Finally a decent xc!

Ok, so I managed a short 24km flight from Merthyr on 22nd August, but my last really good flight was on 26th June when I flew from Mere to Bath (see write-up here). The forecasts were looking good for the Sunday after the Mere Bash from as early as Wednesday the week before, and I was determined not to spoil what potentially might be the last good day of the year with a monumental Mere Bash hangover! So bearing that in mind I limited my consumption of “Golden Delirious” to a modest five or six pints, and stuck to safer activities such as eating under-cooked burgers, the traditional pole climbing challenge…

Traditional Mere Bash pole climbing

and rocking out to “Dark Horse” (the band previously known as “The Rock Pirates”)…

Dark Horse

Bed beckoned at about 2am, but all too soon the sun streaming into the tent woke me up. However I couldn’t complain too much as after all, sun is what we’re after… It was a beautiful morning, however it was beginning to look it was windier than initially forecast.

Two teams of wind dummies kindly set off for the Dorset sites of Bell Hill and Batcombe, but the smart money reckoned Liddington was the place to be. I hung around alternating between being indecisive and using the bog until the first tweet came in from Graham – “Batcombe, top end, but no locals bothering to unpack. Will wait a bit.”

That settles it I thought, and off I set along the A303, arriving at Liddington at 1215 to the sight of four or five gliders in the air against a beautiful looking sky.

Looking good!

By the time I took off almost an hour later the first gaggle (Kirsty Cameron, Simon Twiss + 1?) was long gone, but it took me half an hour of soaring the very small and shallow slope before I find a half decent climb, and even then it was slow going – I was almost 8km downwind before the climb finally came good and took me over 2000′ asl (1,200 ato), and eventually to over 4,000′.

Finally high. Looking E with the M4 visible in the foreground

It was quite an easy run down to Combe Gibbett, although by the time I got there I was down to about 2,500′ asl but all the baking brown fields finally kicked off as I drifted past Pilot Hill – I eventually topped out at 5,200′.

Passing Combe Gibbett

By the time I crossed the A303 near Micheldever Station I was down to 1,200′ and in desperate need of a good climb – fortunately the thermal gods were feeling benevolent and by the time I was a few km past the M3 I was up at 4,500′ again enjoying some great views.

Cloudbase, looking south!

It was at this stage that I think I blew my chances of a really good flight, potentially all the way to the coast. I think I should have just wafted along with this cloud for as long as I could, but I decided to push on to try to connect with a cloud street in front but I never made it and this time the thermal gods let me down… I was losing height all the way past New Alresford and for the last few km I was kept aloft (at only a few hundred feet above the ground) by small bubbles of lift which sadly never quite took off.

I touched down at 1555 after a flight of 70km in a field that I thought was clear of horses but wasn’t, but far from frightening them I couldn’t keep them away!

Us, frightened of paragliders? You gotta be kidding!

I reckoned a horse getting tangled up in my lines wouldn’t be beneficial to my glider’s health, so I retreated to safety behind a nearby fence!

The retrieve was long but relatively easy once I eventually got a lift to Winchester Station (where would we be without iPhones and the like – they’re such good retrieve tools with maps and train timetables, not to mention music) where I caught the 1831 to Reading, then from there back to Swindon to retrieve my car, and then back home at 2100.

All in all a fantastic flight, my furthest this year, and hopefully not the last!

See more photos from the flight here. See more Mere Bash photos here.

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