If there was ever a day that could cause the superstitious to question their beliefs, today was one of them.
Admittedly, I thought it was going to be another one of those overcast, wet, windy and miserable days - your typical British mid-summer's day. The view out of the window in the morning suggested it would be, however, lady luck was on our side! Whether Mother Nature felt we had shown the patience and commitment it takes to be a paragliding pilot in the U.K, or just simply took sympathy on us, she granted us with a day pass at Bridgend.
Driving from Dumfries to Bridgend, she was definitely playing with me as I drove through a curtain of light rain near the Grey Mares Tail, forcing a mild bout of Tourettes!
On the other side of this shower curtain lay a few miles of dry tarmac that led to what I was hoping for - a colourful wing high in the sky, soaring the hill we all hoped possible today.
Another wing joined the first and they tempted me up the hill faster than my unfit state really should have allowed!
When I eventually arrived at the top, I recognised the two pilots as Tommy and Tim. They'd both landed and were looking out to the loch with arms folded - don't tell me I'm walking down the hill rather than flying I thought?!
I wandered over and was greeted with what is a trademark of the group - a genuine warm welcome and big smiles all round. Tommy and Tim gave me the lowdown - the wind was blowing top-end at times and they decided to land, they had a 40min or so flight earlier but felt the wind was picking up so rightly erred on the side of caution and touched down. The time was about 1300-ish.
As this was my first time at the site, I was given a good site brief - the key indicator to the likely wind conditions being the loch (St. Marys) in front. I should say here and now that the view you have from the top of the hill is incredible - it's a view worth the walk itself, let alone the prospect of flight.
Tommy had noticed that the darker, choppy (and at times white capped loch had lightened and calmed, or certainly was about to - it was time...
It wasn't before long that Tommy was up in the air with his new toy (an Advance Sigma 6) and was soon joined by Tim. I stayed on the deck until Tommy landed and gave me another brief, whilst Tim headed to the landing zone at the bottom as he needed to be elsewhere.
I harnessed-up too, had an admittedly brief ground handling session before running toward the loch where up I went!. Tommy gratiously gave up a good amount of his time guiding me from the top of the hill with his voice alone (I promise I shall buy a radio!) and after 40 mins or so, directed me down for a post flight brief. Whilst up, I noticed that another car had arrived and someone was making their way up the hill. It was Dudley with his new toy, an Advance Sigma 8.
Tommy took off and had some play time, wanging his new wing to the delight of an impressionable novice and his camera (see pics!)
Dudley was up next, taking the Sigma 8 on its maiden voyage with all of its two inches or so of brake travel. He looked like he was having great fun as the performance of the wing allowed him to find lift as far away from the hill as the bridge in front, something that I attempted later on but found myself landing halfway down the slope! No point even attempting to pull the wool over anyone's eyes by suggesting that I was practising slope landings in tight areas (something which I seem to be getting pretty good at!).
Another car soon arrived and in no time Craig was at the top of the hill. Again, Tommy gave the site brief and spent time where he could have been flying giving guidance to Craig and I whilst we were in the air. If a beverage was to be had at the end of the day, Tommy had earned himself an open tab!
Jamie was the next one to hike up the hill. It turned out that he enjoyed it that much, he decided to do it twice! Out of choice I might add - he didn't do a Neil and drop out of the lift band - I mean practise slope landing! ; )! His first flight was on his new harness - he then decided to collect his new wing which was in the car.
He was back up the top of the hill in the blink of an eye - readying his new glider.
Craig flew to the bottom landing zone after some really good air time and then Jamie took to the air. He looked like he really got the hang of the new wing and the new pod harness too.
Needless to say, Tommy and Dudley were still in the air, making you think they wear clothes only to hide their feathers (no, you don't need to prove it either way thanks!).
By now, the time was well passed 20:00 and with the wind dropping, making conditions slightly more scratchy, Tommy went for the landing field, I soon followed as did Dudley after proving that his glider could stay in the air on a fart of wind. Jamie proved his wing could likewise do the same and after about another ten or fifteen minutes, joined us at the bottom.
After packing up and loading the cars, an executive decision was made to have a post flight brief" - off to the pub we went. A warm fire, good atmosphere and all smiles were apparent.
My conclusion for the day? A great day had by all where grown up kids shared their passion for free flight safely and in great company.