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March 2002

Saturday 30th March 2002

Report from Sean Parsloe

    What a superb way to end a year of non-flying. 2001 was a huge disappointment what with foot and mouth and some awful weather, I think that I've had maybe half an hour of decent airtime the whole year!
    I was feeling rather rusty and wanted to get a bit of ground handling in before starting any serious flying again. Saturday had light southerly winds forecast so I headed off to our Sky Surfers buddies site on Butser hill to play around with my wing.
    Mike Shipham, Paul Knight and I were the only ones there - everyone else was obviously doing the family thing on the bank long weekend!
    What a fantastic day for playing around. The wind wasn't strong enough to soar for any extended duration, but was perfect to shake the cobwebs out of my reverse launches and ground handling. Towards late afternoon the wind picked up a touch and we managed to get some small soaring flights in - an excellent way to end a lovely day.!


Report from Jerry (You see I can still fly hills) Siddle

    Good day on White Horse with winds varying throughout the day, gradually increasing. Gusting 12 - 18 mph at times.
    Jerry Siddle's first hill flight for about 18 months lasted 2 hours closely followed by a second of 30 minutes.
    Old Timers Peter Robinson, Stuart Martin, Adrian Coombes, Tim Horsey, John Ayling, Jerry out to play along with lots of youths.!


Report from Dave Daniels

    I was awake, today, and really wanting to fly. What wind there was at Durdle Door was SE and about 5mph.
    Phone calls and text messages indicated Kimmeridge (just 7 miles away!) was being flown and "windy" and people were also climbing up Ballards.
    Durdle Door was now southerly and 6mph with 8mph gusts. I like a steady 8mph or more before flying DD. What to do?
    I drove over to Kimmeridge to see a merry throng there, 5 wings in the air and John Welch's school in progress at the bottom of the hill with a couple of near CPs being carefully monitored by John as they flew in the slightly gusty conditions.
    Danny Gregory demonstrated an interesting "landing" dumping himself into the narrow gap between dry-stone wall and barbed-wire fence following a collapse, his wing falling well clear of the fence, and a few rips in Danny's flying suit being the only damage.
    The combination of being non-current, gusty conditions, walls and fences decided me that I would go to Ballards and see what was happening. At least there is plenty of space for some much needed ground handling on top there.
    As I reached the Ballard Estate, there was nobody in the air, and a phone call to Alan Booth informed me that it had gone a little SSW and was collecting some pretty rough stuff coming out of Swanage.
    Alan, ZZ, Martin Hayward and  Russell Eddington were sat at the top.
    After a while the wind seemed to be more inviting, and as Russell packed to leave with his family, the four of us flew off for just over half an hours flying. No great height was made - but for my first REAL flight in six months - it was really great!

    As mentioned below (Sunday 24th), this was almost the first time I had been to Ballards in the two-and-a-half years I had been a member.
    Perhaps this extract from the Sites Guide was the main reason I'd never been there before  "Considered by experienced pilots to be the Wessex's most dangerous site."
    Really? It never struck me like that when I was flying there. So let's understand why this has been stated since on the three occasions that I had either sat on the hill or flown certainly did not scream "Danger" at me.
    Firstly, I think the word that is missing from the Sites Guide sentence is "potentially".
    The facts ....
    1) There is no other bottom landing other than the beach.
    2) At high-tide there is a rocky promontory that shuts off the beach closest to the down from the steps up from the beach.
    3) The beach beyond this promontory has wooden groynes crossing it.
    4) At the maximum height of the tide there is very little beach either side of the promontory
    5) In stronger winds coming from the Swanage direction, you won't get as far as the promontory.
    So - providing one can still walk past this promontory - this necessarily means the tide is out far enough to make the beach nearest the Ballards Down quite wide enough for a safe beach landing.
    What's more (as Martin Hayward can confirm!) this beach can still look tempting and wide enough for a safe landing when already cut-off from the steps, resulting in a small (but safe) cliff climb out and dense bushes at the cliff-top to be navigated.
    When the wind is more easterly - one can easily fly beyond the promontory, but then one has the groynes crossing one's landing and, as with groynes on any beach, depending upon what seas have recently been working the sand and pebbles these groynes can present themselves in very different ways.
    If the sand has been washed out, they can be four feet high, or filled in and only 18 inches (or less) protruding. Most often, too, one side of the groyne will be filled in far more than the other - making an approach (if one really HAS to land here) less dangerous in the direction that the groynes present themsleves less proud from the sand. (remembering, that when the wind is very easterly and one can easily fly down to this stretch, the wind is almost at rightangles to the beach making an approach in either direction equally possible).
    The moral of this rambling?  (a) when you walk across the green before you walk up - take the time to look over the edge and note the way the sand and pebbles are filling next to the groynes, and (b) be aware of the tide state and times.

