The other side of the Lakes
Burkitt Rudd - 07/01/2002
The other side of the lakes!
The title of this article comes from the continuing advertising campaign from BNFL to raise the awareness of visitors to the Sellafield Visitor Centre. Much in the same way that they want to attract visitors to a part of a county - I would like to raise people's awareness to some of our quieter yet equally as good sites this county has on offer.
Of course the hills around Keswick are always going to be a honey pot to the free flyer. The topography of the land naturally provides the largest concentration of sites that face all directions of the compass though with greater demand and with the accompanying access problems, they may not always be available for us to use. With a bit more thought as to what our other sites have to offer we need not lose out just give a little more time to travel and the rewards can be worth it.
The sites I want to take a look at have been chosen primarily because of their good XC potential though this should not be the only criteria, therefor I will also include sites with other benefits such as easy launching and landing areas as well as ease of access. Though I will be honest not many can be chosen because of this last criteria.
Working Round the Points of the Compass beginning with North.
Site: Lingmoor NY 313 044
Wind direction: N- NNE- E
Though this not an official site I had to include it - for when the north winds blow in the early spring time it serves as a great launch site. Though only a small area actually faces north it is possible to maintain a respectable altitude while waiting for the thermals to come through and with a large Southerly bowl immediately upwind providing the source for booming Lee-side thermals you don't need to wait long. My personal record for staying on the site is five minutes before I was circling ever-skyward, drifting over the back on yet another XC.
However, the launch area is small and it is not good for the heart when scratching for long periods trying to get your initial height before venturing forward to meet the 'leesiders' out in the valley. To balance, an easy 15minute walk up a track leads to the take off area and also a plentiful supply of good landing fields in the valley below (see Baysbrown farm for permission).
Best Distance: 34.1km to Barrow in Furness.
Site: Coniston Old Man SD 276 974
Wind direction: NE -SE
Here is a magnificent site albeit for the walk in and in summer the sea breezes. Last year I took the site record with a flight to Cockermouth through some of the best scenery the lakes has to offer.
This site is at its best for South Easterlies yet it can offer take-off's for the range of wind directions in the East.
Easy Launch areas and the largest landing field you could ever have wished for make this a site well worth remembering.
Best Distance: 38.1 km to Cockermouth.
Site: Wrynose NY 279 030
Wind direction: E (lenient)
This is an excellent site and probably the closest anyone will get in this County to a top drive-a-ble site - though it is prone to Sea Breezes which come in over the back.
There is a range off take-off areas, the three main areas are, either by the bridge on the drive up from the Langdale side. The fell-side at the top of the Pass or from the top of the fell, a short 15 minute walk up the fell-side to the North of the Pass. Suitable landing can either be made at the cars on the top of the Pass or at the Bottom of the incline.
Jim Stilling produced a fine flight from here which included a triangle and an out and return yet the best down wind distance was again set Last year with a distance of 23.4 Km to Askham in Furness.
Although I've mentioned a good SE site in Coniston Old Man the next site is a Gem.
Site: Barkin SD 675 870
Wind direction: SE
Anyone who has flown here will tell you of their great experiences (though some may not be presented in the sites best interest, as it can be a horrendous place if the wind is off).
Here is a site that XC dreams are made of; a good steep ridge that triggers booming thermals. With flat lands immediately over the back and then the Lakeland Fells beyond -What more do you need for a fantastic trip to the coast?
Access is good though a little out of the way from the rest of the Cumbrian sites.
Very respectable distances have been had from here. Steve Thwaites flight to Souther fell must have made everyone who was sitting waiting on takeoff at Souther very envious indeed.
Best Distance 80km's plus to Penrith and beyond.
Site: Dow Bank NY 328 057
Wind direction: SSE- S
The North Lakes provide the biggest and probably the best sites for this direction in Blease Fell and Jenkin Hill yet in Great Langdale above the village of Elterwater there is a good launch area within 10 minutes walk of the car.
With careful flying, it is possible to work your way along the valley towards the larger rock cliffs of either Pavey Ark, Raven Crag and if conditions allow the SW faces of Gimmer. All of which are excellent places for thermals. In fact Pete Browns record of 56.2km from Stickle Tarn has yet to be beaten.
