At this time of year with the thermal strength dropping off coastal flying becomes a more attractive prospect, and with Saturday’s RASP looking a little uninspiring, Mike Humphries and I headed down to the tiny West Dorset village of Eype hoping to enjoy some mellow coastal flying. Neither Mike nor I had ever flown this stretch of the Dorset coast before but it was something we’d both wanted to do for some time, so it seemed liek the perfect day to give it a go.
We arrived at about midday having negotiated the tiny lane down to the beach, and were greated by the sight of three gliders already flying – always encouraging! It was a gentle ten minute walk up to the clifftop takeoff to the east of the car park (£3/day), and once there we were given an excellent site briefing from D&S Condors committee member, John ?
I wolfed down my sandwiches and pretty soon was in the air following ex Avon member Tom Arnold across the small gap to the bigger cliffs to the west of take off (Thorncombe Beacon and Doghouse Hill). These first hills are 470′ high and needless to say there was plenty of lift coming off them, allowing us to get to approx 600′ asl at this stage in the day.
From Doghouse Hill it’s a 2km jump to Golden Cap across the tiny hamlet of Seatown (not to be confused with the bigger Seaton further west along the coast past Lyme Regis), however because the wind was SW’ly at this stage the cliffs and ridge on the east side of Golden Cap (626′) weren’t working and so I edged round the point with my heart slightly in my mouth whilst barely maintaining my 150′ or so above the sea. I needn’t have worried though because once onto the SSW facing cliffs there was gentle lift and after maybe five minutes I was waving to the walkers at the top of the hill.
I waited for Shamus Pitts to catch up and then with about 700′ or so we decided to go for the 5km transaition to Charmouth…
There were a couple of gliders in the air over Charmouth – I yelled across to one of them and found out they’d taken off from there. He said that the trick for getting back was to work you way onto the higher cliff at the back and get a bit of height before setting off. In the event with the wind coming from slightly behind us it was an easy run back to Golden Cap. By now the wind had picked up a knot or two and 800′ was possible above Golden Cap in the silky smooth lift.
It’s 5km from Golden Cap to West Bay and it was another easy run all the way there. Shamus decided he’d push on to the cliffs on the other side of the harbour but I wimped out thinking I’d never make it back again unless the wind picked up. Turns out I was right as Shamus didn’t quite get back, but full marks for trying!
So having done the ridge run once I then went on to do it twice more, interspacing them with chilling out in the super smooth lift which was now lettting you climb to 1,100′ in places, a bit of airborne tweeting (Edit: thanks for reminding me about that Dec!), and a brief pit stop at Doghouse Hill to answer a call of nature, put another layer on, and have a bite to eat! Mike and I did the final run together before playing a new version of “chicken” – flying out to sea and seeing who bottled it first! Turns out I was the chicken I think as although I’ve got a better glide angle than him we both wimped out at pretty much the same place 🙂
I spent the last twenty minutes or so playing low down on the beach at Eype, since by now the wind had increased a little bit more making it brilliant for a bit of gentle wagga before finally landing at about 5pm to a round of applause after more or less five hours in the air!
So with that much airtime at least if we don’t get any more decent flying this year at I’ll still be happy!
Have a look at the short video I’ve put together which gives a pretty good idea of what the flying is like here, and if you haven’t made the trip down to Eype I’d thoroughly recommend you do so soon!