Friday 29th March 2002

Report from Dave Daniels

    A week of far too much work and almost no sleep found me on top of Ballards Down without the real urge to unpack.
    On my walk up there had been a few wings making varying levels of success in the conditions that were obviously toward the eastern exrtemity of the Sites Guide's recommended range, and Matt Pearce flew his red-ribbon down to the beach.
    Sat on top were Martin Hayward, Sean Staines, ZZ, Helen Appleton, brothers Eddington, Greame Wilgress, and James Spall, all of whom had been flying earlier before conditions had weakend. Neil Truckell landed a few minutes later.
    James and Helen scratched for as long as was possible before flying down to the beach. After a while Sean flew off with a similarly brief scratch before beach landing.
    Matt walked back up and, having regained his breath, flew off on another top-to-bottom.
    Greame and I started to walk down believing the day had had it's best. As we did, Martin flew off and was managing to maintain well out toward the headland. We continued to walk down. A minute or so later ZZ followed Martin, and now both of them were doing a little better than maintaining. In the belief that this was a ten minute wonder we continued our walk down.
    As we passed Sean climbing back up he was determined to go and give it a go - Martin and ZZ were obviously having fun as Neil joined them! I still believed (or wanted to believe) it was a ten minute wander and continued to walk down, but Greame decided to go back up again.
    Martin, ZZ, Greame and Sean all in the air, all doing well. An exhausted Matt walks back up annoyed that he took off only a couple of minutes before Martin was able to maintain.
    The Air-Sea rescue helicopter was flying around and, at times, beneath the 5 wings as it searched for some 77year old lady who had gone missing. The pilot of the helicopter was obviously aware of both the presence of the paragliders, but also  took great care to ensure that his wake was not going to give them any problems - despite flying in close proximity several times.
    Matt had reached the top and joined the others, and soon another mystery wing (that turned out to be Jim Coutts flying tandem) joined the merry band out on the headland.
    Seven wings decorated the headland for a further hour, Martin clocking up 1h40m, before all but Jim landed on the beach.

Wednesday 27th March 2002

Report from Jon Harvey

    Weather forecast 10/15 south easterly so having never visited Ballard before, and knowing that Mike Richards was there, that's where I made for. Walked up hill from the housing estate (thats something different after Westbay!), and saw two wings in the air, the other being Martin Hayward. Given two site briefs, (both similar, thank goodness!).
    Wind rather more of an easterly direction, I suspect, than site guide says is best - but "Hey ho! Give it a go!"
First flight ------ poor. slope landed after few mins, just couldn't get it right.
    Next two flights better, found lift and gingerly flew to the point in small stages. What a fine view!
    Next mission soar the hotels along the sea front - wind right on here - made one pass before deciding that was enough for one day at a new site, and not wishing to cock it up.
    Impressed or what with the site.!!!
    I know where I'd rather visit in a s/e wind, here or Sandy Bay (nr. Exeter) Yes I'm a Condors member as well, both being the same distance from Bridport.

Tuesday 26th March 2002

Report from Mike Bretherton

    In the hope of an epic post cold frontal XC, Simon Herbert and I travelled to Monks Down arriving at around 1pm.
    The site was empty, the wind was NE and gusty, we flew for about an hour in some pretty rough stuff
(That's just what the Sites Guide predicts in a NE - it's called rotor from Winklebury! D).
    The thermals were strong and punchy but not big enough to core and clear the trees safely. I had a climb up to 450ft ATO out the front at one point but kept falling out of the thermal. We then packed away and went to Mercury (sky surfing site) for some gentle ridge soaring late in the afternoon.