Dow bank is similar in height to Bewaldeth, though a little more care is needed if scratching, as there are a few trees on the slopes - yet landings are ample with a large expanse of open fell-side to land on. Care is needed in the summer when the bracken can hide the many rocks and boulders.
Best distance is only just over 18km. However, triangles and out and returns are real possibilities here. Also now that we have gliders with better sink rates making the connection to the Skiddaw range will, I'm sure have become a lot easier.
Another Place worth a mention is Kirk Fell at the top end of Wastwater. This fell has two aspects, which warrant greater attention A SW face and a large Southerly face enabling the face of Great Gable to be inter-flown. An area with a lot of potential particularly for defined tasks.
Site: Whitestones SD 633 988 Site Code 17.064
Wind direction: SSW -W
Another excellent site and only 15minutes drive from the M6.
The walk up is steeper than some but in less than 3O minutes you can have your glider laid out and ready for launch. If XC is your thing then get here early (Should go without saying but..) as it is affected by the Sea Breeze form Morecambe Bay. It can be a bit of a jet alley - So don't forget to NOTAM
It is a popular site and great for evening flying. The site challenge is to fly to the Summit Cairn of the Calf and back. It may be only a little over 3 km but offers a good evening challenge for those who maybe short on time for an XC over the back.
Best Distance 50.1km to Barnard Castle
Site: Ellerside SD 354 805
Wind direction: W
A rarely flown site indeed maybe this is due to the fact that winds need to be bang on and also with its close proximity to Morecambe Bay Sea Breezes quickly come in and spoil the day.
Yet Mike Cavanagh proved that this site should not be ruled out with a respectable 48.
7km distance flown. See Speel bank farm for permission to fly.
Site: TroutBeck NY 423 032
Wind direction: W -WNW
A very underrated site, though it has to be said that it can become extremely rough when the wind veers towards the North.
Access is good with a 15minute pleasant stroll along a track which contours the hill brings you round onto the windward face. Take off is over the stile and then depending on wind and thermic activity will dictate how far up the slope is necessary for launch. It must be pointed out that if a lower take off is decided take extreme care with rotor from the trees. It is far safer either to pay a little more in sweat or fly out and in front of the trees to begin soaring.
Once established in the lift band it is possible to fly up the valley to Yoke and Frostwick therefore increasing the range of the site dramatically.
Although I have not done any great distances from this site I have achieved some interesting small triangles flights when combining the slopes of Wansfell and the West Side of Kirkston Pass. The time I've also spent soaring here has provided me with good info which when I've flown from other sites such as Ullock Pike, Swinside or even Clough Head I've able to put to good use and extended my XC's.
For logistical reasons if you just want to soar here it is best to avoid landing in the valley but instead aim for a landing near Dubbs Reservoir. Though again exercise caution as it has the potential to be a little rough.
Site: Farleton Knott SD 538 804 Site Code 17.013
Wind direction: WSW - NW
This site has had a long association with flying (I can remember as a child looking out from the back of the family car at the Hang gliders soaring around the skyline of the hill) - Ed I bet that makes you feel really old.
It is still a popular site particularly amongst the Kendal flyers, personally I've never had much luck here but enough people still come back to it and with easy takeoffs and bottom landing areas its popularity will still continue. Again another popular site with both light aircraft and the RAF so don't forget to NOTAM.
This choice of sites has been made from sites that are South of Dunmail Raise an equally good selection could have been made from sites and Hills to the West of the Passes of Winlatter, Honister or Wrynose.
When I began flying in the lakes over ten years ago the spirit of adventure and exploration was a great inspiration. The knowledge gained from trekking up Fairfield to soar its southerly Bowl or venturing behind Bowfell to dart along its westerly slopes has helped me in my understanding of our sport and this fantastic place we are lucky to fly in and above.
It has been my intention to remind both visiting and local flyers that we are one of the luckiest clubs and probably unique in the number of sites and locations we have in which to launch our obsession. Yet with over indulgence we run the risk of becoming lazy and forget that we have the ideal craft in which to explore. Instead we herd like sheep crowding out sites all because we saw a glider momentarily lift up above the skyline almost as if to tease pilots to chase up the hillside. Break the mould, explore other areas enjoy the real freedom of getting away from the crowds.
There is more to flying in the Lakes than the Hills that surround Keswick. Next time try seeing what is on the other side of the Lakes.
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