Two cups of coffee, fruit and toast and still I want to go back to bed. It’s an ungodly 7 am and I'm up to head north for a red and yellow rasp day. It’s suddenly all too much too early and I make yet more coffee, rub anti-inflammatory on my knee and then some more, and decide to head to the borders for less driving and more roads when you get there. A call to Dave Thompson and then to Jed in Hawick and we’re to set to meet in Hawick to dump a retrieve car and head to Tudhope.

On Tudhope, it’s a high hill at nearly 2000 ft and about 20 k south of Hawick, with a road running such that the maximum walk is maybe 1000 ft. There is no traffic on the single track road so a car in Hawick is a genius idea. For dominant south westerly winds a site in the bottom left corner of the Borders, not too near the sea breeze from the Solway Firth is a handy thing.

The walk is none too hard and on the way up, or rather to half way up, Dave is generous with information about the area and we stop on a rather steep bit and await the day to start. Actually it’s all pretty steep. A lot of kiting, blustery first thermals and general waiting, time passes to about three in the afternoon and Dave wanders off in search of lift in the valley and after some valiant circles lands near the car. I too push out into sinky air and then give in thinking to head down to the car too where a flask of tea and more sandwiches await. A lazy circle at half hill height and Jed’s not there, he’s showing the way and climbing. I go into serious ‘get a grip’ mode and slowly make my way up to be climbing in scrappy lift with Jed not high but about a kilometre downwind and sensibly heading back to my better lift. Jed connects with a fair amount of effort and I continue slowly up with a small helping of rock and roll for the speed of climb but its ok and up we go. I leave at about 4300, when I should have worked harder for base, and point at Hawick. Jed is getting lift but it looks difficult at about 1000 below me and he has a buoyant glide to eventually land a nice little xc I think after much hanging in there. I get a second thermal and its easy, until it’s not. I reach 4000 again and lose the lift and point north again knowing I should follow the cloud but the road is attractive. My landing is in an idyllic looking meadow like something out of Thomas Hardy and I want to sit and enjoy, but I pack up and start the 2 mile walk to Hawick which is not without its pleasure along the quiet country road. Apart from it’s being a quiet country road so no cars. Dave is on good natured retrieve duty and after bursts of comms from our ubiquitous technology Jed is scooped up and me too and its back to the bus park for cars.

But it’s not over, not at all. Dave has friends coming so sets off to drink wine and Jed offers me a cup of tea at Chez Viv and Jed before my drive home. This turns into sitting in a warm garden while Viv cheerfully slaves over the hot cooker and I eventually sit down to a full Sunday lunch complete with brilliant Yorkshire pudding. So good were those Yorkshires that I realise Viv is clearly hiding a secret past and the only possible explanation being she was born in Yorkshire. I say nothing because it’s not my business to reveal my insights, so I just eat, wish I wasn't driving so could have wine, and eat more.

Its bedtime when I get home, what a great day out. You always learn something when you go flying. And today I learned Monday nights is the best time visit Jed and Viv's house.

 

  • Nearly climbout
  • Fred at Tudhope

After flying both Saturday and Sunday with the weather due to break it seemed that there may be a small window of opportunity to fly at Witchie today. The morning saw a grey sky that broke to give blue sky and fluffy white clouds....perfect except that as I headed to Witchie mid afternoon the sky darkened as the small Cu became CuNim in the distance.  However as I approached Witchie the sky to the south seemed OK and I could see Jed on the hill with the wing above his head and a buzzard thermalling several hundred feet above at the south takeoff.  I was trying to ignore the 'I don't want to be up there' sky to the north!!!!!!.

By the time I arrived at the top of the road the slight southerly breeze had eased until Tommy and Fred arrived and then swung SWesterly.  Jed flew across to the bowl and slope landed and the others walked across and set up at varying levels on the hill always cautious of the ominous sky to the north (dark with lines of cloud going into the centre of a circle!!!)  Strangely the flying was interesting but scratchy and no height gain - maybe a max of 1 - 200ft above take off often trying to scratch the face of the slope to maintain height.  Eventually we all landed as the wind dropped and I drove home to gentle rain.

An afternoons flying snatched from nowhere and some enjoyable craik.

Following the usual review of all available weather sites a decision was made to head to the Moorfoots, at least that is where Fred was heading so I used flock instinct and followed!!.  I arrived to find cars parked on the corner and one pilot walking up the closest slope but no one else around or in the air.  It seemed breezy so I walked along the ridge to Torphichen Hill to find a number of folk sheltering well down the slope out of the breeze.  As the breeze eased slightly (or Graham proved it was flyable by gliding across from the quarry) the small group launched whilst I was still setting up.  After a pre flight check, I flicked the wing up and launched into lifty air conscious that some pilots were now settled high above the ridge whilst others were struggling to jump the gap.  The air was 'interesting' but once settled in I played in some of the thermals conscious that I was drifting back with minimal height whilst turning back into wind gave a low forward speed with a fence line below me. Caution prevailed and I slowly pushed forward and made my way to the far end of the ridge, turned back and followed a yellow glider that was slowly climbing out, the only problem being I was in the sink cycle of the thermal so decided to slope land rather that make the downward glide to the ridge base!!  By this time Fred had disappeared downwind on a venture.

