The Dales - First Thermal Flights

The Dales - First Thermal Flights

I arrived in the middle of a stable anticyclone which seemed set to last for days. In the Lakes, this meant nil winds, no flying - and lots of walking. Nearly crying with grief in the old station car park at Hawes, I heard a shout from behind the boundary wall, immediately followed by a hang gliding harness hurtling over the wall, further followed by a desperate pilot clambering after it. "Hey - give me a lift to my kite. I've just landed out!". Thus I met Tony Fillingham of the Dales club, and my fortunes began to change. Tony had a Comet - the latest type of double surface high performance kite. Oh wow! Camping next to him was a godsend. Each morning in the campsite, we would survey the dropped grass for the slightest sign of drift, then Tony would announce "Aaw - peachy! Semerwater!" or Weather Fell, or some other suitable nearby site.

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This is him landing in the campsite. As you can see from the skyline, the thing about the Dales was that the hills were not so high (as the Lakes) and were flat-topped, and had roads up to the top (mostly). There were lots of hangies around all the time, too, with whom to spend and wonderful boozy evenings in the pubs in Hawes reminiscing over the day's exploits before meandering unsteadily back to camp.
Page 3 of my log book shows the most memorable day of my life, 20/7/82 - the first time I gained height (probably 3-400') thermalling!!!. It was at Semerwater, and the day started a near-disaster. Flight 134 notes "top landed heavily". What this concealed was that I had winged in and bent the starboard leading edge - a bit. The nearest source of spares for a Hiway Scorpion was probably Brighton (which would have been the end of the holiday). With the help of one or two other pilots at take off, I propped the ends of the leading edge above the ground and then stood on it in mid span and bounced up and down (carefully, of course!) until the offending bend was reduced to more or less the same shape as the port leading edge. Thereafter I resumed flying. We used to do that sort of thing in the old days. My log book also notes that by now I had fitted a vario (a rate of climb or sink indicator).

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Page 4 of the log book showed continuing progress. On 25/7/82 at Weather Fell (an exceptionally good site, with no carry up) I thermalled to cloudbase at about 1000' ATO (above take off) twice in the course of three flights, amassing over 6 hours flying time in one day. I couldn't quite believe that this sort of thing was now happening to me. As the end of my holiday approached I resolved to return via the Peak District. A good hot day on Mam Tor brought my first experience (at 7 pm) of "evening valley lift" - I could fly anywhere over the valley, and stay up. It also brought my first flight on a double surface kite. A pilot had just returned from the continent with seven "Azur" kites on his roof rack. He was flogging them. I took a test flight on one - with no little trepidation because this was a mighty step from a 2nd generation kite design up to a 5th generation "double surface" kite. However, my confidence was improving, and I survived. It felt good, and controllable, but I was certainly in no position to purchase one there and then (I guess it would have cost £500+).

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This was Mam Tor on the day, but it certainly wasn't me, and it probably wasn't an Azur.
Life back in East Anglia would never be the same …

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