Eye in the Sky - April 2014

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Wed 30 Apr 2014

Report by Jeremy Calderwood


Barton: After hearing several sitephone messages I decided I could skive off work for the latter part of the afternoon! When I arrived at 3:30 there were still 8 or 9 wings in the air spread out between Friars Cliff and Milford but soon several were coming back to land in the increasing breeze.

By the time I was ready to launch it was pretty near top end at about 16 mph but after a couple of failed attempts I was finally airborne (with a helpful push) just after 4pm. By 4:30 I had the place to myself - it was just a bit too strong for any easy launches from the top for the next 10 minutes or so... then Paul M and Dave W joined me for what were really pleasant conditions in bright sunshine.

I flew west as far as the caravan park and saw the large number of cliff collapses caused by the record-breaking winter rainfall - I'm glad I don't live near the Barton cliff tops! My first airborne outing for over 3 months - an hour of enjoyable flying topped off with a pint with Gary & Chris at the Walkford.

Report by Sean Staines


I made a rare visit to White Horse today. No one was there and the wind was off to the west but I had the best flying there I've ever had in lovely thermic conditions, getting to cloud base at 1650ft AMSL.

Tue 22 Apr 2014

Report by Gary Puhl

Not the best day for flying Barton but I wanted to try out my GoPro on a stick. Difficult launch in the strong SW wind but then it was easy flying, giving me time to play with the camera.

Brian M and I jumped the Bunny to Steamer Point.

Rain drops became more regular so it was a race back to land and pack.

Mon 21 Apr 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

Bank Holiday Monday was an energetic day for me.

First off it looked like Ballard could be a go-er so walked up, it was a non-event though. So flew down and drove the Wife to Ringstead where we had about 8 miles walking on the coast which was very pleasant in beautifull conditions.

Also it was satisfying watching people not flying on the Horse whilst in the process.

Drove home just as White Horse was begining to work, thought Knitson could be ok as lots of buzzards were soaring it.

Walked up, Wrong again, the wind was way off West and I could see 2 wings scratching Kimmeridge so had one last attempt on St.Aldhelms.

At last bingo, 30 mins or so wafting up to 230ft odd, not great but some reward for earlier efforts.

Report by Shamus Pitts


After waiting 4 hours at the White Horse for conditions to improve, at 4:45 the wind picked up, the lift arrived and all the hanging around and walk-ups were forgotten as we took to the air and enjoyed the gorgeous conditions that we had waited for for so long!  At one point a gentle thermal took me, Martin F and Richard M up to 600' ATO, a height that we could have only dreamt about half an hour earlier!  
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and today was no exception.  A mere 20 minutes after the first tears of joy were shed the lift started to die and we all floated back down to the ground, enthusiastically saying "It was worth the wait", before checking how long we'd been up!  There are worse ways to spend a bank holiday than on a sunny hillside with like-minded folk, we could have been stuck in traffic with the rest of the bank-holiday crowd!

Fri 18 Apr 2014

Report by Paul Hawkins


Couple of photos from Hambledon Hill on Good Friday.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had a pleasant hour at Hambledon today.  I wasn't going to go flying because I hurt my back yesterday but the sky looked pretty good so I thought I'd take a chance!  
Rumours on the hill were that it wasn't that good but I took off and fairly quickly found myself in a climb with Ian H and Gary P and took it over the back.  The climb continued all the way to a very cold cloudbase about 4500' AMSL.  I decided to keep pushing crosswind to try and avoid getting to the coast too quickly and found another climb which took me to base again. 
After that though it was a long glide to dribs and drabs but I couldn't find the climb, despite the great looking clouds and landed just past Buckland Newton for 21km.  Ian flew over me and carried on for miles, eventually landing somewhere near Beer I think! 
Gary (who I thought had landed ages ago) landed near Beaminster so I should have stuck with them!
After a "pleasant" 4.5 mile walk Brian M kindly picked me up and returned me to my car!

Thu 17 Apr 2014

Report by Sean Staines

I spoke with Grant and Russell who were preparing to leave as I arrived on Bell. They reported very rough conditions, Grant had had a 50% asymmetric at cloud base. It was a simple decision to rig the hang glider. The first flight was not very inspiring. Not much lift left of take-off so I landed after 25 minutes for a chat with Stuart who was rigging his ATOS.

The 2nd flight was much nicer with most of the ridge working and the thermals big enough to use. I made it most of the way to the masts. The best climb was at the Ibberton graveyard, topping out at 2000ft AMSL.

