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Northumbria Memories

I know a lot of pilots get enjoyment purely from casual flying, but I’ve got to say I’ve had my best and most memorable moments in competition, whether just club or national. I hope you will allow me to share a few of them just as they come into my head.


1 Cross Fell

Club comp on Crossfell 1st task race around a mini triangle. Take off, first turn point left on the corner of Wild Boar Scar. Light wind but everyone keen and hungry. Several gliders made straight for Wild Boar without beating the ridge for some height, they just went for it. We all arrived at the corner below the top. A few of us got into a scrappy punchy thermal that was drifting up the gully to the next turn point, a cairn of stones just below Crossfell. I remember Ron Freeman and I doing some really aggressive and close thermaling up the rock face. Ron made the turn point just ahead of me and set off for the third which was the cars at the bottom landing field. We both had the bar to our toes, he knew I was behind him and I could see him, but I couldn’t make up that couple of seconds. We both made the turn point below the top, raced back to the ridge to get 20 feet of height then in for landing. The time was an amazing 8 minutes…..What a blast that was.


2 Moneylaws

Flying Moneylaws on a very windy post frontal day with strong thermals. Steve Hall and I got away from the ridge almost together. The climbs were quick and the sink great. Steve lost it going over the moors towards Cheviot, no tracks just a mega carry out. I took a chance and headed for the Bizzle Burn on the North face of Cheviot. I was concerned about the wind strength but didn’t want the same carry out as Steve. I arrived half way up the face of Cheviot and turned east along the ridge instead of west. The wind was more Northwest and although I was going up like a Fenwicks elevator I couldn’t penetrate along the ridge. As I approached the top of Cheviot I was going backwards with the bar to my knees….Oh shit here we are again. I edged along the ridge to the east with the bar to my gonads and got deposited on the shoulder of Cheviot.

It took me a good 20 minutes to get unclipped and get the glider down. I waited “All Day” for the wind to drop and take off again as I had to fly to a road somewhere. The only pleasure I got sitting by myself for hours was watching the white triangle shape slowly making it’s way across the moor….Yes Steve Hall. He had no water and was living off wild berries. When he was picked up later that night after flying off the top of the Yeavering Bell he looked like a man possessed with red stains all over his face.

I eventually took off in what was still a very strong wind and had one of the roughest rides of my life flying low between Cheviot and Hedgehope. I flew over the top of Dunmoor and was then drilled on the lee-side but managed to make the road that went through Ingram Valley. A memorable day with MUCH beer drinking and laughter….After the event!


3 Titlington

Sitting on the top of Titlington Pike with not a breath of wind and a grey sky. Hooked in and waiting for God knows what. We took off one by one drifting to the bottom landing field. Eric Bryson took off in front of me. When he was over the trees at the bottom he started to go up and up and up and up and then out the other side of the thermal without turning once??? I followed him off in nil wind hit the thermal and wound it back slowly to 1700 ATO. Not being too sure what I was going to do with my new found altitude and grey sky I decided to head off cross wind for Hepburn Wood. No special reason just to see if I could make it. Not only did I make it, I was rewarded with a solid 5 up from the corner of the ridge. This got me up to 2500 ATO and over the mast behind the ridge. I noticed a long line of cloud just east of me at about the same height. I wonder what this is? What’s causing it? I flew across to it and was met by the most amazing silky 2 up I’d ever come across. Convergence! On a crap day like this too. With one wing in the cloud and the other out I straight lined it all the way to Berwick. John Miller kindly picked me up and was astonished I made it this far….He wasn’t the only one

And probably my favourite


4 Cross Fell

We’d just come back from a washed out Scottish Open. Steve Hall, Peter Rutherford and myself decided to give Crossfell a go.
It was raining when we arrived so ended up having a pint and a game of pool in the Shepherd’s.

The weather changed quite quickly and the sky went blue with just the odd cumulus. We rigged on the top all ready together just in case. I took off and flew to Wild Boar. I was met by a mega 10 – 15 up….A mega thermal! I dared to take my hand off the bar to key the mike and say “Get yer arses over here quick” But they were already on their way. We climbed out together and reached an amazing 4000ft above the top of Crossfell summit – 7000ft ASL. The views were spectacular, we could see both coasts it was that clear.

