With Mark Nicol
South Devon is a beautiful part of the country with a stunning coastline and a wild heart, Dartmoor National Park.
Mark moved to Devon and began hang gliding in 1985, since then he’s taken up paragliding, paramotoring and microlighting. Predominantly a paraglider pilot these days he’s a cornerstone of the local club.
The flying in South Devon ranges from spectacular coastal soaring to cross country flying from sites within Dartmoor National Park. Unfortunately Devon tends to get a lot of rain as it’s in the west of the country. Come and visit any time of year – but check the forecast first…
The sea to the North and South tends to affect the quality of the xc flying with lower cloud bases than some parts of the country and of course limited distances as you’ll generally hit the coast after 55km or so – often at base, but with nowhere to go…
One little known fact is that you can fly xc from the coast if the sea temperature is high and the air temperature is low. You can get away from the coast in sea thermal and then connect with land thermal to fly xc – sometimes flying coast to coast.
Corn Ridge / Sourton Tor
These are two of my favourite sites – now that I fly paragliders. All the Dartmoor sites involve a walk in and climb – sometimes as much as a 3 km walk-in with 200 metres of ascent. Nobody carries a hang glider up Corn Ridge / Sourton Tor any more, me included. When flying xc from Cornridge or Sourton Tor in a NW you may have to cross the North moor, up to 15 km without a road and with a generally low cloudbase, another reason Dartmoor is best suited for paragliders. From these sites you will get to the coast after 55 km or so with only a very slim chance of extending that distance by using the sea breeze front.
This is another favourite, it takes a North Easterly, after long virtually level walk the hill has great xc potential, with Lands End the ultimate goal. This hasn’t been achieved yet but back in the day two hang glider pilots did make Penzance for around 100km.
A Memorable Flight
In April this year (2016) three of us went out to fly from Sourton Tor on the NW side of Dartmoor. The forecast was marginal with possibly too much wind and a low cloudbase so one pilot from Brixham chose not to come and promised us a retrieve if we got as far as his house. The wind on take off was perfect 10-14mph NW, cloudbase was better than forecast, although still low and flying together, using radios to communicate, the three of us made Brixham. The Brixham pilot (our club Chairman!) met us with a cold beer and drove us back to our cars. None of us would have made the 55km flight if we hadn’t been flying together. Teamwork.
More Information for Visitors
If the weather’s no good for flying there’s some great walking / mountain biking on Dartmoor with plenty of cozy local pubs to keep you distracted from the rain. Plymouth is also worth a visit with the National Marine Aquarium, the Hoe, the Barbican some of the highlights.
You can take a boat trip around Plymouth sound or up the Tamar to Calstock, or down the Dart from Totnest to Dartmouth.
Most of our flying sites have campsites near by, many of which are open all year.