Thursday 30th March

It started a bit cloudy and damp and the field had got a little soggy overnight, so we set about some housework, repairing the windsock and  marking out the next area of the airfield for field levelling. We decided on an early lunch while the field drained a little more, so the kit was set up ready to go. The forecast southerly wind had started to pick up, so there was an element of caution on the first few launches. 
Once airborne, the air was quite smooth and with large areas of reduced sink, there was the suggestion of some southerly wave maybe setting up, but at 900ft the south ridge was working. 
Newly named Asperitas cloud formation (Jill Harmer)
Longest flight was John Alcroft with Pete Harmer for 20 mins, so an unexpected pleasant afternoon considering the unlikely forecast a few days ago. - J&P

Sunday 26th March - A bit more than expected!

I went up to Nympsfield to experience ridge running with Trevor Stuart in Wales. We set off around 12:00 with hopes of completing a 180km ridge task. The long glide to the ridge showed signs of wave which was no forecast. We eventually arrived at the ridge and set off on task. The first leg of the task was completed with an average task speed in excess of 150kph, zooming past walkers below the ridge top. 

However as we progressed it became clear that the wind wasn't in the correct direction to complete the task. After some battling, we decided to abort and head back towards the strong point where Trevor let me have a go! 
Up to the base of the airway FL125 (Pete Bennett)
We attempted to try and soar back home but a mixture of a 30 knot headwind and weak thermals made it impossible. Just as we planned to fire up the engine for the long glide home, Andy Davis (2-time world champion) said there were signs of wave at Talgarth so we made the jump through 15 knots of sink to Talgarth where we contacted wave. The highest average was 9.9kts on the vario and we climbed to the base of the airspace FL125 (just over 12000ft!) 
9.9 on the averager (Pete Bennett)
We took a long glide out to Long Mynd and back to Talgarth to increase the task distance, before topping up and taking the glide home. Most of the glide was done above the VNE of the K6!!! In the end we totalled a distance of 292km. (Pete's flight on the BGA Ladder)

Needless to say, I was very lucky to get the chance and the weather I did! I cannot thank Trevor enough for the flight I would also like to encourage everybody to think about having a go, I have never learnt so much in one flight. - Pete Bennett

Sunday 26th March

Sunday had a real deja vu feeling about it; another very windy day with a strong easterlies and clear blue skies. There were fewer members than on Saturday but there was still an eagerness to fly, despite the chilly conditions. Ron Johns was Duty Instructor and took the first flight with Matt Williamson for his blue card check; very appropriate conditions for it. 

With Ron being the only full instructor on the field Sam Flory took advantage of his dad’s blue card rating and his flying account to have a couple of enjoyable flights in a K21 with his dad piloting from the back seat. Peter Startup and Paul Summers then took advantage of the spare K 21, but no one could manage more than about 10 minutes in the blustery broken wave, thermic conditions. As Ron began to work his way down the training list the cavalry arrived in the shape of Peter Warren and then John Burrow.  This allowed Ron to depart to take his ASH upcountry for its Annual and ARC. 

Despite having to swop sides as the wind veered Peter and John worked hard to make sure everyone flew.  Mike Fairclough enjoyed a couple of shortish trips in the Junior and John Borland was able to get another tick towards his Red Card. It was also Josh Dale's last chance to fly with the club for a while, before moving away.  Not a spectacular day for soaring, but a good days flying for blowing the cob webs away and enjoying some challenging but safe flying.  Thanks to Ron, Peter and JB for making it happen. - James Flory

2 Day Holiday! 24th & 25th March

Day 1
A great advantage of receiving emails on your phone is that you can respond very quickly to the forecast updates and offers of back seat ridge flights, this allowed a flight with Trevor “The maestro” Stuart on the east facing South Wales hills. An eventful aerotow from Nympsfield meant we arrived very low on the first hill, unforgivingly the east facing side that was obliged to work didn’t play ball, as we scraped around to the North face, field picked and about to fire the iron thermal, we entered lift. There was a lot more North in the wind than forecast, once we had climbed up here it was onto the main ridges up to Hay Bluff.

