The flight has started............ and finished....
Wednesday 1st May: From a field just north of the border at Berwick on Tweed, a journey of about 70 miles to a location on a latitude with Scotch Corner but up in the hills with lots of sheep for company.... Weather conditions a challenge!
Thursday 2nd May: only about 30 miles today with pretty foul weather conditions. Reached the north Yorkshire moors.
Friday 3rd May: 100 miles travelled today. Down into the Midlands with an overnight stop in Worksop!
Saturday 4th: A 'bit of a rest day' today.
Sunday 5th May: This was planned to be a big, 100 mile day in order to get far enough south before the weather conditions changed.
Sadly, various delays meant the bad weather arrived too soon and Charles is grounded.
Hopes of an arrival in Warminster on Tuesday have been replaced with an enforced lay-off whilst Charles waits, probably for several days, for more favourable conditions.Friday 10th May : Charles is on the move again.From his last landing site at Barlborough (SE of Sheffield) Charles flew SW.Saturday 11th May : Early this morning his location was recorded midway between Worcester and Evesham.Charles is now within about 60 miles of home, but after a bumpy landing today, he has decided to pause the flight.He has been advised to give his back some rest and recuperation before attempting the last stretch.We will add a post here when he takes flight again.Thursday 6th June : Challenge completed!After a long struggle with gusty and changeable conditions, Charles finally got airborne from Warminster School at about 7.30pm.Once up in the air, Charles had a magnificent flight. He completed the 68 remaining miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes- his fastest and longest journey of the whole challenge. He did not even need the intermediate stop he had planned and arrived at his destination way in advance of his support vehicle. What a magnificent achievement!
Not south to north anymore - north to south because of the wind.
Excellent night in a Berwick-on-Tweed youth hostel - then off to my launch field at Mordington just north of the border.
The forecast was full of fronts, troughs, rain, cloud and mixed visibility. But at 10am all was calm. Away I went. Successful launch first time - which (touch wood) I felt was a good omen. I often faf around somewhat getting going. Crossed the mighty Tweed, seeing a large salmon stationery, nose upstream, in the shallows. Flights of geese, deer. The rolling fields below, with the high Cheviots close to the right, were wild, remote, wonderful.
Then the rain came, the wind increased, and I started to get knocked about a bit, as a front approached over the Cheviot tops. It was expected; I landed near Rothbury, having passed the remains of a C15th fortified border farm. What's App tracking meant that Charlotte and Gina were with me within 5 minutes. In the main street, a man gave me £2 for Salisbury - huge thanks to him. Another announced his surprise that there was no sign on the paramotor saying "only for use by the criminally insane"; he had been chatting away to his dog about it, as we all do with our pets.
Back came clear air, and eventually a breeze. Launched again, heading across moorland, past remote ancient farms, and across Hadrian's Wall where I saw the remains of one of the Roman forts on an austere rocky outcrop ... full of echoes and Roman ghosts. Then round the edge of Newcastle airport airspace, and on southwards. The clouds were building, and some getting high and dark. More turbulence, getting slowly worse. Having crossed the Tyne, I landed near Consett. 'Discretion ... best part ...valour' etc. Over 70 miles over the course of an unpromising day. Called it a day; staying with friends at Little Newsham. About 20% of the total distance covered. Sorry - few pics; concentrating too hard on flying.
