The way this summer is going, I’ve concluded it’s essential to seize the moment whenever possible. After a frustrating few hours at Frocester last Saturday (thermals everywhere, but no wind to push them onto the hill), and with the prospect of another unflyable weekend to come, by 1300 yesterday (Tuesday 15th June) I’d had enough of staring out of my office window looking at the clouds, so I finished off a few things and pedalled home on my bike as quicky as is possible up a 500′ hill.
All my kit was pretty much ready to go, but just as I was about to head off I heard that a friend of mine had had an accident at Mere and was waiting for the (air) ambulance. This obviously put a damper on things and I was in two minds whether to carry on or not. After a while I did, but decided to stop and check out Long Knoll (which I haven’t flown for years) rather than add to the melee at Mere.
I parked up and the wind certainly seemed on, so I started walking up the hill, keen to get up and airborne before the sky blued out (which it had already done at Mere by 1445). I took off at 1510 just as the last of the Cus were approaching the hill and was rewarded with a nice climb out to about 1800′ (1100′ ato) before it seemed to fizzle out. With no prospect of a better climb at the hill I went on a glide, and I was down to about 1000′ agl 5km later before I found a second climb which took me to base (at 3,700′) and beyond. I didn’t know it at the time but this was my only visit to base during the whole flight.
From here I glided 12km and was down to 700′ (450′ agl) before I found another climb just south of Wingfield. However it was as weak as own-brand supermarket French beer and I only gained 200′ in the 1.5km I drifted with it. Still, it was a help, and with Bradford-on-Avon getting closer my chances of another climb increased.
As I flew over the crossroads just above the tip of my pod in the photo above I felt a slight pulling to the right so I headed over to the farm buildings which were kicking off nicely and I finally felt I had a bit of a reprieve. It was great thermalling right over B-o-A, however all too soon the climb seemed to die and so at 2500′ I headed off on another glide.
By now Colerne ATZ was only about 6-7km away so I started tracking north west to avoid it. Before too long I found another climb which took me from 1600′ up to 3100′ but again it just fizzled out, so with no prospect of flying over the top of the 2593′ ATZ I had to make a large alteration of course to the west.
With the wind from the south it felt like I’d made a 90 deg turn as I tracked WNW towards Batheaston and Solsbury Hill where I hoped the words of Peter Gabriel would apply to me!
I was down to 1300′ before I found another climb just before Solsbury Hill, but I was perilously close to the ATZ at this point so I couldn’t go with it properly, but every little bit helps and I managed to just about skirt the edge of it as I drifted over Jane Seymour’s old manor house at St Catherine’s.
From here I found one more weak climb that got me up to a max of 550′ agl as I dribbled over Marshfield, but eventually my luck ran out just past West Littleton (I should have dropped in for a cup of tea with Liz Hurley) after a straight line distance of 39km. Annoyingly a buzzard was climbing out (from 50′) from the field I had chosen to land in, but with a couple of power lines nearby, and with me also at only 50′ as I approached the field I wasn’t feeling brave, mad or desparate enough to try to climb out with it!
Anyway, if you’re still reading this far have a look at the flight details here. It’s not my furthest flight by a long way, but as an afternoon “smash and grab” flight it was pretty good fun, especially flying so low over my home turf for much of it!
Now, if you’re only interested in the flying part of an XC adventure stop reading here. But if you want to find out how the retrieve went, well, read on!
I had a short walk up to the A46 and only had to wait five minutes for a lift. Turns out the driver was a keen climber and even though I’m not, we shared a similar passion for adventure and the outdoors, so the drive to The Globe Inn where he dropped me off passed in a flash. I got another lift all the way to my door in Combe Down after only a short wait, so there I was, back at home at about 1745. Where’s the adventure in that I hear you say? Well, aren’t you forgetting something? Yes, that’s right, my car!
I could have asked Lisa for a lift, but she was dropping my son off at his basketball session, so, seeing as it was a nice evening I decided I’d cycle back to Long Knoll to collect it! After a cup of tea and a bit of cake, and having prepared a route on MemoryMap and uploaded it to my iPhone, I was ready to go. Two hours later, at 2045, after a lovely 21 mile ride along country lanes and some off-road sections I was back at my car feeling tired but very satisfied!
So, as the title of this post says, seize the moment, you won’t regret it!
Here’s the ride tracklog if you’re interested.