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April 2003


Saturday 26th April 2003

Report from Lawrence Toogood.

    Having sat on my backside most of the morning resting & waiting for the family to return for lunch from Moors Valley Park, at 2pm still no show, the sky was clearing from earlier rain. Sod it! I am off for some fun! .Forecast SSW force 3-4 increasing 5 all indicators saying B'mth blown out - head for Barton - not flown there in about five years!
    Arrived only to find the wind south 5mph, so i gave the wing a good pre-flight as she is getting old (9.5 yrs) when a member of the public introduced himself as Bernie/ Bernard. All you regular flyers of Barton are well known to this chap as he reeled off lots of names & he loves to watch us fly & help out where poss. He was a great help to me as Alpine launch was order of the day & take off was tricky (hasn't it always been). No wind, lots of onlookers stood on the edge of the cliff, wing just wafting above! So good old "Bernie" would drag me backwards and lay out the wing for another attempt. 
    Wind was due to increase I told the onlookers who by now were wanting blood or at least for me to stumble over the cliff! not to let them down!
    A puff of sea breeze hit the wing ,now run like hell! Bang went the wing quick glance over each shoulder wing fully inflated run run run ... yeeeeeeeeha! Lots of disappointed onlookers as I went skyward, I'm sure they had sensed blood was about to be spilled!
    I was joined by fellow pilot, Joe.  We had a 30 min flight and struggled to get down in the now buoyant air (all or nothing!) - so fun was had.

Report from RW.

    0900hrs A quick call to Gaz of Flight Culture to confirm Whitehorse was on! 20mins later I was in the air under the watchful eye of John Welch. Where would the Club be without people like John, Gaz & Vicky ( and of course Sean now he's completed the course )?
    I applaud their efforts to keep those people like myself in the air "SAFELY"!!!
    It was a short window of opportunity but after watching Gaz leap the gap I followed suit and found myself soaring the ridge under a little bit of orographic. An hour later & John advised me to practice ground handling for a 30min spell. What a confidence builder and so important to consolidate the training to date.

Tuesday 22nd April 2003

Report from Mike Bretherton.

    My boss was at home so I decided to have an extended Easter Bank holiday. Arrived at Mere (Rifle Range) at about midday with Adrian Bishop and Dom Schetini. The forecast was SSW and light but with very good cold air-mass. 
    The thermals were promising at first with some nice flights but nothing to get real height or get away in. It gradually went downhill from there, I had around 10 flights, but none over about 5 mins. From some smoke we noticed that the prevailing wind was SW so we walked around to Cowards bowl but there were new born lambs everywhere so we decided not to chance it. We came back to find some brave soul had made it over the power lines to the west and was having a great time soaring the far SW spur. Adrian and I waited ages for a decent cycle to take off and then tried to follow. We made it but then was forced to land as the wind died. I tried a couple of attempts to get back up but it was too late in the afternoon and we waited for over an hour until we had to walk about a mile back to take off. 
    A rather frustrating time, especially later hearing about several pilots who went up to 60km that day from the South Downs

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Report from RW.

    The weather report on XC Weather got it right!! 
    Arrived at the track to White Horse at 0930hrs to pick up Allen Crab ( Birthday Boy ) who had taken a rare day off work.
    Met up with Alli F from Swanage (how does he get all this time off?) and we were in the air at 1000hrs a little light so some slope landings but Alli F with his new (to him) second-hand Firebird matrix 1/2 was showing us how to stay up there with the buzzards. Jim C arrived and was confident it was getting better, thanks Jim!
    Mark R & his wife arrived to try some tandeming and then Stuart M appeared & more tandeming + a ticking off for not parking as agreed! Mike R & Jay turned up after finding it too light at Ringstead. Allen from Dorchester (wing trampled at Batcombe) turned up with a smile on his face. Alli F sloped off back to work and Helen K arrived followed by David & his brother. went up tandeming with Stuart. They struggled to land without bottoming out and Stuart said a "bird" showed us the thermal to enable a top landing, Jay said "silly boy it was a buzzard". 
    Oh!! What a beautiful day. Allen C clocked up more than his 10 hrs and was beaming from ear to ear at his perfect top landings. I had a little scare with wash from a tandem while trying to turn but the Sky Lift regained composure and a few words of advice from the wise Mike R pointed me in the right direction. Continuation training is so essential!! A few sightseers came along & explained they had scattered some ashes a year ago and found the lighter they had left behind. Still some hope for Allen B's compass! 
    An excellent day for all.

Monday 21st April 2003

Report from Matthew Charlesworth.