Day 2 - grey and windy, 21 miles south - engine defect - 114 miles complete
More complicated weather with fronts and troughs everywhere, and strong unstable winds. I had intended an early start - but the weather was far from helpful. So we decided on a sighsteeing trip instead starting with the extraordinary Forge in Little Newsham, while we waited for calmer conditions, leaving the paramotor and Gina's car in the corner of the friendly farmer's field near Consett where I had landed the previous night. We went first along the astonishing Hadrian's Wall, and then down to Corbridge where we saw the excavated remains of an enormous Roman garrison town. Then delicious lunch in a cafe in the centre of the 'modern' town, before heading back to the field. I was feeling fed up with the uncooperative weather and the bouncy flying conditions; we sat in the car, discussing the conditions: would it be safe; could I do the next bit? Gina and Charlotte encouraged - even cajoled! - me to get going on the rest of this leg down to Little Newsham, 6 miles east of Barnard Castle. More bouncing as - once again aloft at 5.30pm, having taken off in about four steps - the wind slowly abated. I swooped southwards, seeing many signs of the open cast coal mining of a few decades back. I made it quickly to Little Newsham, and landed in my allotted field, having discovered when committed to my landing glide in, that the engine wouldn't switch off. Interesting! I pulled out the spark plug, keeping my fingers WELL clear of the prop. That was day 2. 114 miles done.
Day 3 - early start, repairs, two jumps - careful navigation - pylons - t90 miles - 204 total
I have been waking at about 4am to check the met and make sure our decisions are based on up to-date-information. There was an an enormous number of blue and orange blobs on the predicted rain 'radar' picture, but there were signs that the trend was in the right direction to the south.
We were all up at 6, and agreed the plan. Gina and I then headed off to find a local electrical motor engineer. I had noticed a loose wire where one of the control wires from the hand-held engine control was connected (or supposed to be connected) to the engine, and was fairly sure that was the problem - but I wanted to be sure. A very helpful engineer fitted a new crimped connecter in about 15 minutes, and charged nothing. He was a friendly weather-beaten guy whose main interest in his workshop on the edge of a quarry seemed to be motor bikes. On the way back, Gina and I located a good field for takeoff nearby [the grass in the Little Newsham field being too long]. We couldn't find the owner of the 'candidate field', but there were no animals nearby and no crops in the field; we left a thank you note and a bottle of wine at his house.
By about 10 we were back at the new field. I made rather a faf of the launch, but was soon enough airborne, and heading south with a 10 -15 mph following wind across the Tees for the rising slopes of the moor. I had intended to go SE of the Richmond military airspace, squeezing between this and airspace to the east. On this particular day the gap was blocked by NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) for an equestrian event. Instead I went west of EGD408 over the moor and then to the even narrower gap between EGD442 and the military airspace to the east. It gave me a wonderful flight over both moor and rolling rural landscape. Well to the south-east, I flew past Studley Royal Park (a UNESCO world heritage site) whose huge landscaped gardens and fine buildings are something to behold from the air. Soon after I came across Markenfield Hall, a magnificent early C14th moated manor. By now I was once again in bouncy air; I got a photo from a distance, but it doesn't give the sense of the timeless antiquity of Markenfield; I failed entirely to capture Studley: too busy flying and reacting to up and down drafts and side-swipes
I landed in a field to the immediate northwest. It was perhaps not the best choice: full of cow pats. The owners of the pats were far away at the other end of the field; however an alien arrival from the air was DEFINTELY the most exciting thing that had happened to them all year; they came galloping over, surrounding me at close quarters. I had an interesting tactical challenge to get out of my harness, and prevent them trampling on my wing and eating the harness of my machine, while getting all the bits over a gate where they congregated observing us having our sandwiches. Charlotte and Gina had rv'd within a couple of minutes of my arrival on the basis of my real-time What's App tracking. But lesson - avoid fields with cows, present or recent.