Wed 16 Apr 2014

Report by Grant Oseland


A nice afternoon fly at Southbourne on wednesday afternoon. The wind seemed a bit top end on launch with white horses out at sea and also off to the east. However on launching the wind was not that strong at all in the air. So a trip down to Sandbanks was the intention and it turned out pleasant with nice sunny aspects all around. With Nigel, RW and Steve.

Report by Sean Staines


When I arrived at Mere to find no one there I thought it a bit odd, but soon Richard arrived with is HG saying Steve would soon be there with his Atos. While I dithered trying to decide if I should fly HG or PG a land rover arrived. It had a soldier who had lost both his legs above the knee to an IED in Afganistan. He had just returned from a trans-atlantic rowing competition (Coming 2nd) and was to have his 1st ever flight as a tandem passenger. This is the first stage in intensive training for a tandem paramotor trike expedition around mount Kilimanjaro, partly sponsored by help for heroes. A very inspirational character. It will form a documentary on the BBC so one to look out for.

As the tandem PG flew Steve launched the Atos and reported the condition to be not very good. Richard flew the Rio, taking off in a gust and scratched around struggling for lift. Steve opted to bottom land the Atos to avoid the cows and crosswind top landing. Richard managed to get in on the top and I landed my PG next to him to give him his keys back, figuring he'd be a bit miffed if I went XC with them.

I grabbed a sandwich out the car and walked back to the front to find Derek, Harry, Paco and John. Derek declared it to be horrible but I enjoyed the strong spring conditions and flew for an hour and a half, joined by John and Paco. The sky was Blue and inverted and I topped out about 1550 AMSL. A fun day. Had to let Andrea know the retrieve from Shropshire wouldn't be needed after all.

Tue 15 Apr 2014

Report by Grant Oseland

A few photos from Norway back in Febuary. The site was Sollifjellet near Harstad and it was a tad cold most of the time. This was not the best time of the year for paragliding in Norway but occasionally the weather did play ball. The locals were very friendly and didn't laugh too hard every time I creamed in going up the ski lift with sawn off plastic skis strapped to my boots. The views were outstanding. With the wind chill it was about -27, this had the unexpected result of killing all the batteries in my vario and camera after about 5 mins of flying. Then killing me and my hands after about 1 hour of flying.

Mon 14 Apr 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A rough start at Monksdown made me decide to rig the HG at first, with 25 minutes boating around and enjoying the rough spring thermals. It calmed down so I bottom landed for the PGs to take over. Craig made an early escape with a 24k flight, joined by Gary for his 1st XC of the day. I managed a couple of hops over the back but didn’t connect with anything and landed a couple of km beyond Tollard Royal on both occasions. I opted to leave the crowds on Monks and try out some theories I have at Swallowcliffe, and boated around there for an hour. Meanwhile Gary got away at 3:53pm from Monks for the best flight of the day, 35km. Lots of pilots out to play.

Sun 13 Apr 2014

Report by Paul Maidment

Sunday i was one of the first on the hill with Brian M and another chap after chatting for a bit, took to the air after about half an hour or so the sky seemed to be full of wings , then i started to notice wings going over the back, great i thought first xc of the year but how ever hard i tried i always seemed to be in the wrong place at the right time, i landed and after helping a tandem launch i thought i would give it another go but this time i got good lift but massive sink in the bowl which left me walking up right from the bottom of the hill ,one more go took off then notice Grant in the air after giving his tandem flights, so i tagged onto the back of him he knows what he is doing it worked i managed to get into a thermal which took me up to cloud then into cloud which was a new experience for me, then i started to think bad things like is there another paraglider near or worse a plane, so made decision to point down wind and get out as fast as i could after what felt like ages i popped out not having a clue where i was, then i started recognise places but that was the only thermal i got, went to get my camera damn flat battery let me tell its not easy changing it with shaking gloved hands landed at winterbourne whitechurch same as my first ever xc last year.

Report by Gary Pocock


Good day at Bell today. Plenty of air time had by all. Quite a few pilots going XC and Swanage being reached. Very up and down, went from having good height to being below t/o  plenty of times with several walk up's. Aquired a Rush 3 this year and it's quite different on take off to the Sport 4, need to practice those a lot more. Grant was very generous with tandem flights as always, taking at least 4 very happy passengers (a couple of shots taken with my phone). Haven't had a chance to check out the video yet.

Report by Everard Cunion


First flying for me since August last year. My variometer conked out over winter, so I was lucky to obtain enough height to top land on each of my three very short flights.

Report by Shamus Pitts


Another couple of hours air time today, this time at Bell, with a short XC thrown in too.

Conditions in the morning were lovely with buoyant air and good thermals.  I took one over the back just after a gaggle left and found myself above Andy W.  Andy kindly found the base of the thermal I was scratching away at and I took it to base.  The glide downwind sadly didn't come to much, with just a couple of bits and pieces, and I landed at Winterbourne Kingston with Marcus W.  Paul H landed nearby.  Thanks always to the lovely Andrea for picking us up.

