Click here to go straight to the video I made of the flight, but I’d rather you read on then watched it afterwards…
Martin, Mike and I had made plans to head over to Wales today, but a twitter message from SkySurfer pilot @dukeofted (thanks Richard!) at 0842 saying “monks down on the hill 7-13mph” made us hesitate about going all the way to Wales. Plus having endured cloudy skies at Merthyr on Friday, I wasn’t keen on spending another possibly murky day over there again. We were initially heading for Bell Hill but we stopped for a weather check at Warminster – Comton Abbas Wendy was saying N 9kts, so Monks Down it was.
We arrived at 1100 and were airborne by 1130 into a very thermic sky. I got high (1300′ ato, 2100′ asl) fairly quickly but I didn’t go with it as I thought it was too early and that it would only get better…
Which it did, eventually, but not until about 1400 when I got high (but not quite as high as in the morning) with four other pilots – Seamus, Paul and Jeremy (and Ian who left the hill a few minutes earlier, in a thermal that I headed back to the hill from!)
Bumping along the inversion at 2000′ asl
We stayed in a gaggle for about 5km whilst we drifted just to the west of my old prep school, but we must have been bumping along at an inversion at about 2000′ asl, and before too long the lift petered out and the gaggle started separating.
Wafting past my old school!
Seamus headed to the left and Paul and Jeremy went straight on but I stayed with what lift there was and gained another 100′ maybe. I saw Seamus working something about 1km away, but I decided to push on to where Paul and Jeremy were working something weak ahead. I arrived 500′ above them but never got anything worth stopping for and carried on to where Ian seemed to be climbing gently. I arrived well underneath him and very close to the deck (200-300′ agl!) but managed to work some gentle lift (about 600′ in 15 minutes!) at Tarrant Gunville before the thermal finally lifted off 2.5km later and took me and the other pilot up to 2,600′ asl. (Paul had followed me on the glide, but didn’t have enough height to make it to where I was scratching up).
Finally up high again…
From here it was pretty easy to just south of Blandford, and it was here Ian went down. We were close’ish together over Blandford Camp, but he lost the lift we were in and went down at the golf course near Tarrant Keyneston.
I had a 6km glide over the boonies and was down to 400-500′ agl before getting another nice climb out to the west of Mapperton where three or four buzzards showed me the core just at the right time! This climb took me up to 2,600′ asl again, and then another climb just to the east of Bere Regis took me up to just over 3,000′ asl for the first time. By now the coast was a realistic prospect, and having visited Lulworth Cove by boat whilst on holiday in August, I thought it would be fun to try to reach it by air this time!
Weymouth Bay in the hazy sunshine
A short glide took me to the east of Bovington Camp where I got a lovely climb up to 3,300′ asl as I passed Wool.
The coast well within range (no pun intended!)
From here it was just a glide to the coast where I arrived with a couple of grand to burn off!
How big a grin?
I guess I maybe should have tried to track west towards Weymouth to maximise my flight distance but I was fixated by the thought of an ice cream and a relatively easy hitch back so I landed 2.5 hours and 43km later into a gentle sea breeze right by the big car park at Lulworth Cove with the biggest grin on my face ever!
Help, I’ve run out of land!