    An early'ish start had me alone at Ringstead with ZZ and John Alder making their way over when they could.The wind was on the hill but a bit southerly. It was gusting a little strong but only to 18/20 mph so I started to rig as Ron Smith arrived. We rigged and were just ready to take off when ZZ arrived as well. 
    Ron went first and kept good height all the way to the cliffs. I launched just after and only lost 20ft on my way out there. The wind was off to the left a bit so I crabbed out to White Nothe and the coastguard cottages. I gained 300ft by the time I got there and Ron and I crept up in weak but extensive lift to a max of 1200ft ATO. This was virtually to base, or at least in the wispy bits. Smooth as silk, but still a bit misty.
    I flew for two hours as ZZ and John Alder took off to join us along with another pilot who's name I didn't get. I was pretty cold by now so I followed Ron into the landing field to warm up. ZZ joined us as I de-rigged and as I left, John and the other guy were still flying but I thought that the wind had gone to the south a bit.
    Quite frankly it was bloody lovely and a fantastic end to a busy weekend. Even the traffic wasn't too bad on the way home to Mum's for a roast dinner.
    Does it get better?

Thursday 17th April 2003

Report from Dave Daniels.

    Excuse me. Can someone tell me the way to England? This weather is NOT England - so I must be lost!!

Saturday 12th April 2003

Report from Richard Westgate.

    The last day of an incredible week of XC weather, classic spring easterlies, had to work in the morning flying to Aberdeen and back to Birmingham (at the helm of an aeroplane - for those unaware of Richards means of employment and thought that this was an XC!), on landing at 11.30 already a 5000ft cloud base, got in the car and blatted down the motorway to the xclent tow field. Arrived just as they were changing the tow direction and blagged the next line. Managed to find a weak thermal low down and struggled less than 500ft above the ground for 5 mins before the thermal eventually took off. .....and did it take off!
    Probably best climb ever in the UK.eventually averaging 900fpm to base at 6000ft! Joined by Mike Aston, who towed straight after me, and two sailplanes. Drift towards the NW, long glide off the Cotswold edge, scabbled to get up with Mike, eventually reaching base again over Tewksbury, really poor vis making planning next glide difficult. Streets aligned more N/S, took a cloud climb to 6400ft then another glide to join a hang glider in front of the Malverns. This guy was just screaming and shouting having a ball, 5 km in front of the hill! Climbed to base again then followed the street north for a while before following Mike due west to the next street.
    Here I made a really stupid error. To the west there was no sun on the ground for miles but a reasonable looking edge to the cloud bank causing it, to the north much more sun on the ground and well spaced Cu, and which way did i go! The glide to the west to the next sun, even from 6000ft was too far and from 3000ft I knew I had blown it, landing at 15:40 at about 50km.
    Mike managed to keep going and continued due north until 17:00 for 90km. an incredible April day and one of the best cloud bases I have experienced in the UK ..... ever! 
    Just a shame about the poor visibility.

Report from Dave Daniels.

    Knowing that it might easily be blown out on Portland E I was up there early only to discover the wind a little northerly. Garry M arrived in dog walking mode a little later to check it out before returning home for breakfast, and John W arrived shortly after.
    It continued to look promising if the forecast veering to Easterly arrived before the wind became too strong. Gary M returned with bacon'n'egg sandwiches - so, whatever happened, the day had been worth while. Paul K arrived a little later and - after a significant para-wait - the clouds over Weymouth were building - as was the wind speed.
    The four of us de-camped to the bowl at White Horse (the benefits of significant ground clearance on the Shogun making this the easiest drive up the track ever for me) to find the wind pulling up the bowl nicely. JW had a quick flight and returned to the safety of the land unexcited by the punchy-gusty conditions.  Another para-wait .....
    The previously clear sky filled in, the clouds went grey,  the temperature dropped and the gustiness subsided - soon all four of us were having 10/15 minute flights to about 200ft ato.
    90 minutes later a sea breeze kicked in, cleared the sky, and we were all in the air - Paul K reaching 500+ft.
    Managed a total of over an hour - so I'm not complaining ...... TOO much

Report from RW.

    After the usual several hundred phone calls & checking the weather reports on the "net" I made my way to Foley Hill to meet Mike R of Condors. Arrived at midday - Mike R & John H were in the air. Andy P & school were at the bottom with a new group of students. I made ready and was airborne for a short top to bottom. Damn the sink! 
    After a break (excuse the pun) of 4+ weeks I was a little "rusty". Sean L & the lovely Nicole arrived as did Dianne B, John P, & Tony B. One other I recognised was "Cuddles" now instructing for Andy P. any others I did not recognise
    The afternoon progressed with Sean L & Mike R gaining some height but the rest of us were restricted to short soaring flights. All in all a good day for me as there were no mishaps and I landed several times without getting dragged.