When we got back to the hill conditions weren't quite as good.  The wind was a bit off to the west and was strong but not that lifty.  I had a few more flights and called it a day.  A great weekend - 4 hours airtime, sunshine, thermals, XC, and good company - the season has got off to a good start!  

Report by Sean Staines

An epic day at Bell hill with lots of XC's and at least one personal best. I made it to Stoborough for 30k on the PG. At least 5 people made Swanage. Mark from the Condors flew a big triangle on his Atos. Doesn't get much better. I radioed my flight progress back to Marcus who'd bombed at Winterbourne Kingston which was a good wind up. Radios worked well today with Andrea retrieving Shamus, Paul and Marcus before coming back for me. Had a little flight on the HG when I got back to the hill but couldn't stay up. Good nil wind flare though. Roll on Monksdown tomorrow?

Sat 12 Apr 2014

Report by Shamus Pitts


I had a brilliant couple of hours in the air at Cowdown today, it rarely works so well!  The wind was about 5 degrees off to the north and blowing about 13mph when I arrived just before 10am but was soon nearer the 15-16mph mark.  There was bountiful lift all over the valley with thermals regularly coming through and buzzards playing in the buoyant conditions.  There were a couple of opportunities where I thought about going over the back but I was waiting for Nigel B to turn up so decided against it, despite getting to 900' ATO over the village.

After lunch the wind seemed to go off to the WSW a bit and there were some big gusts coming through.  Nigel got blown back a bit and had to speed bar forward so we decided to land in what was becoming slightly turbulent air.  Typically as soon as we'd packed up the sun came out again and the air felt a bit nicer but it was still pretty windy so we decided to try somewhere else - Eype was too far off to the west and St A's was too windy but we'd had a good fly so it didn't matter and we called it a day!


Report by Grant Oseland


St. Aldhelms Head today, nice and buoyant out front, if a touch brisk on take off. Eventually started to get cold after about an hour and a half boating around with the wind just a bit too West to be able to make much of a coast run towards Kimmeridge.

Fri 11 Apr 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A busy day at Monksdown with 20+ cars parked along the road. When we arrived at 11 O'Clock conditions had switched on and some good thermic flying was to be had for an hour or so. Not good enough for anyone to try going over the back though. The wind then dropped and remained unflyable for the rest of the afternoon. Went to the pub.

Thu 10 Apr 2014

Report by Sean Staines

I started out at Swallowcliffe but the wind was feeble and westerly so I bugged out and went to join the people not flying at Bell instead. We passed Andy Dawson leaving. What a mistake. Within 20 minutes of arrival the wind switched on and a gaggle immediately climbed out, myself included. I didn't think it was good enough to go with and used the height to push down to the masts. That end of the ridge was working well.

The others returned also returned but even if not XCable, the conditions were lovely.

Pete Chalmers showed off his new Delta 2 and appeared untouchable for quite a while. Many pilots out to play.

Wed 09 Apr 2014

Report by Neil Mccain

I'm sure that every villager in the Chalke Valley heard my 'Whoop'' of delight yesterday at about 12.30. I was at base - finally - and still climbing, circling in gentle lift on my first xc of the year.
Pete C was on the other side of the circle enjoying his maiden flight on his new glider. Although base was low (about 3,000 asl), the giddy sensations that come with just flying for fun, the promise of the season to come and the adrenaline rush of scooting up to the top of the thermal all conspired to make me feel I was at the top of the world. Whoop whoop! Half a dozen of us had been trying to follow Darren G's lead into the mellow air in front of Whitesheet for about 20 minutes. But whereas he had had a few hundred feet and thermals to turn in, we found ourselves scratching the ridge and puffing back up to take off from side landings. The sky was increasingly filling in and I momentarily worried that the day was over before it had begun. I headed south along the ridge, simultaneously preparing for landing whilst keeping my eyes on a couple of buzzards parked into wind in the bowl beyond the site boundary and feeling the wing pitch and yaw slightly above my head. What was going on in the sky now? I saw the buzzards begin to wheel and decided to to carry on over the fence. There was a blip of lift, enough to allow me to turn to keep my side landing options alive, but it wasn't promising. I guessed I was connecting with the edge of the first wisps of the thermal because I got a tip collapse on my second time around and then the wing moved into the lift proper and up I went. The climb felt quick and smooth - I had no doubt I was going to stay with it despite drifting behind take off with only 450'. I could see Pete gliding across to join me and on the ground a flurry of activity as Gary P and Ian H scrambled into the sky.

