I am sure all paraglider pilots spend their life with one eye on the weather and one on everything else and Wingbeat members are no different. Early messaging on Saturday suggested that Tommy intended to go to Witchie Knowe and I have to admit I secretly questioned why since Witchie is a SW to SE site and the forecast was definitely for westerlies!!
After a morning of 'domestics' an early afternoon SMS from Tommy said 'Witchie' and 'flyable' so 5 minutes later I was heading out via the Ettrick road. Turning at Kirkhope I could see no sign of any wings in the air and thought Tommy must have decamped to Mountbenger but no... as I crested the road I could see him flying on the Yarrow side of the hill almost camouflaged against the background of heather.
A quick walk up the lower stretch of Duchess Drive brought me to a low take off above a shallow bowl looking down the lower Swire into Yarrow. Wind was definitely west and reasonably strong so layout, check, clip in and try the air. A couple of very short beats suggested it was working and I then followed Tommy downwind scraping the contours of the hill - not for the feint hearted lifting legs to miss the heather on the downwind leg!
The air was surprisingly buoyant on the far side of the bowl and we both enjoyed boating around playing in broken thermals before landing by the track for a chat about bees with a local couple. Chris had arrived and the wind seemed to be picking up a tad. A quick chat whilst we watched gulls thermal out of the bowl and we all decided to fly again, Tommy first, I followed and then Chris took the plunge along the hillside.
Tommy played the thermals in the bowl gaining and loosing height with ease, Chris boated around thoroughly enjoying the air and I was swearing at my vario which had managed to go into keypad mode on the locked touchscreen. No matter, I was gaining height, enjoying the vario's song and watching gulls circle below me so went to join the party trying to ignore the fact the thermal track wasn't visible on the vario and the air was a little too lively to fly hands free! 600m later I lost the thermal and wondered why Tommy had landed.
Air was lifting all over, the sky had changed and I noticed the wind speed had increased from 23kph to 30kph so pushed out into the bowl to avoid being blown back and then noticed the wind was only 8kph and lenticulars where forming upwind and overhead. Chris was way below me keeping below ridge height and looking for sink whilst I was still boating around in fairly active air 300m higher playing the lift and then looking for sink and thinking about alternative landing options just in case. Eventually I flew out into the valley to loose sufficient height to come back in below ridge height and use the updraft to gain height and land beside Tommy dropping vertically as I made the final turn into wind.
Wingbeat numbers have been increasing recently so we have now found a 'new' site to ease the feeling of crowding and maintain the ratio of sites to members (we prefer 1:1) Witchie has also proved that it works in a variety of wind directions and has a house thermal generator.
We will be back for more after a great intro to a new site.