Coastal Out and "no" Return

Coastal Out and no Return


When the wind was "on" at the coast, the attractions of coastal flying were still strong. Early in March I had done a ridge-run from Cromer to Mundesley and back, reaching 750' above take off and spending three hours in the air to test my endurance. The Magic 3's superior performance was helping. I wanted to extend the distance covered in my previous year's out-and-return (point scoring for the new season National XC League was the temptation here), and I hadn't given up hope of getting away from the coast in a sea-thermal, sometime (allegedly there were such things).
April 5th looked like being a good day for the out and return attempt. Cromer was "on" for take off. The plan was to fly west, past Sheringham and the Beeston hump, on to Weybourne where the cliffs ended abruptly after quite a long, low stretch. Turning at this point would be critical because of my altitude would likely be quite low. Then I had to fly east back past Sheringham, Cromer to Mundesley, turn at Mundesley and fly all the way back east to Weybourne. If I couldn't turn finally at Weybourne to fly back to Cromer (for my car) then I could still land to the west of Weybourne for the flight to be valid (but I would have to retrieve my car somehow). In-flight photos were needed. I will indulge with yet another picture of Cromer pier, taken during the flight. The wind was from the sea of course, and yes! look: those are thermal clouds over the sea, and dense cloud shadows on the sea (ok - the clouds may have been over the land …) so who knew what thrills might be encountered!


This picture is of my chosen turn point (the farm) on the Weybourne cliffs. You can see how low they are - and how little space there would be to land on the beach. At this point I had made a turn with adequate altitude and was now heading east (into the picture) with no particular qualms about maintaining enough height to reach the higher cliffs at Sheringham.
The story on the return was different. I did fly all the way to Mundesley and back to here - it was about a two hours later in the day. The wind off the sea was no longer so strong, and I had less altitude (and was flying towards you, out of the picture). My last memory is of passing the farmhouse, but at the level of the cliff-top. I was close to the cliff top too, trying to stay in the reduced lift band. Apparently, I was told later, I had crashed into the cliff about six feet above the beach level, knocked myself out and had bent and busted significant bits of the kite. Various kind people (Phil, Julian Floyd and others) picked up the bits and looked after them. The camera film must have survived! I spent the next week in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where Mr Watson-Farrar did an expert job putting a couple of screws into a fractured kneebone. Other kind people back at the Commune (I had moved out in 1980) made a room available and brought me muesli for breakfast whilst I started to convalesce with crutches and limited mobility. Thoughts of further hang gliding were definitely off the menu …

Not a happy man

During the rest of the year, recovery from the broken leg and concussion was eventful and protracted. Coming off crutches, my back went into spasm, then Valium given for muscle relaxation induced intense depression for some months (I swear it did).

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