Report from Jon Harvey.

    Folly Hill was the venue thanks to Andrew P of Flying Frenzy. On arrival late morning it was bumpy 12/15mph with stronger gusts, but early afternoon it did calm done. Several Wessex members including, M Richards, J Parsons, R White, S Lovett, plus Nicole B.

Friday 11th April 2003

Report from Jeremy Mortimer.

    Arriving at Swanage at about 1:30 I recognised John Alders’ car; John appeared shortly after and we walked to the edge where the wind felt rather easterly. We then persuaded each other to walk to up to take off which we reached after the usual leisurely stroll. 
    On take off the wind was a little off to the east but we took off without too much difficulty I flew for 50 minutes and John for 70 minutes or so before the wind dropped. 
    Usual grand views but hands were too cold to take pictures from the air. Johns’ time in the air allowed him to claim his 100th paragliding hour.

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Thursday 10th April 2003

Report from 'Alastair "who often works 70+ hours a week and has been known to stay away from home for up to a month at a time working (ok it was in Cyprus) and still only gets paid for a basic 55 hour week so never feels guilty about taking the odd hour (or few) out for a bit of flying, it just so happens that one or two of his jobs seem to be near hills" Florence' (The expression "Self praise is no recommendation" springs to mind. DD).

    No one else seems to have mentioned it but there was also a bit of flying done at Monk's Down on Thursday 10th evening time. I arrived (after a hard days work) as everyone else was wrapping up because a rain cloud was heading for the hill. It didn't come to much, so soon the wings were out again. After 10 mins another cloud threatened, this didn't come to much but was enough to drive 3 or 4 flyers away. Those who stayed enjoyed well over an hour of good flying at reasonable altitudes. Someone appeared to gain at least 600 ft, Adrian Bull and Martin H were among those I know. It was noted that chainsaws are probably more effective on pine trees than Hang-gliders!. (Cub reporter is sacked due to insufficient content re question provoking titbit! Hang-gliders and chainsaws? Cub reporter also forgot to include suitable thanks for the person that suggested he scoot up to Monks! DD)

Monday 7th April 2003

Report from E-i-t-S cub reporter - Alastair "Does he ever really work" Florence.

    I had to look at a little contract incinerating some vegetation on Coity Mountain near Abergavenny today.(Slightly better than working down the sewer, I suppose? DD) I arrived on site at 0700 hrs and got my business finished by 11.30.
    It seemed wrong
(read "blasphemous"! DD) to rush back to the Wareham office so I contacted a pilot from Newport whom I've met before and he put me in touch with locals, Brian Jones and Phil Hawkins, who where planning to fly today. 
    By 1200 hrs I was sat on top of the Blorenge waiting for Brian and Phil to arrive. We checked out the SE face which was spectacular. Sadly, with rough gusty thermic conditions up to 21 mph and biting cold, it was obvious the site was unflyable. 
    Brian new a slightly lower site above Cwmbran, definitely 4x4 country or a long hard walk. Drove 2 miles over rough moor-land tracks. Conditions where still rough but lighter. 
    Brian wind dummied, I followed soon after. I began to climb immediately from launch and just flew up and outward over Cwmbran. The air was pretty lumpy and I decided at 920 ft ATO I wanted to make sure the glider would go down as well as up. No problem. 
    We waited for the conditions settle down a bit, after that and had several more flights into the evening. 
    Mrs F can have the red ribbon for her hair soon.

Saturday 5th April 2003

Report from Dave Daniels.

    Frustrating, or what? OK - I have a bee in my bonnet about weather forecasts (Forecasts? Oxymoron?) - but let's face it - all the forecasts disagree with one another and none are correct. Forecasts of 9mph and 11mph had been added together to give steady 20mph. OK, they got the direction almost right .... by Friday evening.
    So - armed with the lure of a top wish-list "forecast", I was off to Monks early on Sat. Not as early as intended due to the over consumption of the previous Saturday's booze-criuse purchases at the end of a crap week ending in a drunk phone call and email to RW, the contents of both I will publicly apologise to Russell for here.
    As I navigated my way around the closed A354 (Closed 1mile north east of Winterborne Whitchurch until April 11th ... according to the Dorset CC web site), a text message arrived from Gavin W - "At Monks 12-16 slightly off!" I accelerated!
    Arriving at the hill, Gary D was rigging his hang glider, in wind gusting to 20mph and eventually launched, flying to entertain the crowds ... or qualify for a tour in Iraq?