The hills worked going North reliably and allowed for a fairly uneventful trip, we ventured south of Abergavenny but with the North wind component made it difficult to get all the way to Cwmbran, this wind however did allow Trevor to show me the mountains down the Usk valley towards the Brecon Beacons. It all gets a lot more interesting here with faces pointing in different directions and landable fields far and few between, rewarded with stunning views, definitely reassuring to be flying with someone who knows what they are doing.

We then climbed in a bowl just to the South of Abergavenny, through the cloud on instruments and into wave. Amazingly when you have nearly 60:1 a 50km final glide home into a 25kt headwind from 5000’ isn’t much of an issue! Many thanks to Trevor Stuart and the team at Nympsfield for the launch and fantastic hospitality.

Day 2
A similar forecast to the previous day gave the opportunity to fly some of the hills I’d flown with Trevor, I’d always prefer to land at the same place I’d launched so without an engine I decided to tow 611 to Talgarth in the morning, with the benefit of hindsight I’d likely have got back to Nympsfield given the spectacular wave.
After a check flight I launched, Talgarth lived up to its reputation of character building aerotows, but as we passed through 1000’ it started to smooth out, I released at 2000’ @ straight into wave. It was a completely blue day but the wave was easily to utilise as it lined up parallel to the ridge directly over the club, the first time I’d seen the vario off the clock in the UK. I climbed easily up to the base of the airway at FL95 and hung around to eat my lunch and take in the views.

After an hour or so in the wave, as sublimely smooth as it was, it just wasn’t ridge running! The lure was too much so I decided to airbrake down to the Pandy run. I ran the ridge up and down form Hay Bluff to Pandy. Not as adventurous as the day before, it always seems a little bit more daunting doing it on your own for the first time, but fantastic fun none the less and a good opportunity to give the negative 2 flap setting a good exercising. 

The brief for getting back to Talgarth from Haybluff was to get at least 1300’, above site, and take a wide track back to avoid the lee of the Black Mountains. As it turned out whilst climbing at Hay Bluff the wave lined exactly with the hill, I transitioned straight from the ridge into wave up to 5000’, this took me back to Talgarth to connect with the strong wave back up to the airway.
Pen Y Fan (Matthew Williamson)
Before landing I decided to use the excess height to venture into the Brecon Beacons and a turn over Pen Y Fan, there was wave everywhere that I went and I expect some fantastic wave XC’s would have been possible. Once again South Wales offers fantastic flying with awe inspiring scenery and only a couple of hours from North Hill. Thanks to the guys at Talgarth, I hope to see you again soon!
- Matthew Williamson

Saturday 25th March

The day dawned with promising blue skies, the first in quite a few weeks. Unsurprisingly there were a lot of people who wanted to fly with the list reaching to nearly the end of the page by mid morning. However there was a draw back. To quote a certain honey loving bear it was a very windy day.

Nevertheless the field was quickly set up and the two K21’s and an optimistic Junior were towed to the SW corner of the field. By this time our valiant Duty Instructor John Pursey had assessed the conditions as blue card with the threat of curl-over off the west end of the field, although at least the wind was pretty much straight down the field.

John then took the first launch with Dick Stevens. They went up well but came down nearly as quickly; it wasn’t so much gliding as falling with considerable style! If there was any wave out there, it was out of our reach. As the day progressed the flights got slightly longer with tantalising hints of wave or very broken thermals.  

Most people managed to fly and to get the chance to experience the conditions under the watchful eye of our instructors John, Steve Westlake and JB. James Flory continued his Ass Cat training with Martin Woolner and Paul Carpenter was able to do his Blue Card checks with Mark Courtney. By mid- afternoon Martin took the Junior up and managed the longest flight of around 20 mins. 
Just a touch windy, waiting for the winch gurus (James Flory)
 To add to the excitement there were a couple of cable failures and the winch had a funny turn in the early afternoon and needed a new control unit which was quickly fitted by our usual winch gurus who would have put an F1 pit crew to shame; thanks gents! By about 15:30 conditions were getting gusty and as most members were now beginning to feel the effects of being wind blasted for the last 6 hours the kit was returned back to the hangers. 