We slowly circled over Jim Clapp the vet’s house as the drift was light. With Garrigal below and the wide expanse of Nenthead moor in front of us it was decision time. There was one cloud shadow right in the middle of the moor but if it didn’t work it was the mega carry again. Oh well nothing ventured and all that I pulled 25 yards of VB on and set off on a glide. I was rewarded with a beautiful climb. Steve Hall joined me below and we climbed out again to a great height. But Peter Rutherford the “Disbeliever” didn’t risk it. Steve and I watched him run along the ground for about 15 miles making sarcastic jokes about his lowly position. He even screamed when six Tornadoes went passed him at 600 knots. That was well worth watching from our lofty position. Steve came on the radio “What’s that big lake in front of us?” Well Steve if you look at the map that’s in your harness pocket it would say Derwent Reservoir. I was getting bored with the slow drift and decided on a very long glide for the cloud over Consett. Steve shouting you’ll never make it, it’s too far away….So why you following then? I got to Consett and could see a woman hanging washing on her line….This was low, but the thermal worked and off I went again. Steve wasn’t so lucky he landed right in the middle of Consett...I kid you not.

It was just at this point that the radio crackled into life…. “Anyone on channel?” It was Clive Bridges at home in Sunderland..... Wallis here. Where are you?......6 grand over the A19 Kamatsu Factory. Oh yeah was the reply..... Please your self, can you not hear the vario going crackers..... Bastards, bastards I knew I should have went flying….Hee hee…Sorry Clive.

Peter had done well to catch up but I couldn’t see him as he was now further south. He eventually landed at Chester-le-street about 39 miles. I still had much height as there was lift everywhere by now. I could easy make the coast crossing Sunderland and maybe a bit more. But……….. a Boeing 737 on it’s approach into Newcastle passed me at the same height (in free airspace may I add) I could see the faces in the portholes it was that close. My bottle was well and truly gone. I wound off 6000 feet of height and landed by Penshaw Monument. Clive Bridges picked Peter and I up and took us all the way back to Ovingham where much much beer was drank…..A cracking day.


5 Cairnwell

Scottish Open sitting on top of the Cairnwell with Angie Theodarakis, Peter Rutherford, Len Hull (With the prototype Airwave Kiss) and a few others. The wind was on the north east face and they had set an ambitious task. A 14 mile cross wind leg to a turn point…Then Open XC……Oh yeah no bother then, just 14 miles across the mountains then start your distance….Some chance.

It was one of those days when you wanted to fly, but for some reason you weren’t keen to get in the air. Knowing how rough Scotland can be especially with a northerly air stream your brain was saying “Don’t do it”

A lot of pilots had left having various results but the sky was looking pretty good and by Scottish standards unbelievable. Len Hull had took off earlier and wasn’t having the best of it. Peter, Angie and I took off close together and as soon as you were in the air you knew you were in for something different. It wasn’t dangerous just big strong whopping bastard Scottish thermals with kilts on. By the time we got to the bottom of the valley above the Spittal Hotel we were at 6 grand with the Cairngorms spread out below us, it was mind blowing. About 8 miles into the flight I saw Angie and Len Hull stuck on a ridge far below….Losers. The flight continued to the turn point which was a hotel. You had to get the letter “T” that was behind the building on the lawn. If I said I was 30 feet above the chimney when I got the letter I would be lying. I could have saved Santa time dropping his presents at the same time.

I landed very soon after in the field with a few other hang glider pilots. As I was de-rigging Peter Rutherford walked up to me and surprised me very much he had made it this far…..Have you been getting the bus with your glider again Rutherford? The boy had done well. Just as we were congratulating each other Angie went over our head at what must have been 7000 feet. He was mega high and did very well on the day. Scotland is a fantastic place to fly when you get the weather.

Just a few memories as I don’t want to bore you all to death. I hope you enjoyed.

John Wallis


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