The Eighties & a Map

The Eighties & a Map

Scroll down for the sketchmap of East Anglia.


In the meantime, a hang gliding revolution had occurred. Just look at this picture – Mere 1980. Kites all over the sky - and look at the altitude gained from that piddling little bowl of Mere! Zoom in more closely and you will see that every pilot is flying prone! Even if it was completely stupid to have your head at the front, where it would be the first thing to hit something, the fashion was set. I booked a prone conversion course with Howard Edwards who operated a school in the Quainton Hills near Aylesbury.


I suspect that neither of these people is Howard, but the motorised kite was his latest experiment, and the slope behind is a Quainton Hill . A number of brave souls around the country (e.g. Paul Whitley, Gerry Breen and others) had been trying out strimmer motors and the like. Regrettably Howard was later killed by such a creation when the prop severed a rigging wire in flight {Not so, apparently. See Comments below}. I had absolutely no temptation to motor round the sky - silent flight using the forces of nature to soar like a bird was my aspiration.

Another Dreamer


My dear late friend Peter Baker ("Wooster") was excellent company on East Anglian trips. Wooster had an ancient Cloudbase (only two battens per wing) seen here in the Commune garden, "tuning" it. Would you believe that he actually constructed a Mitchell Wing in a shed in Suffolk? More on that later, perhaps.


The next Scorpion picture was at Corton, on 30 May 1982. By now you can see I was coping fairly well with flying prone in a stirrup harness (but couldn't point my toes for less drag). Flying prone did make a difference. I stayed up longer. Flights of 45 and 30 minutes were signed off by Wooley (Bob Wooltorton). The following day we went again to Corton in great hopes, but there was no bl**dy wind. A top-to-bottom at Corton in nil wind lasted all of 10 seconds. Now do you understand why some people felt motors were important?


The first pic shows Brian Wooltorton (I think) and Graham Drinkall standing by, whilst Paul Whitley does final adjustments. Then Paul launches under power - with stunning commitment, control and style.


Ah, now, I bet you thought it would never happen …
Wooster and family bought a house in Newmarket. Thinking he hadn't enough to do, Wooster bought the plans for a Mitchell Wing as well. This was in 1980. Before he could start on the wing all he had to do was build a shed in the garden …
Here is the impressive structure, taking shape. I have faint recollections of seeing it later with doped fabric covering. Its ultimate fate is still being researched.
(Picture courtesy of and ©Rachel Baker)

East Anglian Delights

Greatly deterred by the travel involved in trips to Wales (or even further afield) I had to make the best of local sites. There are not many photos from this epoch, I am afraid, but if you'd like to know where you are in East Anglia, please see the map.
The second page of my log book shows visits to most of the flyable places in East Anglia. The Friday night weather wind direction forecast dictated which site was likely to be possible: NE - yippee! Cromer or Mundesley; E - urk, Corton (gorse bushes); SE - uuurk, Felixstowe or Bawdsey (beach huts and groynes); SW - uurk, Dunstable (sailplane warfare); NW - hmm, Hunstanton (sheer cliff - never got there); N - ok, West Runton (but low cliffs and lack of beach). For the other directions there was nowhere to go.


Whenever the wind was "on", at weekends you could rely on a migration of Norfolk and Suffolk club members to the appropriate site. Even if the wind was on, it might be too strong, or too weak, but you would be assured of hang gliding company and could listen agog to sky gods like Paul and Graham and other decent characters like Peter Bowden and the Wooley brothers tell tales of their latest derring-do, whilst huddled in cars or behind gorse bushes sheltering from the wind.

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