Overall a safe and very educational days gliding with most people being able to get a flight to experience the conditions. Sadly not as good as the Talgarth conditions, but there’s always next weekend! - James Flory

Thursday 23rd March

About 30mm of rain has put paid to flying for a week, but the Thursday regulars turned up regardless to discuss various topics with tea and butties. The main theme this week was selecting suitable landing fields both locally and on imaginary cross-countries using Google earth. - J&P

Thursday 16th March

Two Thursdays ago we had a great start to March - a couple of weeks on and today was 'deja vu' from recent Club days with a less than positive forecast and actual weather of low cloud and light drizzle. So it was the prospect of a Groundhog (non-flying ) day, again, with teas and coffees being brought to the discussion table in the Clubhouse - and the next couple of hours were spent looking carefully at the Exeter Controlled Airspace proposals with the help of Pete Harmer.
After a discussion on airspace and radio talk a quick check on the weather (Jill Harmer)
With a keen group of members holding their nerve that there might be a break in the weather early afternoon the arrival of Zoe saw a steady stream of orders for late breakfasts/early lunches 'just in case' some flying might be possible in the afternoon. And then slowly but surely the cloudbase went up, the sky became brighter in places and with sufficient optimism and enthusiasm the decision was made to set up for winch launching to the North West.
A few cloud breaks developing after lunch (Mike Sloggett)
A K21 was brought out of the hangar and used for Instructors to complete a weather check and, with the weather not great but flyable, a total of 15 K21 and Junior flights were then completed before the cloudbase lowered and light rain re-appeared.

During the afternoon Gordon Hutchinson and Glenn Turpin completed solos in a K21, and Wooly and Ruth in K21 had the longest flight of 13 minutes, - there was also a competition for the shortest flight with the low cloud coming and going!
Wooly and Ruth landing K21 (Mike Sloggett)
So, the afternoon's flights were worth the wait and patience, again thank you to everyone for helping others to fly today. - Mike Sloggett

Wednesday 15th March

At last! a flyable Wednesday, it started quite foggy but with every indication that would soon clear so the gliders were got ready for the days flying.
Fog greeted the Wednesday crew (John Street)
The low cloud stayed put but it was high enough for launch failure practice so that was just what we did, there were several card rating checks to be done so the mornings flying was not wasted. At mid-day the cloud was still a bit too low to get a full height launch so an early lunch was called for.
Pete Startup and Andrew Logan rigged in readiness for the weather to improve, Eric decided not to rig.
A much better vista (John Street)
At about 1:30pm the cloud had risen enough to achieve a full height launch in the warm Spring-like weather but all flights only achieved circuits. 
Dick on his first solo for a while (John Street)
Still it was a very pleasant day and it was nice to see Dick Stevens solo again after a long break from flying, we finished flying just before 4:00pm as the cloud had come down to 600ft again, nevertheless  it was a very pleasant days flying.- John Street

Monday 13th March

Today was Nick Hine's funeral and Taunton Crematorium was full to standing with Steph and Nick's extended family. Nick's favourite music was played and tributes from Steph, JB and Bob were made. We will all miss him dearly.
Nick loved flying in DG505
and for those who missed JB's tribute to Nick:

"My first recollection of Nick was when he was a just small boy playing on the swings opposite the front door of the Gliding Club. He was a happy child and always had a big smile on his face,  - except when he fell over!

I remember back at that time his dad, Julian, telling me; “Nick doesn’t find learning easy – he’s not dim or anything, but he’s just …not normal.” 
And nearly fifty years ago there wasn’t much awareness of the Autistic Spectrum. Back then a child was either normal or not, and there wasn’t much help for the ‘Nots’.

We now know that Nick was very intelligent, but as he developed, maybe because he wanted so much to be able to express himself, he tended to ‘clutter’ his words, and despite elocution training as a child, this trait stayed with him throughout his life . Yet when he talked on the phone or radio – his diction was perfect!

Over time with support from Steph, Chris and some very good friends, Nick developed his independence and lived very happily on his own in Tiverton, with the Gliding Club becoming his second home and extended family.

Many of us only knew him through gliding, but Nick had a wide range of interests and lots of friends outside of gliding. Allegedly he was a bit of a demon at skittles too!

To me, Nick was Mr Cautious; Never one to rush into anything, his first response when asked to try something new would usually be “……No thank you” or just a stoic “I’ll think about it”.

In the land of Hares and Tortoises, Nick would have been in Team Tortoise!  But, like the good old tortoise, he was Determined and once he decided to do something, he’d persevere until it was done! This made him a successful fund raiser. He’s raised thousands of pounds for a number of charities over the years. But I think his most epic fund-raising event was the Parachute Jump. 

When he said what he was going to do, I was very surprised; 
 Why anyone would jump out of a serviceable aeroplane entrusting their life to a bag of rags beats me! – Mr Cautious? But he did it…. When he walked out to board the Jump plane he’d got on his ‘Nick the Stoic’ face.
But when he returned he was grinning from ear to ear! I asked “how did that go then?”  He replied  “Awesome!”   - He raised a £900 for Leonard Cheshire Homes with that one.

About 18 years ago he decided to join the Club expedition to Portmoak in Scotland.
He got himself to the arranged pick up point at some ungodly hour in the morning with his suitcase, sandwiches, drink and (as he put it)  ‘a grand assortment sweets for the journey.’ 

Pete Warren, realising that to get there on time he’d probably had little or no sleep said, “Nick, you must be knackered mate!  Why don’t you have a kip for an hour or two? - I don’t mind.”
To which Nick replied, “No way! I haven’t been to Scotland before – I want to see it all!”

He was probably the best log keeper that gliding has ever seen. He amazed the people at Portmoak with his faultless attention to detail and ability to remember who was who. Pete soon realised that his powers of observation were outstanding too. When they were flying, he not only spotted all the gliders, he knew what they were and the names of pilots too! – Including the Scottish pilots!

And on returning to North Hill when Pete was transferring their Scottish flights on to our Club’s computer, Nick was sitting quietly across the table, watching.
Suddenly he said, “No Pete - That’s wrong, you’ve missed 20 minutes off that one - he had 5 hrs 20!”

He could spot in an instant if something was wrong and I suspect most of us glider pilots here today have, at one time or another, been chastised over the launch point loud speaker for leaving a “canopy unattended!”  

He was awarded the Wiley Old Bird trophy for his uncanny Wileyness! Somehow he always knew what was going on – even when he wasn’t there! He always managed to get to where he wanted to go, despite having no transport of his own, And he always seemed to be at the right place to lend a hand, - except for the rare occasions when he felt that someone was taking the p…..  (Taking unfair advantage of his good nature), and then he got really wiley - and ‘went on strike’!

In fact, He was such a Wily Old Bird that when the year was up and the trophy had to be awarded to someone else, it was unanimously decided that Nick should be made the Grand Master - Wiley old Bird and carry out all future Wiley Old Bird presentations! I must say, he was very amused at this and with good humour wore his Grand Master – Wiley Old Bird Tee shirt and presented the Trophy at every AGM thereafter; Except the last one, when he wore it, but was too ill to do the presentation.

 I could go on, - but I don’t need to, - you all knew him

Observant - amazing memory
Generous – with his time, his kindness, his sweets and gluten free cake!
And latterly, so Brave

No, Nick was not normal,
He was very Very Special

He was the Unsung Hero of the gliding club

And when we remember him - It will be with fond smile . - JB

Sunday 12th March

There are times in life when one has to be patient, very patient and today was one of those days. The forecast suggested that there might be better weather as the day unfolded but as ever the uncertainty ensured that the Club was not particularly busy with members at the start of the day. With a high humidity level it was no surprise that the airfield was surrounded by low cloud meaning no flying for a while.