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Gary Dear in "White Arrows" mode!
Photo by Jeremy M

    The one gratifying thing about arriving at a non-flyable site in the freezing cold wind is any queried about your individual sanity are diluted by being part of a similarly deranged larger group. Others in this group included, Michael C, Nicole B, Craig B, Robert D, Sean S, Kris B, Everard C, Jeremy M, Russell E, Jerry S, Andy D.
    Sean L did some flying (?) launching from about 10ft above the fence at the bottom of the hill, and not flying much higher. And, with the chill factor setting in, a group of us went for a portion of chips and a coffee at the pub. After an hour Mike C took a look up at the hill and was almost trampled in the stampede to the car on announcing "Wings in the air".
    Back at the hill, Robert D, Andy D and Craig B were in the air, rapidly followed by almost everyone else.
    "Sit back and relax" flying it wasn't - enjoyable it was! There were cycles which left few wings in the air, but between 1pm and 7pm there was not a moment that there was not someone flying.
    ZZ and Ron S (and another of who's name I am uncertain) flew HGs, landing at the bottom after not too long. ZZ returned from collecting his wing to participate in the late afternoon PG activity that had by now included Adrian B and even Matt P turned up briefly for a flight during his leave from bobbing about in the south atlantic.
    I counted 14 wings in the air a couple of times - several people hooked into their first real thermals of 2003 - albeit they only went to 600/800ft or so.

    Many smiling happy faces at the end of a great day announced the arrival of the flying season proper!  Look at how many entries there are here for only 5 days of April!

Report from Craig Byrne.

    Had great day at Monks was bit rough at first and quite strong for PG but it settled down into a very pleasant days flying. 
    Great fun thermaling with Dave D but wind was quite east so always taking you towards Compton Abbas airspace. 
    Lots still flying when we left but it seemed a bit on and off then.
.(Mainly on! DD)

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Nicole B in Sean L's wing, Dave D,
 Gary W and Jeremy M

Nicole B and Sean L share a thermal

Mike C, Adrian B and ?

Report from Alastair Florence.

    Everywhere seemed blown out so I resigned myself to working down my sewer manhole for the day to break out the benching for a new sewer conection. (Now I see the appeal of parawaiting! DD) Emerged from the sewer at 16.00 hrs to find the sun out the family sunbathing in the garden and the wind (in Swanage) at about 4 mph (sea breeze effect perhaps?) 
    I was convinced I must be missing something
(Correct! See the above.)
    Drove down to Egardon Hill where Flying Frenzy were wrapping up due to strong winds, Cycles of 10 - 16 mph followed by 18 - 25 mph. It looked like the sort of evening that ought to drop off and sure enough it did at about 18.30 hrs, got the wing out and we flew until the sun dropped behind the hill fort.

Friday 4th April 2003

Report from Anon. (The name of the author has been withheld in interests of his own safety.)

    Many apologies to all, especially Ian O and the two observers on the ground, who were in the vicinity of Bell Hill when I couldn't hold down my sparse lunch! 
Any recommendations for flight sickness sufferers? (Any advice to Jeff Davies ....)
    As someone said ~ it was a good thing I was not wearing a full-face helmet!
    Thanks for the sympathy.

Report from Mike Adkins.

    Horror upon horror! Several of us noticed that the magic tree is outside the bit of the bowl we intend to buy. Doomed, I tell you - doomed! 
    But it didn't seem to stop it affording its usual amount of lift to those who sought it - and many did. Yes, it was another fabulous Bell Day. 
    I took off at 1033 and flew for an hour (John B had been the wind dummy) and by the time I landed half the club was there
(133.5 people?  Who was the 0.5? DD) - far too many to name. The sky was blue, a little thermic activity developed but not enough to fly away on, and there was an inversion in the offing. Height gain was in the region of 500 - 600ft ato (well, in my case) and as the day wore on the lift became better and better, although it got a bit "gnarly" - as Peter S put it. 
    Peter R went off on a low-level sortie of his own which appeared to take him quite close to Okeford Hill, but he made it back OK, while Ian O observed another flier vomiting copiously from several hundred feet! It appears one of our newer members suffers from air-sickness: While one has to applaud his determination to fly in view of this malady, it was felt that perhaps he should be asked to trail a yellow and green day-glo ribbon to warn others not to fly too close down-wind of him! :)
    By the time I left at 1600 it was blowing quite freshly and only a couple of wings remained in the sky: nonetheless, people were still arriving, and I don't doubt that as the wind eased in the evening the sky would have been full of wings once again. I'm so glad we're buying that hill!.

