Tour of Bell Hill part 1: Front, back, and sides

Home (main menu) Hang gliding Hang gliding 2010 Tour of Bell Hill part 1: Front, back, and sides

Bell Hill is near Blandford Forum (that’s a town, not a web site) in north Dorset, England. This tour of the ridge, although arranged in sequence as if a single flight, is composed of photos from several flights in 2010, 2011, and 2013.


Hang glider ready to launch

The front wire assist here is not holding the wires, but his hands are cupped ready to grab them if the pilot loses control.



Hang glider launching

The hang strap is tight, indicating that the glider is flying, but it is not at that point flying fast enough to lift my weight. After three or four accelerating steps, it lifted me off the ground...

In-flight photo of hang glider launching

We have lift off...


In the air

Hang glider in-flight photo

Struggling to maintain height in front of launch. I had not at this point zipped up the harness.


I find the airflow is quieter with the new open face helmet. (It is actually my paragliding helmet.) More importantly, visibility is better without the chin guard blocking a significant portion of the view. However, the open face helmet confers less protection in the event of what paraglider pilots call a sub-optimal landing (and what hang glider pilots like me still call a crash).

Wing-mounted camera view from airborne hang glider

Heading back to the ridge instead of embarking on a cross-country journey.

Photo from wing-mounted camera on a hang glider

The north end of the ridge


Towers of Hanoi

Wing-mounted camera view from airborne hang glider

Bell Hill, May 15th, 2011

Although this photo was taken on an overcast day and there was a smudge on the outer lens in the middle, it shows the ridge run to the west. There are a couple of tall radio masts in the distance. They mark the turn point of a permanent out-and-back challenge. (I have only managed to round the towers and make it back once.) It is said to be easier on a paraglider than a hang glider solely because the landing options are so much better for paragliders if they do have to land somewhere out there.

Wing-mounted camera view of hang glider in flight

North-west (up-wind) of Bell Hill, July 2011

The chalk pit at right is at the base of the wooded spur that divides the two parts of the ridge. (The take-off area and the west half of the ridge are out of view to the right of this photo.) The slope of north half of the ridge is partly covered with trees and bushes. It has a long rectangular wheat field along its top. (The top landing field is adjacent to it and is out of view to the right of this photo.) In the middle of that part of the slope is the ‘magic tree’, above which we often encounter lift.

The hang glider bottom landing field is the one with the lone tree below my harness at about knee-level. (We also use the one this side of the white track; nearer the camera, when it is not divided by an electric fence as it is here.) Power lines run beside the road that defines its down-wind edge. The apparently large field at bottom right of the photo, in front of the chalk pit, has a pronounced slope and is bounded by trees, buildings, power lines, and the road. It is also close to the hill and generates lift just when you do not want it if ever you try to land there. Paragliders use it as a landing field, but in my experience it is difficult to get a hang glider into it safely. (At least one pilot disagrees. He has landed in the generally down-slope direction, but he points out that the ground rises in the middle, where he lands.)

The cluster of buildings at the far end of that field, at the road junction, is named either Belchalwell or The Cross; I have yet to determine which it is.


“Open fire on the ville!”

Wing-mounted camera view from airborne hang glider

Sinking out

You don’t always go up. Here I have launched at the wrong moment — into heavy sink. The rim of the chalk pit is discernible just below the rear half of my harness and the landing field (with the tree) just above it. The hedge along its near edge hides a road with power lines. After I turned out to land, those features rose up in my field of view; indicating that I was not going to reach them. The large nearer field (partly obscured by my harness) had livestock in it and, anyway, it is difficult to land a hang glider there (in my opinion) mainly because of its slope and proximity to the hill. The power line leaves the road where it bends right (the bend is obscured by my head) and bisects the field on the left.

Wing-mounted camera view from airborne hang glider

Over the ville

Sink does not go through the ground. I made it to the landing field with height to spare and I even encountered lift adjacent the ville. However, I was too spooked to use it, so I landed.

Hang glider landing

Nil-wind flare in the field below Bell Hill on a different day (in June, 2013)

Hang glider pilot in landing field

Glad to be down

Anyway, there’s always stuff to do when you’re back on the ground…

Hodges approached Snake, who was setting in two men behind a mound. ‘That light mean anything?’
Snake squinted. His hands grasped clumps of grass on the mound. He bolted towards the unpositioned squad members.
‘Open fire on that ville!’
The cemetery erupted as tracers reached towards Nam An (2). Rounds poured furiously for a few quick seconds, then there was a moment of silence: in their excitement, all had emptied the first magazine of ammo at the same time.

— From Fields of Fire by James Webb, 1978. Nam An (2) is the name of a village in south Vietnam, as designated by the U.S. military. According to Webb, it is near Dai Khuong (4) and Nam An (1).

See also Preparation and Tour of Bell Hill part 2: Top landing at Bell Hill

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