Craig Fell was the name and south of Moffat on the old Carlisle road was the place, roughly speaking. This westerly ridge can be seen from the M74 motorway no problem and has apparently been enticing the Wingbeat crew for some years and today became the day to give it a trial run.
Jamie had done all the leg work making sure we had the permission and access, unfortunately, for all his good work he had two wee monsters to wrangle and didn't make it out for this jolly.
I had driven the old Carlisle road back and forward before a kindly call from Jamie came in explaining where I was to be heading for. I backtracked slightly, past the farm keeping my eye out for the field that had been cut for silage on the left. There it was, there too was a black car sitting outside it. The same black car I had driven past some 10 minutes earlier, the same black car containing Dudley and Tommy who had met up at St Mary's Loch and come over. I pulled up, jumped out the car and was greeted by the usual chirpy pleasantries.
There was a bit of concern at this point, it being a virgin site to us and also the fact that we weren't quite sure exactly what the wind was doing. I think Tommy's words were "it's blawin a hoolie oo-er there the noo" which I took to be back over the St Mary's Loch way however here, just south of Moffat and on the road, the wind seemed rather benign.
So off we set.
We took the car up the track and parked up at the pylon, at least that gave us a wee head start on the walk in.
Kitted up we started tramping on up the hill.
It was certainly quite a walk in. The ground was wet underfoot, there were streams to cross and countless wee holes to twist your ankle in. Not to mention the swampy, reed grasses and electrified fences.
But we got there.
Dudley took a slightly different route to Tommy and I and ended up more toward the foot of the larger portion of the ridge, we were at the lower (southern) end. We walked up stopping a couple of times to assess the situation and continued.
We set up and Tommy took to the air as wind dummy. He flew straight into lift, bimbled about a bit and came down. There was a lot of lift around. We waited as we tried to figure out just what the met wind/thermic breezes were actually doing around the site. It seemed that we were looking at a 6-8mph wind with thermic gusts taking it up to perhaps around 12. That would suit me fine.
I got my kit out and started off with a wee bit of ground handling. It was just a wee bit, it all felt comfortable and I pushed off, straight into that lift band. It was pretty bobbly up there, certainly compared to what I was used to flying in this country however my trusty wing showed again how solid it was and took me for a grand ride up to a couple of hundred feet above the peak of the ridge. There was no trying, you just flew about and the lift found you. I was quite happy just getting a wee feel for the site and, not wanting to push it, simply flew through a lot of the lifty bits and looked to come back down a bit. As you got up there the wind did pick up a bit although not sufficient to need to resort to the bar.
I came down after around 20 minutes and side landed, my kiting up the side wasn't up to much so I bunched the wing up and walked up to see what was going on. Both Dudley and Tommy were back on the ground at this point too.
It wasn't long before Neil came over the radio and started to make his way up the hill. For a long time he was out of sight and when he was in sight he hardly looked like making progress at all. However he made it up to join the boys on the lower, southerly end of the ridge.
During this time, we found the wind starting to come round with a bit more south in it but also dropping off where we were with the occasional bubble coming through.
I popped my glider back in the air, doing a bit more ground handling and then took to a few beats back and forward again before side landing once more and kiting back up the hill a bit. It was much more difficult now to stay in the air, it was much more laminar now with the thermic aspect shutting off with the higher cloud cover and the windspeed was generally only feeling around 5-6.
Tommy took another wee flight and got some height off it however popped his ears in and came down relatively quickly, not liking the conditions much on his new wing. I was stood there ready to go however was that bit unsure. I held for a decent wee puff coming up the slope and committed, I was off and there was scratchy lift about and I'm sure if I'd headed across to the bigger portion of the ridge the slight southerly aspect to the wind may well have given up some lift however I erred on the side of caution, done a few beats and slipped my way down the hill.
I ended up landing at the foot of the ridge in a pretty wet area, not much choice in the matter, the whole length of the field was pretty well soggy.
I stood considering my options listening to Neil giving wind reports on the radio as he walked up to the higher parts of the hill. At the top of one portion I heard him say there was a top end of 17.5mph and I decided to chalk it down to a good day and pack up.
I believe Tommy and Neil walked down with Dudley flying down into the field however I was a fair way back to the car by this time - I'm sure they'll fill us in.
All in all, a decent educational day. It is a nice ridge, lifty and pretty long. Certainly plenty of room for all to play. It was nice and open out in front with only two wee lumps at either end of the ridge that may have given rise to some slightly turbulent conditions however they themselves looked pretty easy going and may not have disrupted the flow too much. The northerly end of the ridge, the larger end, looked like it would work with a wee bit of south in it. It was certainly working for the birds of prey at times.
The one wee issue is the walk in, that's for sure however, given the right conditions, I'm sure we could be rewarded with some exceptional flying.
As for landing and walking out, well, there would be the option if you had the height to push out and land closer to the cars however you'd really have to watch out for the pylons and the downward slope you'd be landing on. With enough height you could possibly over fly the pylons and land at the other side. All ideas, goodness knows if we'll get another opportunity to try.
Cheers Tommy, Dudley and Neil for another grand day out!