Sunday 24th March 2002

Report from Dave Daniels

    For some reason this was the first time in the two-and-a-half years I have been flying that I had bothered going to Ballards. The fact that I did bother was mainly due to a desperation to get my feet off the ground for the first time in six months - by far the longest break since I started the sport.
    Not having my kit with me - Dave Moores let me have 10 minutes on his 2/3 wing. I was happy with just being off the ground for the first time in six months.

Saturday 16th March 2002

Report from Neil Weymouth

    I arrived at the Mere around 2pm, just as the sun was going in after a few hours of good sunshine. The wind was picking up and there were around 25 gliders in the air and well spaced out. Flew for 45mins in fairly strong and cold SE conditions before calling it a day leaving 6 gliders still up.

Sunday 3rd March 2002

Report from Gary Puhl

    Andy Dawson and I made our way to Hambledon as the forecast gave us hope of an XC flight.
    Hambledon is currently restricted to named XC pilots due to English Nature and the anti-paragliding attitude of the farmers in close proximity to the hill.
    The breeze was to light on climbing the hill but within half an hour it was just soarable. As conditions improved Adrian Coombe arrived and we managed to climb 400ft above the hill in short lived thermals until the wind switched directions to northerly.
    Packing quickly we rushed to Monk's Down where John Alder was preparing his hang glider.
     (Hmmm. On the coast it was SW'ly and too light for the seagulls to look impresive! DD)

Saturday 2nd March 2002

Report from Gary Puhl

    The forecast looked good for Monk's Down, which was confirmed by Wendy-Windblows early in the morning.
    Andy arrived a little before me and was flying as I drove up the hill. The wind looked strong on take off and I had to wait for a lull. As I launched Martin Hayward arrived followed by a few other pilots.
    The wind eased and the ridge became soarable with the occasional good thermal to take us 500ft above the hill. Conditions flattened for a while and looked as if it might be all over for the day.
    Neil Hutchinson arrived, keen to get back into the air after a couple of years with very little flying, and anxious to go XC. After sitting on the hill watching other pilots progress, I noticed Neil gaining height and then struggling against the headwind to return to the hill.
    Time to launch.
    Neil, Andy and I had planned to fly as a gaggle to maximise our chance of finding good thermals. Immediately I launched a thermal caught me and lifted me 400 ft above T/O. Pushing forward to join Neil in another thermal we worked it to 1000ft above T/O and were now committed to XC.
    Unfortunately Andy had taken off just too late to catch it.
    Over the back Neil and I were struggling to find a good core and had to search for small pockets, but the best I could do was 1800ft above T/O. By this time we were passing to the east of Tollard Royal. The sky was blue but downwind small cumulus had formed.
    Neil shot off in search of better climbs but found nothing and finally landed near the A354 Blandford road.
    Resisting my usual urge to race off downwind, I worked every little blip on the vario and let the drift carry me. The cumulus were close now but the ground was only 800ft below. Things did not look to promising, but following the road to the Horton Inn small patches of lift kept me above 300ft for about 2km before landing was forced upon me.
    Walking out of the field near Gussage All Saints a car stopped to give a lift to the Blandford road. From here it was a 2 hour walk back to the hill. Next time I will not leave the mobile phone in the car. The sun was shinning and the scenery looking spring like, so who cares.
Checking the map, the distance was 11.4km.

Eye in the Sky - 2001 roundup
Eye in the Sky - September/November 2001
Eye in the Sky - July/Augsust 2001
Eye in the Sky - June 2001
Eye in the Sky - March to May 2001
Eye in the Sky - Feb 2001
Eye in the Sky - September and October 2000
Eye in the Sky - August 2000
Eye in the Sky - July 2000
Eye in the Sky - June 2000
Eye in the Sky - May 2000