Never having visited the famous Bwlch South Wales slopes, I was quite eager to see what the wild Welsh hills had to offer your keen slope soarer with some scale models. As it is a 4 hour drive from the North, I took Friday off to travel down, and booked into a B&B near Merthyr Tydvill which is still a 40 minute drive from the car park.
No one else was due to arrive so early, so I printed off the very helpful maps and guides, which Steve Houghton provides in his A470 Soaring Blog. Do you not find that any slope you are not familiar with provokes a tinge of nerves if you are verging into the unknown, that is unless there are helpful chaps onsite to give you advice on landing areas, and the right place to launch. Otherwise it is a case of trial and error, the emphasis being on error.
After a somewhat tortuous journey in Friday traffic, I arrived about 4.30pm and walked up to Mickey’s South West (it is quite cute that all the slopes have names eg. The Wrecker, which needs no explanation due to its vicious rotor). The wind was forecast to be about 12mph, which usually means 22mph on top. This time the forecast was accurate. I flew my Jart which performed OK. Harry Twist then arrived whilst I was trying to correct my stupid booking error. I had managed to reserve Sunday to Tuesday online instead of Friday to Sunday, at the B&B which was now full! I managed to find a place with the other lads in Pontyprydd (pronounced “Pontypreath” incidentally – just to weed out the foreigners) so was no longer homeless!.
Steve Houghton arrived at 6pm with a key to the gate, which saved him the 15 minute walk, but was just too late to miss the rain, which was a shame. We thus got a lift back in his car and called it a day. The rain sadly carried on with vengance until Sunday morning, so Saturday was a wash out with “clag” atop the hills, thus creating zero visibility and miserable conditions. A crowd of keen hardy flyers came up, toughed out the weather for 2 hours, then left with a look of disappointment on their faces, myself included. Harry and I went to a local hostelry designed for mountain bikers and called Afan Lodge to sample the local brew. I should really have written this then, but was too busy eating and drinking.
Sunday showed more promise, after the early clag disappeared to reveal sun and the awesome slopes which seem to go on for ever, and are incredibly steep. None the less Steve produced the key again to let us all through in convoy. Even Andy Meade’s camper van and trailer made the steep winding stone covered track right up to next to the slope. The wind was light and variable in speed.
The trusty light Vulcan managed fine, but most PSS models were grounded until the lift and the wind improved. It saw a gaggle of Jet Provosts of Bob Jennings, Phil Cooke, Steve Mclaren and I take to the air. Andy Meade also launched his B52 which seems to go up in anything and cruised quite happily.
There was an Andy Blackburn Black Hawk of Andy Meade, which needed more air, as well as a stand off scale version, both of which. had one or two landings out when the thermals left to provide much undeserved sink.
I left at 1pm for the long drive home, but the rest of them stayed longer. The wind moved round to the West, which meant a decamp and walk further round to the Westerly Slope, which is actually better because it steeper and more severe. Phil Cooke even managed to fly his 8lb Curtis Skyhawk (I think) complete with working bomb drops. Steven Houghton managed a bomb drop with his Typhoon, a marvellous Scale Model of some size, which is quite forgiving and easy to fly.
Steve Houghton took some very good photos but especially video on the day which you can view below. He runs the A470 Soaring Blog. His story is here and here. If you want to see the collection of picture in the photo section of this site click this link.
Phil Cooke (LMMGA Member), as usual, took some stunning pictures as viewed in his Flickr Album which is embedded here for your delight. If you click the photo, it will take you to the album.
Big Thanks to Steve and the Welsh boys who made us feel very welcome, and at home in what was, for most of us an alien environment. You can read Steve’s version of the weekend here. Also thank you to Andy Meade for the Photos.