    (So, now Gavin W knows where he should have been instead of sat at a blown out Monks assuming the N wind would be too strong and too N for Bell. That's paragliding! DD)

Report from Alastair Florence.

    Checked the wind on the way to the office, looked promising at 10- 14mph NW on Steeple ridge. Not to much happening in the office, Boss on holiday so it seemed like a good time to try my first day on Bell Hill.
    Ian Marks on site early who kindly gave a site brief and kept an eye on me, followed shortly by others (I am still learning names to faces).
    There were canopies in the air all day plus one hang glider, two still flying when I left at 18.30 hrs. 
    Conditions where a bit lumpy during the day but on my last launch - at 1700hrs - noticeably smoother and more lifty. It was hard work to get below 350 ft ATO. Got plenty of airtime and my best height gain so far (540ft).

Report from Mike Bretherton.

    Its my birthday today (Happy Birthday! DD) and my boss was out (Do you and Alastair have the same boss? DD) so I decided to have another afternoon off. 
    Arrived at Bell Hill 1pm with Simon Herbert and there were a couple flying and many more on the ground. "Why isn't everyone flying?" I ask, "Because we have all flown and are having lunch" was the answer. 
    The wind was a good, 10 - 15mph NW, and the sky was very blue. Simon took off and soon went skyward. After getting into my harness and building a wall, my right break handle came off in my hand, the knot had come undone. Oops !, that could have been a problem, even more so as I remember the demanding XC landing I did the day before. Had it come off then (i.e. just a few seconds of use ago), I am sure I would have had a very bad landing and would not have been flying today. Note to oneself - do more pre-flight checks ! 
    After a bit of knot tying, I was off and went skywards to join the others. Apart from the very annoying inversion which was preventing XC flying, I had 2 and a half hours of the most enjoyable flying I have ever had at Bell. Up to 1000ft at times, some thermals were quite strong, up to 4 m/s but they were not too turbulent. 
    We all oscillated in height from launch level up to 700ft ATO between the cycles, taking one back for 2 or 3 turns before bumping ones head on the inversion and pushing forward once more. 
    At about 4pm, a few very small cumulus clouds came out but they were all very small and wispy. After over 2 hours of thermalling aloft, the wind picked up and I decided to go XC if only to find some other sheltered landing zone. I waited for the next half decent thermal to come along and I went for it. Again I bumped my head on the inversion at about 700ft but then was in a zero for a few Km's. I went downwind and then caught a very weak thermal which took me up to 1000ft ATO. The wind drift was vary fast, I was doing 65Km/hr down wind so I was making ground pretty fast. I had 3 weak thermals but loads of zeros before I had to land near Winterbourne Whitechurch at exactly 9Km from take off. Only one Km less than the UK XC league minimum. Doh!, 
    Still I got far further than I expected to get in those blue inversion conditions

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The Bowl at Bell
 (Sounds like the name of the bar we should have there?)

    PS - Just bought my lifetime membership and hope to fly Bell for many years to come. (You and the other 47 so far! DD)

Thursday 3rd April 2003

Report from Mike Bretherton.

    After believing the latest synoptic charts (is that the "actuals"? DD) I arrived at Combe with Dom Schetini at around 1pm, expecting the conditions to be epic and the wind to be flyable.
    A quick wind check measured gusts up to 30 mph !. Even the hangies were not taking off. 
    Bumped into Adrian Bishop and we chatted for a while confident that the wind would soon drop. 
    It dropped all right but not till after 5pm. It was very unsettling at first, being very up and down and not very consistent. After one cycle I thought it would be all over and several people were forced to land. The dying sun then came out and it became surprisingly lifty, I thermalled up to 600ft and decided to go for it, expecting to just go a couple of Km's over the back. I managed to get a zero for ages and eked out 6.5km landing after 6pm, it was very strange to go XC so far with the sun setting.

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Over the back of Combe

Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - II
Eye in the Sky - March 2003 - I
Eye in the Sky - February 2003
Eye in the Sky - January 2003
Eye in the Sky - November/December 2002
Eye in the Sky - October 2002
Eye in the Sky - September 2002
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - August 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - July 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 3
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - June 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - May 2002
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 2
Eye in the Sky - April 2002 - Part 1
Eye in the Sky - March 2002
Eye in the Sky - 2001 and before