The previous couple of days had seen me frustrated at work – Thursday and Friday had been good flying days – and come Saturday (25th September) I was keen not to miss out on another good day, especially as I hadn’t been out since returning from Saint-André-Les-Alps almost four weeks earlier. RASP was forecasting light ENEs with a bit more wind and higher cloudbase the further south you went. I’d arranged to call Rich and Annee in the morning (who’d camped in their campervan near Frocester), and I persuaded them to come down to Bath for breakfast before heading down to Hambledon Hill in Dorset.
We hit the road at about 1100 and arrived and hour or so later. It’s about a 15 minute walk up, and it felt good to be out in the glorious autumn sunshine. There were a couple of pilots already there when we made it to the top and they had a couple of short flights while we got ourselves ready. Rich and I optimistically set a 115km goal to Chulmleigh – no harm in thinking big 🙂
By the time we were all sorted the gentle breeze had dropped a bit which meant that we had to pick our moments to launch. The sky was looking epic, and birds were climbing out in front, however for at least an hour, despite weak cycles coming through, there was absolutely nothing to climb out in.
Then just before 2 o’clock Rich managed to climb out – I raced to get into it too, but by the time I reached the spot I was too low and too late, and had to pop it down on the slope and do yet another short walk up… Rich’s climb was slow to start with but before too long he was up at base, and I was still on the deck 😦
Determined not to give up I had another slopie before finally finding something strong enough to climb in. Trouble was I lost it after 400′ so pushed out in front to try to find something else. Fortunately my luck was in and I connected with something stronger and enjoyed a nice climb up to about 2,500′ before either I lost it or it fizzled out… Hmmm, this wasn’t proving easy! I decided to head downwind and keep my fingers crossed. Five minutes later I found a climb, and after quite a bit of searching I finally found the core and a nice 2-3m/s climb saw me at bars at 4,700′ in just a few minutes. This was more like it – I hadn’t been as high as this in the UK for two and a half months!
I cruised along under a cloud street for the next twenty minutes, but by the time I crossed the A37 I was down to 2,200′ and in need of a climb. Rich had come on the radio and said that he was down at 27kms, and I replied saying that I would come and land by him, but I heard him say “no, carry on, you might find something”. I duly carried on, pinning my hopes that I would make the gently rising ground a few kms ahead and get lucky there. I was down to 1,200′ (500′ above the ground) over two small woods, and sure enough there it was! Fifteen minutes later I was up at 4,700′ again and on my way! Thank you Rich for telling me to carry on! (What on earth was I thinking?!!!)
It was clear by this stage that my goal at Chumleigh was out of the question, so the next best thing was to aim for the coast, possibly West Bay, possibly Charmouth, or maybe even Lyme Regis…
As I passed a few kms north of Bridport it was clear I was on a nice lifty line so I pressed on towards Charmouth, averaging just 1m/s down. I had covered13kms since the last climb and was now at 2,300′, still some 8kms from my new goal at Charmouth, when I found a weak climb which I took for 350′ or so before pressing on.
I was down to 1,100′ as I flew over Charmouth – should I spiral down here, or try and reach Lyme Regis across the bay? Time for some mental arithmetic – 1,100′ = approx 300m, distance maybe 3kms max, so that’s 10:1 needed… Hmmm, at least there are landing options all the way along the beach… Go for it!
It felt a bit touch and go at first, but with half bar to maximise my glide I reckoned I’d make it ok. I was at 300′ as I went “feet dry”, which gave me time to yell “wahoo!”, wave to people beneath me, shout “Happy Wedding!” to the couple having their photos taken on the beach, and throw in a quick beat before landing to quite a bit of applause farther up the beach!
I spent a few minutes chatting to a man and his young daughter about where I’d flown from and where to find more information about paragliding, before a lady came up and showed me the video she’d taken of me landing – how cool is that? 🙂
Check out my glide in and landing in the video below then decide whether you’d have gone for it too…
PS. Lyme Regis definitely has the best ice cream on the south coast!