After a short walk back up to a suitable take off I waited for a thermal cycle, took off and slowly climbed to ridge height whilst watching the yellow wing in the distance sink slowly to the base of the hill, for once I had made a good decision.  Flying back along twards Torphichen hill I hit a couple of thermals, I turned in the first one but soon lost it, however I focussed more in the second one and climbed out until the Oudie kept squawking that I was in airspace at 3500ft. Luckily airspace had been opened to 4000ft so I ignored the squawking until 3900ft and then headed across toward Leithen water focussed on getting to Innerleithen or further (bad decision!).  I was gliding in sink under full cloud cover along the south side of Leithen water very conscious that it had seemed 'thrashy' in the narrow valley as I drove up earlier.  The only slight patch of sun I could see was on the north side of the valley probably past the limit of a glide meaning that any landing would have to be in the narrow valley in either leeside wind or an accelerated valley breeze.  However ahead of me on the southside was a NW facing face so I decided to land half way up as close as possible then pack and walk up hoping to take off again and find a thermal if the sky recycled. (I had been watching the XAlps last week!!!!!!)  Right decision, after a 3km walk up across peat, heather and grass tussocks I found a slope but no breeze or thermals, so, waiting for a gentle breeze I launched on the shallow slope below ridge height and started a glide down below ridge line.  I did find slight lift in a leeside gully but not sufficient to gain height.  Conscious that it was leeside and I was too low for comfort if I had a collapse I headed down the valley to increase height above the valley floor.  Looking for landing sites ahead, and gliding at 50kph without bar,  it was either valley floor (narrow!!), forest (no,) fields before Innerleithen (doubtful but possible and powerlines) or golf course.  I did one 360 to check speed into wind (17kph), checked the pin flags at the golf course and landed perfectly on one of the fairways.

At the end of the day I had enjoyed minor XC (or XBorders) with legs of 9k, 21k and 6k but Fred will have a better story to tell.

Fred - I learned later from Przemek that Dudley had probably got the last useable thermal of the day. I had probably got the first after the wind speed had reduced to friendly . I decided to make a plan for a change and stick to it and do things all grownup. Fly up and down the whole length of the ridge a couple of times, wave to each other and gather a posse maybe, and then go to Innerleithen which between us we had set as goal for coffee and ice cream. So up went the glider and with about a hundred feet I’m off to the next hill to make room for others taking off. Plan? Sod that I’m climbing, through the Oudie lady saying ‘airspace warning airspace warning’ and me shouting back ‘Shush I’m busy’ and it’s 3700 and off downwind. Why do Oudie think you take more notice of a female voice? The sky is dark and full of cloud but the climb was slowish, so what next.I once read a book which said go for a sunny patch, but there’s only one and its cross wind. What the hell, but I arrive low and fret for a bit but then it’s slow and steady to base. Wow, the theory worked, this is not normal for me. Slow drift and I see Graham Saunders at the same sunny patch and reach for the ptt to say I got up from there, so keep at it, but for him scratching around kicking grass it’s probably not helpful to talk to someone at cloud base, so I point downwind and forget both friends and goal at Innerleithen. A couple of k’s and its back to base,and feeling good, but generally uneventful, well apart from me shouting at a voice activated gopo which worked fine under the duvet, and then I’m pointing at Gala thinking a town should work as referenced in previous mentioned book. It didn’t, that's more like theory as it applies to me, and I land on the Selkirk road out of Gala, nice big happy field.I eat my sandwiches in warm pale sunshine, surrounded by potato plants and sheep before a slow repack and the luxury of a good phone signal and a taxi back to my car to rest my sore knee. No X-Borders for me today.

 

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A few day before me an Ian went to fly the border facing ridge but it was just a fly down Scotland in to England to much north that day. 
In years gone bye the club members would have been itching to be out in force on a May zing day fly, But our old friend the weather made choices complex.
 

A Grand Day Out

A forecast of light southerly under the edge of a high pressure suggested a trip to the big hills up North on Sunday. Sods law that it was the night the clocks went forward, so an early start was made ruder by the loss of an hour’s sleep due to the clock change.
Fred & Rob were also up for an adventure so the plan was to meet at the Mhor 84 hotel by Balquidder.
By the time that a couple of coffees had been downed, there were about a dozen keen souls milling around.