|The Website of the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club - Avon Online Sites Guide||Thursday, 23rd May, 2013|
Site Officer Rich Harding (07966 491138)
Whilst Crook Peak can be a little finicky, I have a soft spot for it as it gave me a 2 3/4 hour flight on my first visit to an Avon site! When it works, it works well; when it doesn't, it's useless. Most of the site is less than 600' asl but there have been several days this year where heights between 1000' and 1500' asl have been consistently achieved, in mainly dynamic lift. This is probably because the site overlooks the Somerset Levels, so when the wind is properly 'on' there is nothing to upset the airflow towards the hill.
Unfortunately, because the site is also only five miles from the Bristol Channel, a westerly sea breeze often sets up in Summer. This leads to an infuriating situation where, if the wind is on the hill because there is no sea breeze, it is usually either very light or quite strong - it's highly unusual to get a SSW (smack on) at about 8-10mph during the summer unless you get there early.
I certainly wouldn't ever recommend voluntarily side-landing here - most of the hill looks like the bottom right part of the picture and it can take literally hours to get your glider out of some of the bushes. The picture shows one of the main launch areas, directly above the car park, and you can also top land relatively easily here. On the right, the area just below the top bushes is usable; on the left is a slightly shallower slope which I prefer. To the left again is where the modellers fly (the ridge gets higher there but the front is covered in gorse and unlaunchable).
A long-held ambition of mine has been to emulate the hangies who have flown from Crook Peak to Wells and beyond. Having mentioned this to Tim Brunskill a while back, he generously came up with the idea of challenging all Avon PG pilots to fly a defined task from Crook Peak to land in the Blue School playing fields in Wells - it's between 15 and 20km - the prize being a slap-up meal.
The photo above, taken roughly over the Crook Peak car park, shows the view towards Wells, which is just to the right of centre, below and to the right of the end of the ridge on the horizon. We reckon this would probably have to involve a mix of thermic and ridge flying in a WSW wind - off the optimum for Crook Peak itself and cross-wind in the opposite direction as far as the track to Wells is concerned!
Spiralling up from the Peak, care needs to be taken to avoid Bristol Class 'D' immediately behind the hill and the airlane 2,500' asl; we then reckon you have to avoid the easy jump to Wavering Down (behind the Peak in the top photo) and instead head across the A38 to the hill above Axbridge; here you need a good climb to take you across Cheddar, towards Draycott Sleights (an unofficial site) and from there a last decent climb will see you to Wells.
Or you could use the north-west face and do it all under a monster cloud.....