Exactly one month after my last trip to Dorset, the forecast was again showing a break in the storms for Sunday 16th February, and sure enough, once I suggested another trip to the Dorset coast, this time to Ringstead, the Avon group emails started flying thick and fast. Plans were drawn up, lift shares were arranged, and all was set for an early-ish start the following morning.
I teamed up with Mike Humphries and Tony and Cathy driving via Shaftesbury and Blandford, whilst a crew from Bristol headed down via Yeovil and Dorchester, but we arrived at the hill more or less together to be greeted with blue sky, bright sunshine and the sight of a couple of gliders already soaring White Nothe. Things were looking good!
I took a while getting ready (I like to treat these trips like proper XC flights with all the kit), but once in the air I did a couple of beats before heading forward onto the low cliffs in front. Gone are the days of having to gain 100′ before heading onto the cliffs – with modern gliders it seems as though you can just go for it straight away. I made it without a lot to spare I admit, but once over the edge the lift was great and it was an easy run along and up to White Nothe.
Once up high I played around a bit testing the air just past White Nothe, and it seemed good (especially as there were already gliders along there 🙂 ), so without hanging around I headed east towards Durdle Door.
The last time I flew along here was at the end of an XC flight from Batcombe – on that occasion I arrived at Ringstead then thermalled along the coast to Lulworth Cove using thermals triggering on the hills just before the cliffs. This time it was just as easy with the perfect SSW breeze blowing onshore and in next to no time I was cruising over Durdle Door and onto Lulworth. At this point I was still a bit nervous about crossing onto the hill behind Lulworth Cove and decided to head back to Ringstead just to see how easy it (or not) it was going to be. It was easy!
Right, back to Lulworth, and this time no chickening out at the gap! Actually by now there were a couple of gliders beneath me who had just made the jump back from east to west over Lulworth so I knew it was flyable further on. In fact it was a straightforward crossing onto Bindon Hill where I arrived at ridgetop height. From here it was pretty much a straight run past Mupe Bay and across the gap onto the cliff at the end of Rings Hill. I could see another glider further past Worbarrow Tout on Gadd Cliff so I topped up to about 800' asl before heading for the gap between Worbarrow Tout the start of Gadd Cliff.
I was half expecting a bit of rotor as I approached the "col", but with 100' spare I needn't have worried. I tuned left and passed overhead the blue / green Tala pathfinder on his way back to Lulworth and gained height all the way along the cliff. I have to say, Gadd Cliff IS SPECTACULAR! The first 300' or so rises from the sea at about 45 degrees, then the remaining 200' is pretty much vertical. Cruising back and forward along here to Tynham Cap was simply stunning.
I cruised around for a bit soaking up the views then decided to head back to Lulworth. The return trip was just as easy as the outward one – even the into-wind transition from Bindon Hill across Lulworth to the sea cliffs was a breeze. I met Mike Humphries at this point and sensed that he needed a bit of encouragement to cross the gap so I yelled across to him to follow me and before too long we were back on Gadd Cliff again. Like the Pied Piper, I'd picked up Irish John too and the three of us enjoyed soaring up to Tynham Cap together.
At this point Mike pushed on past Tynham Cap onto the start of the Kimmeridge ridge, however I suspect that that bit of the hill only works in a S'ly or SSE'ly and so he found himself running out of lift and ended up landing on the gentle slopes to the east of Tynham Cap. As I felt partly responsible for leading him over here I hung around for about an hour to make sure he got off again. Thinking about it I should have landed myself and stretched my legs and had had a "comfort break" but I was having a good time mooching around that I stayed in the air…
Eventually Mike took off from near the top of Tynham Cap, and as it was probably 1600 but now we headed straight back along the coast making short shrift of all the transitions in the slightly increased wind.
14km later we were back over takeoff – what a brilliant day it had been, and having sailed and walked along much of this stretch of coast it was an ambition fulfilled to have finally flown it.
Sit back and enjoy the spectacular views in this short video I made of the flight…
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