Ringstead Bay to Kimmeridge Bay and back!
What a winter treat! I had dragged out some reluctant friends on the promise of good flying, and the site phone messages on the drive down didn’t sound too promising. Luckily, the wind switched on just as we pulled up at Ringstead. The wind was off to the south (as expected) and on the brisk side. A quick launch and a few beats of the bowl saw me with plenty of height to join Russell on the cliffs which were working surprisingly well considering the direction. After a bit of a float I was joined by Neil Wither and Alasdair Jones (skysurfers) and as agreed we headed off round the White Nothe towards Lulworth. The flight there was easy and uneventful, with more height enjoyed than last time I made this flight. After building good height to the west of Lulworth Cove I decided to dive onto Bindon Hill (behind Lulworth Cove) via the cliffs out front. I had about 550ft asl as the wind had dropped somewhat at this point in time. It looked like plenty of height (although I haven’t done this flight before) and I glided over Lulworth Cove to arrive about 100ft below ridge top to the expected ass kicking from the rotor. I was struggling to gain height and avoid hitting the hill when I saw that Alasdair had followed me over. After a few beats together it was clearly too dangerous to share the ridge so I carried along the ridge whilst Alasdair turned back and landed on a green on the cliff top.
The wind had swung west since launch and the very high ground speed plus the rotor and lack of lift made for an exciting skim across the ridge and a turn into wind to land half way up. After a brief walk to the top of the ridge, the wind had appeared to have pick up again (bloody typical). I kited the wing on the grassy area on the ridge top and the air appeared smooth so I launched and turned over the fence back over Lulworth Cove. At ridge top level, the air was smooth and the lift much improved over earlier (top tip, I would say you need 650ft asl to easily transition across Lulworth Cove without drama) and I was soon at 700ft asl.
At this point I was enjoying the view and contemplating my options. Do I take the safe option and head back to Ringstead or head west into uncharted areas? I have been planning a flight from Ballard to Ringstead for this winter and it looked like there might be a small chance to do the reverse so I pressed on west. At the end of Bindon Hill the ridge faces slightly more westerly and I managed to build up some more height for the glide over Mupe Bay to Worbarrow Bay. The cliffs at Worbarrow Bay are higher than the surrounding cliffs and I managed to get to 880ft asl.
From this point there are two paths open to you, the established path towards Kimmeridge and the pretty much unknown path that leads to Swanage (my ultimate goal). The ridge towards Swanage faces SSE and with the wind off to the west, it wasn’t working (doh!). To the east I spied Shamus crossing Lulworth Cove to join me. With the great height I had, I thought I would glide out over the bay towards Gadd Cliff to test the waters (not literally). With half bar engaged, I was halfway across the bay with hardly any height loss so I made the decision to go for it, a pretty committed decision.
I arrived around the corner onto Gadd Cliff about 100ft above cliff top to join the elevator ride. The ridge lift was fantastic and I climbed quickly up to 1300ft asl with the aid of a little cloud suck I believe! I was pretty much at cloudbase, just a whisker below and watching Shamus making the same glide across the bay that I had just done. Once he had climbed up, Shamus went out for a glide across Kimmeridge Bay. Even with 1300ft, the 2km glide with the strong wind was a tad optimistic and we both turned back when it became clear it wasn’t going to happen. By now the wind was picking up even more and with the wind still off to the west, a flight inland to Kimmeridge was looking like a one way trip so we turned tail and headed back towards Ringstead.
The glide across Worbarrow and Mupe Bays was very slow, even with plenty of speed bar action going on. Shamus was hoovered up in the venturi between the bays whilst I took a route further out to sea and over took him. I transitioned onto Bindon Hill and Shamus pushed out front over the front cliffs. We both ended up flying straight over the top of Lulworth Cove with over 900ft asl for some stunning views. Once past Lulworth it was easy going all the way back to Ringstead. After 3 hours in the air, I needed a pee so headed straight back to the take off ridge to land going backwards in the back landing field.
What a fantastic and challenging flight, 30km out and return. Even though conditions weren’t quite right for an attempt on Swanage (or even to get to Kimmeridge site), it was a bloody good reccy flight.