29/04/00 - Tim Pentreath, 20.1km from Long Knoll
(...or "How to mix family and flying"...)
Arrived at Long Knoll at 1230 after a bit too much of a leisurely breakfast followed by a not so quick trip into Bath to buy various birthday and christening presents... couldn't help but notice the wonderful clouds overhead... Eventually the mission was accomplished and we headed home virtually burning rubber all the way! Not that I was in a hurry or anything! After a quick turnaround I was soon heading off in the camper van to Long Knoll, but I still had to make a quick pit stop to refuel (this is one of life's little mysteries - why is the petrol tank always empty when you're in a hurry to go flying?)
Anyway by the time I arrived at the top of the hill Tim B was just taking off into what looked like a classic sky...
Ron Smith was also about to take off, and pretty soon we were all in the air... After I guess about 45 minutes of exploring the ridge and working the boisterous little thermals that were coming through fairly regularly (none getting us more than 700-800' ato however), a large area of cloud came over, and realising that it was going to shut off for a while, I took the opportunity to land for a few minutes.
At 1415, with the cloud shadow now gone, I took off again just as Tim B was thinking of coming in to land. Within minutes of taking off I flew into what was the best thermal so far, and I enjoyed a leisurely climb which topped out at about 3300' I guess, just before Longleat. Interestingly I never made base on this or any later climbs despite such a wonderful looking sky... The views of the Wiltshire countryside below were absolutely stunning at this point - we are so privileged to see the world from our vantage point.
By now I had done 4-5km, and it was whilst I was gently wafting along with this cloud that it occurred to me that the opportunity to land at or near my parents-in-law's house at Wingfield, near Trowbridge, was a distinct possibility if I could just keep going long enough. I knew that there would be a large but unsuspecting welcoming committee awaiting me should I make it that far (Lisa and E & T, Lisa's parents, one of her sisters, her husband and four children, and some other friends of ours who were going to be calling by), so I set my sights (figuratively speaking - I couldn't make Trowbridge out at this point) and made this my goal.
I managed to stay with this cloud for another 2-3km I guess before losing it to the east of Frome - damn! I decided to head towards the downwind edge of Frome, but before I got there I spotted a buzzard thermalling ahead at about the same height as me and headed over to it. Sure enough, I was immediately rewarded with a lovely climb which carried me right over Beckington before I lost it again.
By now I could just about make out my goal, probably only about 5-6km away. I decided to start gliding towards it, but before I got very far I found another climb which got me up to about 3300' again, and with the goalfield firmly within my grasp now, I took the opportunity now to take some photos...
Having had to leave my thermal I now tracked slightly crosswind and arrived overhead with approx 2300' to burn off!
I started yelling "ye-ha" and "ya-hoo", but whilst I later discovered Lisa and her Dad had heard the shouting they couldn't work out where it was coming from and didn't think of looking up (not surprisingly I guess!) Clearly what I should have shouted was "look up"!
When I was down to about 500' I was eventually spotted by Lisa's sister and she immediately rushed around getting everyone to the back of the house. I was now weighing up the options for landing - should I choose the sensible option and land in one of the fields surrounding the house, or go for death or glory and land in the garden itself? Well, the sensible option was never really on I'm sure you'd agree! I set up my finals to pass low over the house heading into wind (not that there was much in the garden) and...
...this is where I stop and let you guess in a sort of aerial "spot-the-ball" competition what my approach was and where I finally landed! I'll give a bottle of wine to the person who's closest! Either email the picture back to me with suitable annotations or send a printout to me (168 Bradford Road, Combe Down, Bath, BA2 5BZ).
I'll give you a bit of a clue by saying that my brother-in-law won't be claiming £250 from Jeremy Beadle for sending in video footage of me landing in a tree!
Needless to say I received a great welcome - I'd been offered cups of tea after landing near houses in the past, but on this occasion my father-in-law reckoned that bubbly was in order, and who was I to argue!
All in all a wonderful flight, certainly one of my most memorable ones, if not the most memorable! And what's more, it was an easy retrieve too!
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