From the Ground Crew:
From the ground crew perspective - it was a great first day. In terms of paramotoring for pleasure only the take-off section was good, the rest was hairy in terms of weather and without the challenge of reaching Warminster before May is over we would probably still be sitting on a very beautiful hill just north of the English/Scottish border.Our WhatsApp sharing location broke down north of Rothbury………had Charles landed/crashed or was it just a lack of signal and he was continuing along the planned journey a further 20 miles on to Barrasford? Charlotte decided we should take a fast diversion north to “crash” site. Hurtling off, but almost only round the first bend, and nearly shooting past we found him packing up; he had landed due to bumpy air. After delicious yesterday’s sandwiches and coffee in a classic northern cafe, a warmed-up Charles took off again very quickly despite low wind conditions. Finishing goal, Little Newsham, now one and a bit fights away but just doable with the north wind. Charlotte headed off via thanking the farmer whilst I tried to keep eyes on Charles as WhatsApp location was not working!! After half an hour we could both only guess where he was so Charlotte went ahead to our destination while I killed a bit of time reminiscing in Durham. Soon I received a call from lovely Geordie who had found Charles in a field just south of Consett, Charles’s phone not working. I arrived fifteen minutes later interrupting him talking to the farmer who suggested I drive across his field to collect the paramotor. Arriving late in Little Newsham with supper and hot baths all prepared by Charlotte was very welcome. V.Vandeleur
The stampeding cows near Wetherby
A quiet day for us while the wind blew a near-gale, and then a maddening one
A day's delay - 4 May - was forecast; we took it easy. I must say the pause was welcome. The following day - day 5 - was all set to be a bumper 100-miler. However events conspired against us. In essence ..... we were up very early, to get set up on the field for a prompt launch. I had delayed asking permission to use the field because of the early hour; as the wind was settling in we were denied that permission: my fault for not getting it fixed the previous day. It took an hour and a half to find a friendly farmer who was only too pleased to let us use a field of his. By now the wind had dropped away, but we expended a lot of energy chasing light gusts from every corner of the compass. I should explain that younger flyers with more modern agile wings can get airborne without wind; I cannot do this without a light breeze in my face. Finally the wind settled; then however I discovered the previous engine defect (inability to stop it without pulling off the spark plug) had re-emerged. This we fixed ourselves; another precious hour was lost. By now the forecast high dark cumulus clouds and strong gusts, of which I had been determined to keep ahead, had arrived. I couldn't handle the wing safely; we had blown our chance. This was a massive disappointment. Very soon the wind will come into the south which I expect for several days will prevent further progress in that direction.
More from The Ground Crew's View
This account was written by Gina Vandeleur, a friend who with my wife Charlotte, has been supporting the effort with energy, humour and determination. Thank you Gina for your huge support and for this perspective (written I think at midnight on your return home)...
Day 2 Thursday 2 May
There was a chance we could fly at 06.00 but abandoned at 04.30 as weather check suggested wind too strong on Consett Moor. The wet weather programme kicked in with a fascinating visit to the world-renowned local blacksmith at Little Newsham Forge and look at Brian Russell’s incredible work. Anybody looking for very special bespoke gates, railings and sculpture …… would be well advised to look here http://www.littlenewshamforge.com/ . Yesterday’s landing site was still blustery and wet at 11.00 so we went to Aydon Casle, Hadrian’s Wall and Corbridge Roman Museum. Highlight was late lunch at Four and Twenty Cafe newly opened in Corbridge. Completely delicious homemade food by very friendly cook – so much beyond expectations the other eateries better watch out!
17.00 and back at the landing site, Charles thought it was worth trying the 27 mile flight south (finishing off the planned 1st day) getting him down off the moor and to the second night at Little Newsham. Success, but another bumpy flight and a troubled landing as the engine failed to cut so extra stress to ensure throttle not pressed during landing.
Day 3 Friday 3 May
Another early start as added extra admin to mend ‘the machine’ and need to find a new launch site due to long wet grass and slope in wrong direction of yesterday’s landing site.
Google showed us Chris Bousfield, Auto Electrician within 5 miles but needed directions from a windows manufacturer and the local quarry before we tracked him down at home. “I’m not going to touch that” were his first words but luckily when he saw how simple the repair was he quickly performed an expert solution, gratis, and sent us on our way. Thank you Chris.
We found a good launch field although no sign of a farmer : hopefully he will enjoy his bottle of wine!
