Covid Tier 2 restrictions mean no travelling to higher tiers and stay as local as possible for outdoor activities. Also, I understand the exercise should be longer than the travel time!!! Being in the Borders has many advantages, one is the remoteness of the flying sites and low population density with no urban conurbations to negotiate.
So forecasts were checked and a pin dropped on Google Maps hinting that Bodesbeck may be a good option for an adventure, it's westerly and forecast says SSW!!!!!! but that's a minor point since it is 100m higher than Mountbenger. Arriving at the parking spot around 10.30 I was surprised to see 2 cars already parked, obviously folk keen for a days exercise in the hills!. I discreetly waved at them and enquired of their names....Tommy and Tim... and they were out for a day's walk. I commented that their rucksacks seemed large just for a days jaunt on the Ettrick Horseshoe but Tim said he had downsized since swapping his old sac for a teabag stapled to a compliments slip, strange folk I thought but they seemed determined to enjoy the countryside. Another car arrived, this time a guy called Adam who said he was out scouting for trees to build a log cabin, again he had a large rucksack which evidently contained equipment that allowed him to conduct aerial surveys.
By coincidence we all decided to head up the forest track towards the Moffat valley with a plan to check the views from the top. Keeping well apart we wandered up the track, Tim obviously deciding that social distancing meant he should drop back and increase the gap to about 200m (maybe he put the decimal point in the wrong place when thinking 2.0m) Climbing out onto the moorland there was a gentle breeze coming round the hill from the SW but as we climbed higher it became more westerly with not a hint of sun...maybe the Met Office forecast was slightly off!
Arriving at the top of the ridge we were greeted by perfect views down the Moffat valley with wisps of cloud coming up the slope and slipping rapidly down the side valleys and fantastic views out over D&G and the Solway. Amazingly everyone had brought large pieces of ripstop nylon with thin strings that were laid out on the ground creating a socially distanced radius of at least 10 m between everyone. They all seemed to have strange comfy chairs attached to the strings. In fact one person, Jamie I think was his name, seemed to have an orange hammock attached to his.
Not satisfied with the social separation on the ground Tommy decided to form his cloth into a type of kite and suddenly took off and was floating over the valley. We all looked surprised suddenly realising that these strange bits of cloth would allow us to fly so we all followed Tommy into the air, Adam first with camera ready for his aerial survey, Tim testing his teabag, Jamie floating in his hammock and then me wondering what is would be like to feel air under my feet........GREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT. The air was generally smooth with thermal updrafts coming through and, for once, you could see the thermals due to the wisps of cloud moving upwards.
After landing Stephen, a local Covid Officer, arrived to check that all was OK and watch as the wind picked up as a bank of cloud went overhead. We continued to chat about the weather, the excellent views and Covid vaccines whilst Jamie kept saying he thought it was flyable again as the wind gusts became more spaced. I think he was probably urged on by a lone raven that kept soaring the ridge laughing at us. Anyway he took off into lift and wandered around the valley for 10 mins until hitting sink that looked less than comfortable for hammock riding. He then decided to head down a side valley complete a vertical landing on a slippery slope. After a few minutes I took off and o headed down the side valley at a gentle 59kph before turning back into wind for gentle landing. Stephen called to check that there was plenty of room for a social landing and that the breeze would blow any nasty germs away and rapidly Tommy, Stephen and Adam came down to land in a mixture of boggy heather.
After a walk back to the cars I said goodbye to my new found friends as we all headed in our separate directions after a superb day, albeit totally different to expectations based on the forecasts.