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In The Bleak Mid-Winter

It is Wednesday, 21 Dec 11, the Winter solstice and upon the low summit of Beacon Fell under a grey gloomy sky and the cold wind sweeps through the unwelcoming gloom of the gaunt fir trees. The base of the low clouds equals the lower level of the tree line giving an illusion of swirling wisps of ethereal light smoke through which some faint figures are seen approaching. Muffled against the weather they have in their arms strangely coloured and shaped items seemingly intent upon some sacred purpose with their eyes barely visible fixed upon the middle distance. Who or what are these persons, a secretive Druid sect celebrating the solstice and praying for the return of the sun? No, merely the Ninety Nine Acre Wood Gliding Club (NNAWGC) blowing the balsa dust from the lungs. Both Colin and I decided that a couple of flying days was required to set us up before the Christmas festivities. Therefore the best B&B in Lancashire was booked and the cars loaded with models and foul weather clothing.

Wed, 21 Dec 11,

The wind was about 20 mph from the west, ideal for Parlick, but was unfortunately engulfed in Cloud. Therefore, the decision was taken to try out a slope new to both of us. Beacon Fell is a fairly low hill mainly covered in trees however, the western facing slope is available for slope soaring. After negotiating a couple of gates you fly in front of a dry stone wall. Both Colin and I, due to the cloud base being only just above the top of the hill, decided to use our Dream Flight Weasel’s. Colin’s was a well-seasoned example whilst mine was on its test flight. The following couple of hours were some of the most trying, but hugely enjoyable gliding that we have experienced this year. At the base of the hill is a long line of trees, which ordinarily causes no problem because after all, the site is popular one during the summer for those not wanting to venture up onto Parlick. But, as is apparently well known (with the obvious exception of ourselves), once the wind speed nudges over about 15 mph the tree line sets a rotor on the face of the slope. The result being the random appearances of “holes” in the sky. This was further complicated by the requirement not to fly too high due to the low cloud, thereby not allowing us to climb above the danger zone. The effects of these “holes” were varied. You could be about thirty feet up in a fast past across the slope and drop straight down on to the wet grass or find the model flipped upside down quicker than you could roll it. Because the Weasel is a light, highly manoeuvrable and robust model the turbulence and the need for instant and appropriate corrective control input resulted in great mirth and laughter. A normal “crunchie” would have not survived these antics. At times we both had tears in our eyes which were not a consequence of the wind. After about ninety minutes we retired to the car park in the trees for the mandatory coffee and Crimble’s*. Upon our arrival in the car park we were joined by a local flyer who enlightened us to the characteristics of the slope in a good blow. He also had a Weasel for testing, therefore, we ventured back and enjoyed a further half hour of fun before the dual onslaught of cold and descending cloud base closed us down for the day.

Thu, 22 Dec 11.

A light breeze coming from the south west denoted that the best location for the day’s activities would be Parlick on the lower slopes of Snape Fell, and unlike the forcast low cloud/mist, we could see the hill this time. As a consequence of middle age namely forgetfulness I was without a suitable hat for the seasonal weather. As our respective partners had indulged in some retail therapy the previous day, my good lady had secured for me a hat. See the photos and decide for yourself whether or not someone is “extracting the urine”.

Parlick requires that you walk to the top and consequently, you take as many models as you can carry because you wouldn’t like to do the trip twice. Due to the light wind Colin took a Weasel, Wanabee and his Thermo Speed King. I took the Weasel, Wannabe and a new and unflown Speed Astir. These plus all the collective equipment was enough to carry for one day. We flew with the locals at the wall site no the westerly face which requires a slope side landing technique. After I had tested the air and more importantly the best area for landing with the trusty Wanabee we steadied our nerves and committed the Speed Astir to the elements. Why all this trepidation you ask. Look at the photos and you will see a 74” high aspect thin winged glider. Look again closely and you will note an apparent shortage of control surfaces. The only conventional control surface is the rudder with all other functions being served by “pitcherons”. These are wings which pivot and are mixed to provide both roll and pitch control. From the launch it was a complete non-event, a real pussy cat and despite its low weight was capable of a fair turn of speed. Some fettling will be required but I was chuffed to nuts, a three Crimble* moment. Colin in the meantime was ripping the air with his Thermo Speed King. His activity was however, curtailed by him suffering a mid-air with Ron, one of the locals. Ron was flying an old (but perfectly formed) “Thing” of uncertain vintage. The Thing received a slight smudge on its wing as it tore through Colin’s tailplane. Those of us of a certain age may remember that Colin’s nickname was once Colin “chopper” Waite. But this time it was wrong place wrong time, however the model is repairable, a little glass at the back end and a new tailplane will have the thermo flying again pretty soon.

The wind then decided to turn up the volume and both Colin and I decided to indulge in some quality Wanabee moments and ever mindful of previous experiences we managed to maintain a level of free air between the wings. Thus the revelry continued until at about 1500hrs when the skies darkened and the cloud base dramatically dropped. A hint that the Gods were indicating that we should go home. Here endeth the last slope session for 2011.

What will the New Year bring? On the agenda is the need for a glider tug to allow us to continue our scale activities when the wind doesn’t blow as well as a couple of more radical designs so as the saying goes watch this space. The NNAWGC would like to wish our readers a merry Christmas and a fruitful modelling new year.


Neil “Tigger” Tricker
Colin “Eeyore” Waite

*Crimble: A coconut macaroon sweet snack for the dual purpose of sustaining the inner NNAWGC member and the appropriate grading of the event in the manner of dining Michelin Stars e.g.: a three Crimble moment.

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