11.30 - Charles flew to just north of Wetherby : with his flight path already weaving between no-flight-zones he had to re-calculate for an extra temporary no-go-area because of a large equestrian event. Charlotte tried to stay close to Charles as the air was still bumpy and rain in the forecast at destination but soon lost ground in small bendy lanes while Charles whizzed in much straighter lines to Wetherby. I had found a good landing site but was unable to attract Charles attention and missed his fun and games with a herd of cows. He somehow managed to avert considerable potential damage to wing, lines and delicate, fragile, expensive, carbon propellers when they charged from the other end of their field to closely examine what had fallen from the sky: its hard to sex a bunch of young bullocks from above! It maybe helped warm Charles up after a very chilly flight.
On to mid-afternoon, a visit to Screwfix and a nightmare manoeuvre from car to field due to traffic and locked gates (despite OK from farmer), and Charles attempted the next stage to Barlborough Nr Worksop. After trouble with getting the engine started and several failed take-off attempts Charles got airborne only to land again after two circuits due to wetness at 100ft+ despite no rain at ground level. Now cold, wet and tired we had a cup of tea at Castle Inn, Spofforth https://www.thecastleinnharrogate.com/. Newly done, colourful and rather funky; we were given a shot glass of smarties with our tea. Everyone asks about the strange machine on the back of the car so easy to strike up conversations with all along our way.
Eventually Charles thawed and re-energised and agreed to a second attempt to fly down A1(M)/M1 to Barlborough. We found a new field with easier access but by now the wind was dying and with Charles on minimal energy reserves it nearly didn’t happen. One last attempt and he was off but with another chilly flight towards more rain in the gloaming and over built up, unfamiliar territory. The one plus was that we could drive alongside, stopping occasionally in garages for him to catch up, as his max 40 mph still not motorway speed. He looked small and vulnerable flying high to avoid a web of pylons and our respect grew. He landed in a muddy field in the rain and very last light exhausted.
"Four years ago, I took up paramotoring which is powered paragliding and the most basic form of powered flight in existence.
No runways or tarmac; just a breeze in the face, some grass, and a bit of running to get into the air."
The Aim - to raise money for Salisbury General Hospital and The Athenaeum Singers of Warminster.
"A year ago, I had a messy mishap, three fingers of my right hand getting into the propeller when on the ground.
They were MAGNIFICENTLY tidied up, one finger in particular being completely rebuilt. This was done in Salisbury District Hospital.
The rehabilitation effort by the plastics team, and then Wessex Rehab, in the hospital was beyond excellent. I was back in the air in six months."
The Athenaeum Singers provided a useful diversion during his recovery- singing and a pint in the pub afterwards, was something you could do with one and a bit hands.
The plan - to complete the journey in May 2019 when conditions are favourable.
"Since I fly though the air at 25mph, and drop out of the sky after 2 hours when the fuel runs out, I plan to make a series of two hour hops,
landing en route where people have offered fields, or at small airfields …. Or A N Other field if I get lost.
Light wind from the SW will help; so I’ll choose my moment."
"My planned route is Warminster to the NE, passing S and then E of Leicester, and then up the eastern edge of the Pennines and the Cheviots,
to a field in the SE of Scotland just north of Berwick-on-Tweed.
I will photograph and film the trip; so there should be plenty of evidence.
And I will blog progress!
Charles' letter to potential supporters
Dear friends and family.
I am embarking on a fundraising campaign by making a paramotor flight from Wiltshire to Scotland in support of two causesboth of which mean a lot to me.
the first is the 'plastics and rehab' elements of the Salisbury District Hospital who are in urgent need of certain equipments and who did a miraculous job on my right hand after an accident just over a year ago.
the second is the Athenaeum Singers, a classical choir with whom I sing, and a charity, which is in a phase of expanding outreach and engagement with younger people.
To bring attention to this campaign, I intend to fly by paramotor from Warminster to Scotland in May.
This gives a fuller explanation of all this and will contain updates on preparations and progress with the flight, plus access to two Just Giving pages. These pages can also be reached direct as follows: