Thursday 25th January

One generally expects to have ‘pitch inspections’ with sports such as football, cricket and rugby, amongst others, but with several days of rain it was no surprise that the airfield needed looking at carefully before a decision could be made whether gliding could take place today. Generally the airfield had, as ever, drained well with some large areas of the airfield holding up well but similarly with other areas just a tad ‘squidgy’.

So, after suitable discussion it was decided to have an aerotow only day (apologies to the Club Treasurer for the reduced price aerotows as a result) and both Juniors, K21 and DG505 were brought out of the hangar with the launch point carefully set up in the North East corner of the airfield to allow the best run for takeoffs behind the Pawnee.
Clear sky (Mike Sloggett)
And then it was a question of taking the opportunity to fly in the bright gaps between rain showers with several flights finding some weak wave to the South West of the airfield and also some weak thermals ‘here and there’.
Storms approaching (Mark Courtney)
Unfortunately the day’s flying was interrupted on several occasions by rain showers which meant that whilst 6 solo and 6 dual aerotows were completed during the day a number of members did not fly - as ever thank you to everyone for the excellent teamwork today but particularly to those members who helped others to get into the air but did not fly themselves... - Mike Sloggett

Saturday 20th January

Another wet/foggy day at North Hill, but day 2 of the R/T course continued.
A small group of volunteers pitched in this morning to re-organise the ground kit hangar, driven by the need to accommodate the new mower which we hope will soon arrive. The task was to facilitate access for the mower and the John Deere without having to remove anything else. This was achieved after a couple of attempts and included a general clean and tidy up of both the ground hangar and tunnel as well.
New layout for the ground vehicles (Peter Smith)
Please can the equipment hangar be parked in the same arrangement henceforth. Many thanks to all who helped. - Peter Smith

Thursday 18th January

With more showers forecast and an already soggy field from 24mm of rain over the last 3 days, it was no surprise that the morning was spent indoors. Initially there was a slide show from George Sanderson  showing wear and tear damage on glider airframes and control systems. This was followed by a review of the highlights from the Sailplane Grand Prix (SGP) currently ongoing in Chile. Watch them live
Some nice gaps in the cumulus clouds (Mikw Sloggett)

After lunch, it looked like  there was a nice gap coming from the showers, and the kit was readied for an aerotow only afternoon. 
North Hill  (Mike Sloggett)

There were 7 aerotows with the two-seaters and a Junior and all managed to soar on the ridge for extended flights.  - J&P

Sunday 14th January

Following several weekends of grotty weather and the delights of reading about blue skies and flying on Wednesday and Thursday in the blog, Sunday dawned with the promise of flyable weather. The initial trickle of members soon turned into whatever the plural is for quite a few glider pilots! James Flory and Stuart Procter as the first instructors on the scene oversaw the unpacking of the hanger whilst others sorted out the ground kit. Low cloud and canopy misting then delayed deployment of the kit and whilst many retreated to the club house for breakfast a few dedicated members took the chance to check the tyre pressures on the winch. Having concluded they were very low the tyres were quickly returned to full pressure, until one helpful soul remembered everyone of the note from Nick Jones about keeping the pressures low to help prevent the field from being cut up. However, 10 out of 10 for doing a proper DI and acting on possible faults!
Visibility less than stunning (James Flory)
As the cloud began to lift the gliders were positioned in the North West Corner and flying commenced. Although the visibility was less then stunning the air was still, with ever so slight suggestions of lift off the south ridge. With a lengthening training list Ron Johns and Glenn Turpin stepped in to help things move along. Simon Rickard a new member had his first flights in nearly a year with James Flory, whilst many others got the chance to do some training and to remain current. Daniel Johns did a great job helping to run the line with Martin Bennett, both of whom also managed to fly. Ray Dodd continued the momentum in the afternoon with Ian Mitchell taking over as  the Duty Instructor. 

Martin Woolner and Ian Mitchell continued Martin’s TMG training in the Falke and several members enjoyed short, but refreshing flights in the Junior. Having heard rumours that the tug might be needed Pete Warren duly drove the tug to the top of the field only then having to drive it back down again at the end of the day without any takers; the cloud base and visibility meant aerotows were not an attractive option. Overall a really good day with 40 launches. Yes the longest flight without an engine was only 11 minutes, but many people kept current and were able to start adding launches to their winter refresher cards. A great team effort and really nice to see so many members on a Sunday. Fingers crossed it’s not to long before we can fly on a weekend again! - James Flory

Saturday 13th January

Fortunately for me the weather wasn’t good enough for flying (as I was DI this afternoon) but we had day one of our RT course at North Hill kindly arranged by the CFI!
Simon who ran the course made a boring subject very enjoyable and hopefully despite (for me) years of not being in a classroom made the old brain cells work again – we will see once the exams have been taken!
Tomorrows weather looks better (isn’t that always the case) so hope you all get some flying in! - Lisa Humphries

Thursday 11th January

Another sunny day, with just a misty start, (despite the forecast for fog persisting most of the day). So a late start once the fog had cleared, with first launch at 11:30am with a light north easterly wind.

There were training flights and currency checks in all 3 available two-seaters and the Juniors were in full use. Tom Sides did some BI training with Mark Courtney.
Some of the lenticulars in the afternoon (Mark Courtney)
During the afternoon the wall to wall blue skies developed some lovely lenticulars (spoilt for choice with photos). 
Hangar flights (Mike Sloggett)

A lovely pleasant winter's day flying, 28 flights in total,  thanks to all the team for making it possible. - J&P

Wednesday 10th January

What a difference a day makes! - from the depths of winter on Tuesday to what seemed like early spring day and the long flying list reflected this.
All the available Club 2-seaters were in use (Mark Layton)
All the club gliders were quickly on line, after a short delay due to misting canopies, John Street and Mike Fitz where first to launch and we're rewarded with a high launch and beautiful clear views to the South with mist in the river valleys,
It was nice to fly with Mike again as he has not been able to get up to to the club for a while.
North Hill looking serene (Mike Horwood)
There were no booked trial lessons today but tuggie Robert was kept on the go with plenty of aero tows today with members keeping up to date with the tug. All three two seaters were kept busy all day as were the two Juniors.

Everyone flew and had a great day we finished about 4.00pm, just as well, as the canopies were starting to mist up. - John Street.
Pete Harmer explains how gliders fly (Jill Harmer)

A group of 10yearolds from Feniton CofE Primary School visited the Club to learn about gliding. They are about to embark on a Design Technology project to build a model glider. Junior Development Coordinator Pete Harmer explained the rudiments of a glider and managed to answer all their questions. 
Some of the group from Feniton CofE Primary School (Jill Harmer)
 They had the opportunity to look round a full size glider and were thrilled watching the launching and landings on such a lovely North Hill day. We wish them luck in their competition for free distance and look forward to them returning to fly with us when they grow a little taller. - J&P

Sunday 7th January - North Hill Nomads fly from Nympsfield

We had been watching the weather forecast for a few days and the stiff North-Easterly, good visibility and a sunny sky forecast for Sunday looked just the job for soaring the east slopes of the Malvern Hills, Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. A bit more ‘east' would have been better but Trevor Stuart (from Nympsfield) was confident that it would be OK and was also going with Alan Price in his Nimbus 3DT. So Nick and JB braved an icy, early morning start and headed to Nympsfield with the Duo Discus DD3 for another ridge running adventure.

On arrival we were met by Trevor Stuart who presented us with a large gluten free ‘Ridge-runner’s cake’ made by his wife Jill. Trevor helped us rig, but then we were delayed from launching for a while because we were using different Oudies to the usual ones fitted to DD3 and they were being positively unsociable and wouldn’t communicate at all!

Finally we got one working on its internal GPS and set off on tow towards Gloucester. We released at about 3500ft, and after a longish glide arrived at the south end of the Malvern hills about 1000ft above the top. At that height they were just about working and we ambled along to Great Malvern before stuffing the nose down for a couple of quicker runs and a few hello waves to the walkers. But time was short and we wanted to do the Black Mountains too, so we climbed as high as we could by Great Malvern, where the ridge is highest and better suited to the north easterly wind, then with the aid of the turbo headed west to join the east facing slopes of the Black mountains.
Heading northwest to Hay Bluff (JB)
Having reached the ridge we headed NW to Hay Bluff to start our run south, along the ‘Pandy run’ til the ridge runs out just north of Pandy village. There we made a small jump west on to the little ridges that run south, then across the valley at Abergavenny to the Blorange mountain just south of the town. The Blorange is a fine old lump of a mountain and works pretty well, but we were still quite high, so continued south to Pontypool. 
JB and Nick Jones in DD3 (JB)

We were conscious that the ridge from Pontypool south to Cwmbran doesn’t work very well in a Northeasterly, especially on the return leg into wind and as the landing options down there are almost non-existent, we decided to play safe and stay as high as possible. On reaching Pontypool there’s quite a jump across the town into the big bowl to the SW, but its down-wind and we didn’t lose any height and headed on south past Cwmbran town to Pant-yr-eos Resevoir which was our turning point (CWS - Cwmbran South West).

We were jolly glad we had the extra height because the return leg to Pontypool was fairly into wind and not giving much lift as the wind was tending to funnel along the ridge rather than rising up over. But we arrived at a comfortable height for the into-wind jump across Pontypool and on to the ridge northbound to the Blorange which worked quite well.

The jump across Abergavenny northwards usually feels like a complete act of faith, but this time we had loads of height so it was quite a relaxed affair and allowed us to make the into-wind jump on to the Pandy ridge with height to spare. From there on the ridge is a monster and the lift was pumping almost all the way back to Hay Bluff.

We had intended to do another trip down to CWS and back, but time was against us and Trevor had finished his 220k task and was already climbing up at Abergavenny, looking for a wave to get home from. So we climbed as high as we could on the way down to Abergavenny but couldn’t find a decent wave. Meanwhile Trevor had tiptoed downwind to Llangorse hill on the east side of the Cwmdu valley (just south of Talgarth) and managed to catch the wave there and climb up. But we weren’t high enough to go exploring downwind and with only about an hour and a half of daylight left, we fired up the iron thermal and headed for home (Nympsfield). 
Ross on Wye and the lengthening shadows on the long way home (JB)

It was a long and slow old slog at 25kts ground speed into the 30kt+ headwind requiring three longish engine runs to get back. We finally arrived with 1200ft and 1litre of fuel to spare - maybe next time we’ll make sure the tank is filled right up!

Meanwhile Trevor had climbed to 11,000 ft in the wave and beat us home without needing the engine.

A lovely french man called Christophe helped us de-rig and then we retired to the club kitchen to thaw out with a nice cup of tea and some of Jill’s gluten free ‘ridge-runner’s cake’!

A great day out - thanks to John Pursey for the initial weather warning, Phil for covering my Instructor duty at short notice, Nick for the Duo Discus and getting us there, Trevor and Christophe for encouragement and rigging services and Jill Stuart for her delicious Ridge-runner’s cake’! We will definitely be back! - JB

Sunday 7th January

A bright dry but bitterly cold morning with a brisk easterly wind greeted members new and old.  There was quickly a healthy flying list. It was good to see so many venturing forth on not the best of days. Unfortunately due to the weather conditions the Trial lesson visitor had to be put off for a better day.
A warm drink and extra layers added we readied the K21 and 505 for the trek to the west end and the launch point vehicle was despatched to the south west corner. With the wind becoming even more blustery a precautionary visit and assessment at the west ridge was prudent. Whilst the direction was ideal, the gusts were severe, such that handling gliders on the ground and risk to canopies, whilst marginal, was considered to be unacceptable. So the gliders were made safe, pending, we hoped, less turbulent conditions.
Cloud cover arriving from the east brought with it steadier wind but some low clouds scudding overhead. So James F made good use of the time with safety briefings for the new members. In fact the Briefing Room was in use most of the day with Instructors and members undergoing various ground school topics.
First week of January has been a bit windy! (North Hill weather station)
   With the wind strength increasing at lunchtime to 30kts, gusting 33kts, regrettably we ran up the white flag and put the kit away.  At least we tried! - Peter Smith

Monday 1st January - New Years Day

After another weekend wipeout at North Hill, there was some hope for Monday..
Leaving Plymouth at 7:15 and driving through double wet rain ( the sort when your wipers need to be on double speed!) didn’t seem a good move.
Dropping into Paul Summers on the way I was half expecting him to peer through the curtains with his favourite attire ( Pyjamas) but no, he was sat in the passenger seat (where he belongs) warming the engine! Even with a quick stop for a bite to eat we had to unlock the gate, nothing I like more than sitting in the car waiting for your friend to undo the gate with rain dripping onto the roof, I’ve been there so, so many times.
Unsurprisingly no one turned up until 9:15, Richard Roberts, always keen to sample the ridge.
A slow trickle, well drip really, of members meant that it was on the cards to have a flying day, all we needed now was a famous clearance.......
We stared at the radar screen on the PC like children watching a cartoon, it suggested that we were in clear air, the view out the window told the real story, low cloud, however Simon Leeson (tuggie) was as keen as a Mongolian Soup Hamster (MSH) to get the “old girl out”, his enthusiasm seem to spread like treacle, SLOWLY the kit emerged from the hanger for the very first time this year.
The launch point was set up just outside the clubhouse and the aerotow line was set up on the small ridge (bulge) of ground near the centre of the field.
We then returned to the clubhouse only to be greeted by food supplied by our Chairman! Thanks Nick! No sooner did we tuck into our caviar and champagne than we heard the Mongolian Soup Hamster (MSH) squeaking from outside, he had spotted the clearance.
The Clearance (Richard Roberts)
Our leader and Lord Commander Stu jumped into the K21 with the Pope, off they went with the MSH in the tug, his little face grinning like D Trump.
Soon the Pope announced from the heavens that there was lift to be had, albeit rough and ready.
Richard and Mark (Richard Roberts)
I climbed into the DG with Richard Roberts, MSH had fun low down towing us out, the Pope was right there was lift! A strange mixture of thermal, ridge, and rotor.
We heard MSH call downwind, two minutes later he called downwind again, this could only mean one thing, he aborted the landing, had the wind suddenly got up?
At first I was mildly amused, not so much when I saw the tug being put away, if the Hamster had put the tug away there must be a good reason!
Richard and I decided that it would be best if we just stayed airborne until it calmed down, or we plucked up courage.
There was a call (garbled as usual ) from the launch point telling us to stay airborne as they were getting the winch out.
Ruth Comer & JB (Mark Courtney)
Eventually we decided to land to give someone else a go, we had an interesting approach!
Everyone got to sample the soup of lift, Ruth and JB, Chris Wool and Paul Summers, Mike and Barbie and there was lift everywhere.
Not a perfect start to 2018 but a memorable day none the less, thanks to all who helped and a special thanks to Nick for the food!
Happy New Year all. - Mark Courtney