2/08/03 - Tom Mayne, 47.5km from Worcestershire Beacon
Yet again I was drawn to the Beacon by laziness, much nearer than SE Wales, and easier retrieval. I was soon regretting it, Just me and Brian Hindle on the hill, very difficult small thermals lots of drift but light winds, so very hard to get established in a thermal before reaching decision point. Worst of all was the radio chatter of Tim Crow at cloudbase above Merthyr, very frustrating. Shortly after speaking to Tim on the radio, another thermal came up the slope, so took off again, seemed good, but the smoke from a fire directly in front was going up vertically and strongly (rather than being drawn to the hill). I pushed out, and was rewarded by what I found later was the only decent thermal of the day. Brian launched just after me and also flew out to the thermal, but was 50ft below and failed to connect.
I climbed away, but only reached 600ft above take off when I lost the thermal, but 600ft from the beacon gives you nearly 2000ft ground clearance, and Malvern is a massive source, so all was not lost. I headed for the downwind edge of the town, and fortunately found some scraps. I then spent most of the next hour struggling to stay up and gain height, it was going to be a real achievement just to get 10km. Finally I hit something really good just past the M5 and I banked the glider right up to stay in the small 1000fpm core, and zoomed up to cloud base at 4200ft. It was a fantastic sight up at the inversion level, the few CUs poking up into the clear air above, brilliant white against the deep blue sky.
I had hoped to hang around a bit and enjoy the view, but the cloud was already decaying, and the lift had gone. The sky was increasingly blue, and the only scraps were a long way off, I set off towards a line of scrappy clouds to the south east, but they were decaying when I got there, and I only had a small top up before I had to set off again. Approaching the 20km mark I was again down at 1000ft, I crossed a river which looked a likely trigger, and a little further on found the thermal. Not fantastic, but it nearly got me back to base again, but only a few wisps formed before the thermal died, squashed by the inversion.
Evesham and a train station were in reach now, so that's where I headed. I wasn't really paying attention to the nearby sky, but looking at Evesham, and thinking about what route to take over it, thinking about wind direction etc. effecting were thermals might trigger. Then I looked up and a cloud had formed directly ahead of me a short glide away, nice. Soon I was high again over Evesham, I stopped to take some pictures of the river, and a couple of sailplanes that had stopped by. Lost 500ft messing about, then got back to business.
The air was definitely much better now, and I had a long glide through bubbly bits of lift, all a bit small to circle in, but I soon reached the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, I had been flying somewhat cross-wind to follow the railway line, and the good roads, but I decided that this was beginning to cost me too much distance, as the wind seems a fair bit stronger now. I decided to continue on my heading just long enough to pass over the downwind edge of Chipping Campden, then head in a more down wind direction from there. As luck would have it I found another thermal, but it only took me to 3000ft. I was feeling really tied now, having had a broken nights sleep (kids, who'd have 'em :-)) , and only had a small top up on the glide that followed. Getting low again I felt sure that the huge area of very dry looking cropped fields would give me a thermal, but despite the air feeling very interesting, I found nothing. and I soon landed in a small field by the road.
Fortunately I had packed away by the time the land owner walked over, as he started asking me for a landing fee, I politely refused, and after a brief discussion I left. After that slight downer, the retrieve was great. I was only 5 miles from a station, walked to a lay-by, waited ten minutes, had a lift all the way to the station at Moreton-in-Marsh. The train arrived ten minutes later, and I didn't have to pay either as the guard was completely useless. Back home by 6:30.