The weather didn’t look great but you have to take what you can get. Very windy, grey and gusty in the morning but with the wind forecast to drop in the afternoon, a hardened group of paragliders decided to descend on Harting Down after lunch. My wife Anna had decided to come along for some fresh air and to take on photographer duties. We met Paul Cashman in the car park and walked over to launch where Nick Warren and Craig Byrne were waiting for the wind to drop. We had a chat with the modellers who said that the wind was definitely dropping. It seems doable so we started to unpack our kit in the very overgrown grass.
In accordance with the law of sod, once we were ready, the wind dropped to almost nothing! We decided that it must be the clouds not that far overhead that were the cause, and when the next cloud came over Paul launched off in his role as wind dummy. With the wind racing through he wasn’t going forward very quickly and had surprisingly little height, Harting sure is a weird one.
Never the less, he encouraged first Craig, and then me into the air for a short while. It was windy and a little rough in the air and not much height was gained. I swooped in for a nice top landing just after Craig and neither of our accounts tempted Nick into the air.
Paul had disappeared round the corner and when he hadn’t popped up above the ridge we assumed that he must of bottom landed.
After a while the clouds thinned out a bit and small patches of blue appeared. The modellers appeared to be getting more height and reported good conditions out front. With this, Nick took off and flew straight into a thermal out front that took him much higher than we had been earlier. Once he was established I launched and followed him out front into the lifty air. We now had a couple of hundred feet above take off and it was much smoother and more pleasant out here. The lift was constant and smooth in a band away from the hill and pretty choppy and unpleasant near it, more like wave than thermals.
Just as Craig took off I hooked into some strong lift and kept with it. With some extra height in hand I decided to push forwards towards Harting village. With half bar I was climbing the whole way out to the village and I had to push away from the cloud street to avoid getting sucked in. As I got near cloudbase it became very turbulent and I had to come off of bar. I flew over Harting and then turned back for the hill. The wind was very strong from the north west and shortly after I made it back to the hill, the three of us decided to land.
In hind sight, I probably could have followed the clouds further than Harting but base was low and I wanted to be sure of getting back to the hill.
As we packed up, an out of breath Paul arrived from the bottom, just in time for a post flight drink at the pub. Something from nothing, brilliant!