Once at base, I wasn't quite sure what to do - I could feel my lack of recent xc encumbering my thoughts. I was flying in and out of the bottom of the cloud and couldn't really see much around me although I had a good idea of the street's direction. After a couple of minutes the lift died and we began to sink gently. Pete radioed to say was going to jump streets and headed across the wind. He'd started off lower than me and I thought the distance looked too far to be safe, but the crispy glide on his new blade carried him with ease and I saw him hook into something. Meanwhile I'd made a horribly botched choice - I bisected the angle between downwind and Pete's line and flew straight into the blue hole Pete had been trying to avoid. I never recovered, despite a frantic attempt at a low save over a brown field.

Later I discovered that Gary and Ian had stayed with the main line of clouds and managed much better distance on the day. I wish I could replay my flight,choosing another, better line. In preparing for the day I had a clear strategy for flying the ridge and where I wanted to go, but if I'm honest I didn't pay enough attention to the middle bit - staying up. When base is only a couple of thousand above the hill, there isn't time to work it out in the sky - rehearsing those plans would have helped. Talking to others later revealed they were plagued by things like flat GPS batteries and an unfamiliarity with the site - whatever you overlook can come back to haunt you. Pete's day got better and better as far as I could tell. Having flown an aerial tour around North Dorset he looked to be setting up for landing just half a mile downwind of me. I stooped to get an apple from my pack and when I looked up again he was halfway back to base! I'm not complaining though, it was a baby-grand day out, topped of with a celebratory tipple with my fellow xc roamers Gary and George N. It's been a long time since I've written this but feels so good to do it now: Happy days!

Report by Grant Oseland


A nice boat around on a Wednesday afternoon at Woolacombe bay. The sun was out and the wind was blowing. It was very interesting to see that the North Devon Hang gliders also setup and then stand on takeoff for about 45 minutes waiting for the wind to drop below that needed then takeoff and bottom land ;-)

Report by Mike Drew


Due to various work and family commitments I haven't been out this year so far. Today was lovely at Ringstead and was good to see familiar faces. Had plenty of airtime on the thermic ridge along with plenty of others. Got to love paragliding! 

Report by Sean Staines


Chris, Chris, Brian and I had a change of scenery today with a trip down to Eype. A nice change from Barton. The wind was a little westerly but otherwise very good conditions. I had one flight of 3 ¼ hrs and made it the return run from the café at West bay to the far side of Charmouth and back.

Report by Stuart Prosser

Ringstead Bay And a day to give thanks.

Firstly €“ many, many thanks to Steve Whitfield for taking time out from playing with his new toy to search for €“ (and find!) the nose pins from my Atos; left behind in the top field last Friday.

How he managed to find them in that muddy, cow-trodden pasture, I have no idea but knowing the AIR factory he has saved me their weight in diamonds to replace.

Secondly, once I had given up the search and resigned myself to flying the paraglider; thanks to Russell for holding me down and letting go at the right moment in the (for me) top-endish wind strength. Once in the air all was fine and dandy once I had re-accustomed to the lack of speed and penetration.

Finally; thanks to my personal guardian angel. I'm very happy that I chickened out on a second flight at about the same time that the chinook gave those on the cliffs a close-up fly past.

Fri 04 Apr 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A posse of the Barton Scratchers had a lovely day out on the Isle of Wight today, flying the red cliffs. After a cold and gloomy start the wind came on, even though it remained quite westerly all day.

In the afternoon I launched in a particularly strong wind and used the height to dash down the cliffs past the first spur and onto the second one, which was the trickiest part of the cliff run. I crept round and connected with more lift to start my flight to Blackgang.

I almost made it back to take off but bombed out on the beach - only to see Brian looking down at me. They'd spotted me going down and parked by the ice cream van to wait for me. Excellent! A 27km out and return and a great day out.

Report by Alastair Florence


I stopped off at St.Aldhelms on the way home from work today, initially it was quite overcast, strong and gusty feeling. I sat it out for a bit until the cloud moved on and the wind steadied up a bit.

Flying the Gin Carrera again.

Launch was still a bit gusty but no problem. Once 100ft + the air was really smooth and quite lifty, but with a moderately strong WSW wind.

After a while of boating up and down I made an attempt at getting to Houns Tout, starting from 540ft ato and connecting with lift on the Tout at 198ft ato. About 350ft height loss for the crossing (about 1.2km push into wind) for an EN B is pretty good going by my reckoning.

The coastal footpath below the Tout is in a sorry state with several hundred thousand tons of cliff on the move (see picture), I think the path has been diverted across Encombe bowl and up onto Swyre Head.

First time out since mid March so the airtime was welcome.

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