April Joy Riding






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A cold front was forecast to clear Central Scotland during the morning, leaving an unstable north/north west airflow over the country. On the way down to the hill (about 11:00) it was sunny at Hamilton, but there was cloud down on the dimple of Tinto, and south of the hill the sky was overcast. The transformation in the weather as the cloud retreated south was remarkable. By the time I was ready to take off at 12:45 there were nice Cumulus popping north and south, and the base looked to be over 4000’. I wish all cold fronts cleared so neatly and left such a nice sky - this was textbook stuff!

The hill was well soarable, and Brian McKendrick and I got established easily enough. About 15 minutes after Brian had top landed for comfort reasons, I got a nice climb over Lochlyoch and was committed by about 2700’. The sky southwards looked brilliant. I lost that first thermal about 3000’ over the road south of Tinto, but was not too worried since there were two really nice clouds just to the west of Dungavel. Sure enough I got a good climb over the old Dungavel landing field and drifted south towards Roberton. Approaching cloudbase at about 4000’ I found that I could stay clear of cloud by flying upwind into sink for a few seconds, or until I had lost about 100-200’, then turn back south into the lift. I did this five or six times until on turning south again I was unable to find the lift. I glided south over Crawford. This was brain fade, and I know I would have done better if I’d hung around under my cloud.

Not finding much lift south of Crawford, I was unwilling to try the tree crossing near Beattock summit from only 3500’, so I kept searching for lift in the hills east of Elvenfoot, until I got stuck, back down to take off height, soaring on a hill called Lady Cairn. In 1986 I had got to Crawford, and had been pleased with myself. Now I was determined to get further!

An hour later, and there I was, still stuck. I had a sniff at a few thermals in the meantime, but eventually I was hoovered up by a beauty and got to 4500’ as I drifted parallel to the A74. From near base I glided towards Moffat, staying over the higher ground. The Devil’s Beeftub looked horrible, even from altitude. Down to 2500’ I picked up another climb back to 3700’ near the big quarry next to the A74, but couldn’t get to base, probably due to tiredness. Lockerbie was now in sight and I glided on.

I thought I was going to be down short of Lockerbie under a now overcast sky, when I spotted some seagulls and wandered in their direction. I never did get near them, as from 1800’ I hit another good thermal and climbed away, but again failed to reach cloudbase. I set off under the cloud east of Lockerbie, which was producing light lift and continued to drift south. The Gretna motorway services were looking good, and I didn’t expect to get much further, since there was a large area of blue, with just a few possible clouds near Gretna village. Arriving at the service area below 1000’ I got my last climb of about 500’ over some ploughed fields and just squeaked over the border to land a mile south of the village. I put the glider down at 17:15 after a flight of 4˝ hours and 49.7 miles. I wish I had picked the next field!

Mobile phones are wonderful things, and I was on the road north before 19:00. As we drove we could see the clouds gathering again as the next front approached. The weather window had lasted less than 8 hours! Sometimes you have just got to be in the right place at the right time!

Rumour 2; Solar Wings Edge; Afro Cirrus; Dist: 49.7 miles; Time: 4 hours 30 mins

Author: Steve Brown (Lanarkshire Lothian)
Written: 01/01/96
Tel: Not Available

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