable 3 mile walk down the winding country lanes, with only about 5 cars passing me the whole time (and 3 of them were going in the wrong direction!), Martin B kindly came and picked me up.  (While I was walking I had the €œpleasure€ of seeing Gary P, Pete C, Ali F and Paul H all flying past at various times!)

Report by Martin Butcher


That hill north of Blandford.
Had a very pleasant day flying and sitting. The thermal cycles were quite strong but equally so was the sink. I mistimed it the first time off and had to walk back up again whilst watching Ali, Pete and Gary skying out. Also there  was Mark R, Paul H, John S,Marcus, Chris S and probably a couple of others I have forgotten. On my second flight I picked a strong but rough thermal that spat me out over Child Okeford and all I hit was sink so I landed what I thought was next to a field of heifers, turns out it wasn't next but actually in the field and they all came charging over to investigate. It wasn't until after I had shot over the electric fence I turned around to see a dinky little bull in the middle of them.

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