I know it’s hard for some of my foreign readers to believe, but it doesn’t always rain in the UK, and when it’s not, it can be very very good for XC flying. The week before Easter was such a week – on Sunday 13th April lots of people flew big distances from Frocester, a small hill in the west of England. Sadly I bombed twice that day, at 12km and 25km, but hey-ho, you can’t win ’em all.
On Monday the strong NE’ly wind never materialised – instead it stayed a very light NNW-N’ly all day, and so consequently I found myself on the wrong hill (Ubley) with four other work-shy skyvers. After a decent parawaiting session we all decided to take off into what felt like the first decent puff of breeze of the day, albeit still off to the left of the NE’ly facing hill. After a bit of a desperate 10 minutes spent scratching the tree covered hill I found a rough but quite strong thermal and eventually managed to get up to just under the extended 4’000 ft lower limit of Bristol CTA-5. Sadly none of the others managed to join me in the thermal, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a lovely three hour 61km flight across Somerset and Dorset where I landed near Maiden Newton at 1730.
Here’s a short video of the tree-scratching and climb-out…
I got back home at about 2200 after a quick visit to my brother and sister-in-law’s who live not too far away, and a slow train journey via Salisbury, but the obligatory inspection of RASP showed that Tuesday was looking good too. So I kept the laptop on and managed a couple of hours work which I had to get done in order to be able to take the next day off as well.
The Malverns looked like the place to be on Tuesday so lift-sharing plans were put into action and we arrived at an already busy hill at about 1145. There was lots of talk about setting goals on the north coast of Wales, but I set a hopefully more realistic one at Corwen which I think was about 120km… Fingers crossed!
The sky downwind was still pretty much completely blue when I took off just before 1300 and although there were thermals coming through it just didn’t look good enough just yet, so I went on a bit of an explore north along the ridge to Worcester Beacon, which I’d never done before. It was a bit touch and go coming back, but I timed it just right and arrived back at take-off just as a large gaggle was climbing out. I was able to tag onto the bottom of it and with the sky looking better now, and with about twenty gliders ahead of me it was definitely time to go for it!
But is was very slow going…! After an hour we’d only flown about 20kms and the Malvern hills were still very much in sight. Still, it was beautiful up there and fantastic to be thermalling with so many friends after the solitary flight the day before.
After another thirty minutes or so I went into solitary mode again as no one followed me when I chose to head a bit more west than the the others, and although I spotted a few other gliders from time to time I was on my own for the rest of the flight. I kept getting glimpses of three gliders off to my NW about 5-10kms ahead of me (Wayne Seeley, Graham Steel and Iain Smallwood) so I tried to push on and catch them up, but they weren’t having any of it 🙂
By the time I reached Newtown (way off from my goal) at 1700ish I was 80 odd kms from take-off and, having eyeballed the railway station, was considering spiralling down to land. However I suddenly spotted los tres amigos climbing gently a few kms away on the other side of town, so I binned that plan and headed across town to try and join them. I did actually catch up with them horizontally, but they were about 2,000ft above me and sadly I never made it up to their height. Still I followed them for another 5km or so and eventually landed at 1730 after 4.5 hours in the air for a straight line distance of 92km.
I packed up and walked the 10 yards to the main road, and within two minutes of getting my “glider pilot – lift please” sign out a camper van pulled in with Richard Osborne’s partner Annee driving! The power of live-tracking – amazing! So I jumped in, called Wayne and pretty soon we rounded him up, followed shortly by Gray and Iain, then we turned round and headed back towards Knighton where we eventually found Richard, Pete Douglas and Mark Smith in the middle of nowhere. Somehow we all managed to squeeze in, and very merry journey back to the hill duly ensued 🙂
So, thanks very much Annee (and Richard) for the retrieve – it was very much appreciated by us all.
What a fantastic day out! In fact what a fantastic three days out 🙂
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