Some members fettled gliders, others ordered breakfast, some drank tea and coffee - everyone patiently waiting for the weather to improve. Mid-morning there was sufficient optimism re the cloud base for the hangar to be unpacked and ground equipment set up for launches to the North West. However after much looking at the sky a decision was made to have more tea and coffee.
Launching into a murky sky (Mike Sloggett)
And then it was thought that the cloud base had lifted sufficiently so it was up to the launch point to see whether the cloud base was as high as it seemed to be. Two launches of a K21 in to a murky sky and the answer was known - not high enough.
It was murky (Mike Sloggett)
So lunch followed and then with a steadily brightening sky, as well as a freshening Northerly wind, it was decided that the ridge might just be working in places so a decision was made to re-start flying.
A brightening sky (Mike Sloggett)
And the decision was endorsed with flights of various length during the afternoon by both K21s taking advantage of various parts of the ridge working well, balanced with other parts not working well.

With everyone who wanted to fly having the opportunity to maintain currency their patience was rewarded suitably. Thanks to everyone for working together to get other members into the air today. - Mike Sloggett

Thursday 9th March

It was another pleasant surprise with the sunshine breaking through contrary to the forecast today. The day started with some gardening as we were all a little sceptical about being able to fly today after such a wet few days and some jobs had been lined up. 
The sun soon started breaking through the cloud, and with a reasonable amount of warmth, the air dried out during the morning. There was still some concern about the state of the field and the risk of damage by the winch operation, but after a pitch inspection and using the old Disco with the low-pressure tyres for cable retrieve, we were flying before lunchtime.

In fact, it was so warm that we sat outside for lunch for the first time this year (seats were still a little damp though).
Smile please! (Jill Harmer)
Strangely, with a light north westerly, the ridge was not doing anything and most of the private owners that had rigged decided to fettle instead. There must have been some wave out of phase as there was significant sink in the circuit at times. 
Lovely blue sky (Jill Harmer)
Highlight of the day was an extended circuit by Pete Harmer and John Borland in K21with 16 minutes after getting a thermal straight off the launch, and then heading off to Broadhembury - but there was only reduced sink there.

So  a load of check flights ticked off, and solo flights for currency, 35 launches in total on a very pleasant warm unexpected flying day in March, - (you have to be there Mark Courtney!) - J&P

Saturday 4th March

A very blustery showery day but flying took place with Martin, Stuart and JP instructing. These are the days it is good to keep current ready for the heatwave we are all waiting for....

What a wonderful job Nick, JB, Matthew, Ruth, Stirling, JP, Phil and others did to provide a superb evening in memory of Matt last night, our hangar was truly transformed beyond belief and has demonstrated what a great asset we have for future club events. 
Fantastic makeover for the Ground equipment hangar (Mark Layton)
 It was lovely to see people who had travelled down to North Hill to participate in remembering Matt and seeing the wonderful cartoons and videos he has created thoughout his gliding adventures.
We have lost so many fantastic members over the past few years who are also remembered as the Club would not be what it is today but for their dedication and enthusiasm for North Hill.  Les Hill, our Winch expert,  Les Hill former founder and Chairman, Chris Heide, former Chairman and Instructor, Mike Robinson our maintenance guru and most recently our dear friend Nick, launch point ATC for DSGC.
RIP to them all. I sincerely hope this year sees the last of sad news and that we can look forward to a great summer and lots of happy times ahead. - Lisa Humphries

Thursday 2nd March

Well it's officially Spring and today it arrived in Devon! The forecast was going for a short-lived high pressure ridge in between rather wet frontal systems, with the Blackborough ridge  and thermals working for at least most of the day. The two-seater flying list was full of currency checks and the single-seater list was even longer.
Busy launch point initially (Mike Sloggett)
First launch was just before 10:00, with the whole of the club fleet ready to go and several private owners rigging. Launches were high and thermals were kicking off initially from the ridge, but within the hour becoming more widespread. The wind was a little stronger than expected at first, but as soon as it moderated the restriction on the early solo pilots was lifted. 
Plentiful thermals (Mike Sloggett)

Thermals were good and plentiful up to 4000ft above North Hill, and most flights were pleased to explore the local countryside again. 
Pete Startup  in 230 flew for 3 hours with O/R to Eaglescott, whilst Eric Alston in G29 found some wave at Cullompton and climbed up to the airway.
Even ENW got an airing from both syndicate partners (Mark Courtney)
What a super day, with 61 launches, (15 flights more than an hour) and 36 members flying. - J&P