7/9/03 - Ken Wilkinson, 73.8km from Mere Rifle Range

XC report

Rifle Range to Bisley (N of Stroud). (73.9k)
Glider Vibe
Pilot Ken Wilkinson
Date 7/Sept/03

What a weekend! The Mere Bash was great fun, the Avon Club is so good, but the forecast for Sunday was poo. Then on the Radio 4 morning forcast they said the expected front would not arrive till the end of the day. I already had a mind set that said 'XC not possible'. I carried up to the top of the Rifle Range for a top to bottom, so had not prepared for XC properly. Had a couple of dodgy take offs and short flights, but I never thought this was going to be an XC day. The multiple pints of 'Old Badger Botherer' the night before had clouded my judgment. The day was looking better and better, and the approaching high cloud seemed to enhance the lift.

Drifted over the back in broad but steady light lift, with Tim B (65k), Stephen (28k) briefly Richard Z (keep at it Richard), and Garry (20k), who made it up from low. I had a T shirt, and a worn out fleece on top, and trousers and trainers on the bottom. It was cold at base so I regretted not having my flying suit on. I tried to go into cloud. (Rich Westgate says its OK as long as you 'bag' the cloud and are away from a gliding club) and after a few hundred feet, headed off on a bearing, to see Tim following me, after going into the same cloud!!! You scared me Tim!

The cloud flying had left me high, and I saw Garry and Steve, limpet like, a long way down. Went over Centre-Parcs, and Longleat, remembering telling Arianne and India Nunan, and Harriet Evans about not landing in the lions area or you might get et!!

Garry lost it, I never saw Tim again, and I was left with Stephen 'not got a mobile phone' Chiles. I felt a buzz in my trousers (my urologist has a lot of serious questions to answer) and cursed myself for not switching off my mobile. The buzzing didn't feel right, and I sussed that it was my riser vibrating in the wind. I realized I didn't have my mobile (25k out!). I'd left it in the van, which was unlocked, roof up, keys, wallet, mobile and laptop all there, at the Bash, so I decided to do an inventory of what I actually did have. It wasn't much, 60p, a flat lithium battery, and a snotty Kleenex, oh, and no phone lists. I tried to tell Stephen but am not sure if he heard. Oh dear! Still, my hangover was fast disappearing and I laughed about the silly sport we do. I was cold, but not as cold as millions of people have been all of their lives. We live cosy comfortable lives in the UK and are privileged to be able to take part in such a wonderful sport as ours. I was bolloxed if I was going to let these minor problems affect an increasingly interesting sky. I can't imagine starving to death in the Cotswolds!

Had some big transitions to puffing up clouds, and was amazed to how the vista changes in a thermal. Looked back to see Stephen behind me but way but way high. Circled in strong lift, 4 or 5 times, and he' s level, then a few raps later and he's a disappearing dot! Got to cloudbase again near Trowbridge, and Stephen went further west. I'd spotted a tiny puff which seemed to be growing, and called out loud to Stephen but I don't think he heard me. Saw him land south of Bath, suffering from home suck. He says he was cold. Maybe there is some advantage in being a fat (well insulated) old bastard after all. I'd tried to take photos initially, but had sprung open the battery holder spilling the batteries into my lap. I'd shoved the whole lot into my flight deck, and had time to reassemble it in a transition, so got photos for the second half of the flight.

Looking NW over Bath

Bath was beautiful from 5000ft, and the view was amazing, Swindon on one side, and the Severn and the two bridges on the other.

Approaching the M4 with the River Severn in the distance

I headed over the motorway, almost coming down here, and along the edge of the Cotswolds, to Hawksbury Upton where a very close friend and his family live. I was low so called out, as I could see both of their cars there. I was setting up to land for lunch with them, and probably a lift back when my vario blipped. On a day like this it would be rude to refuse lift, so I let myself be vacuumed up again to 5000ft. I was getting seriously cold, and decided my time in the air was limited, although the adrenaline brought on by this delightfully silly and unprepared XC was seeing me through, so I straight lined a lot of the next bit, going from cloud to cloud, only turning in 4 up. All of the clouds were lifting well. I even spotted a thermal for a glider who came in below me. I eventually pushed it too far, and came down at Bisley, N of Stroud for 73.9k, a new site record. (Sorry Richard)

I went to garage to beg for assistance, and met a bearded, very quiet, and intelligently spoken man who was doing some work in the workshop. There was a 'green' shop attached, with solar and wind power items for sale. Somehow this seemed to portend well, and my request for a phone was met willingly. He asked me where I'd come from, why I was shivering, and what I needed, and he got on the other phone to his partner who arrived to give me a lift to the motorway to hitch. They were members of some evidently successful ethically based business, so arriving on a paraglider meant I was to be treated well!! They even provided a sign with 'Bristol please' written on it. 'Have you hitched in the past?', 'Oh yes' came the reply with a wink. You have to lucky sometimes. I was at home cooking the tea at about 5pm.

I heard the next day of the death of Colin Lark, who I spent a lot of time with in the past and I cried and am crying now. He was an aging hippy with a great approach to life (even years ago!). I wish I'd got to see him before he died. The kind of adventure I had on the day before his death would have amused him greatly. Rock on Colin, in the sky, where every day has 8 up, everywhere.

Ken Wilkinson