A long local

I’ve been waiting for decent weather and enough daylight to go somewhere and today looked almost like a day for sallying away.  Except for a weather forecast that includes intermittent showers and big clouds and a front which disappeared off the map between noon and six PM for no reason I could discern and was coming towards us in a way that was off putting.

As the morning panned out the usual happy faffing and short hops meant it was half twelve before I was ready to start thinking about going somewhere in any case.

I’ve been meaning to revisit Gloucester for a while.  In fact I have an assigned ‘mission’ (read ‘excuse’) which requires a visit.  Another hobby to flying is geocaching (sort of a GPS treasure hunt for boxes of swappable trinkets) and the last time I went out with some family we found a ‘travelbug’ which is trying to wend its way back to Staffordshire.  Investigation revealed a handy airfield-accesible cache at Gloucester so I need to finish a flying visit with some grubbing under hedges for what the kids call “hidden treasure boxes”.

I considered the time and the fuel state.  Almost…

I decided I’d fly east in any case and see how the fuel consumption was.  Time was not on my side for faffing about with jerrycans of UL91 the other end today so I’d head on and land only if I could get comfortably back without refueling.  And going east then north would give me interesting things to look at even if I didn’t get allthe way to Gloucester.

The wind was a bit flustery and mainly southerly which was nice for takeoff but’d mean a tailwind for landing back at Old Park.  Nick had already go around once, (amid a flurry of birds as well!) so it’d require  bit of concentration.

But Gwyn, one of the other X’Air crew at the field (as well as former TOMS partner!) was already up and it hadn’t looked too alarming.

I contemplated the choke for a few seconds (Nick has not long landed but it was hot hot…) and juggled things to life.

Takeoff was both brisk and bespattered with mud and I blessed the little X’Air for being so utterly indifferent to the foibles of farmstrip operations!

I headed vaguely north east seeking Taff Ely windfarm and the edge of the lower base of Cardiff’s airspace.  I’d a mind to doing some flying around the edge of Cardiff.  I’d promised to take a TA from a school in Canton flying and wanted to see if I could spot the school.  Maybe on the way back.  For now I stayed north, heading around Caerphilly to admire the lovely castle with its elaborate moat system.

Caerphilly

A few minutes later and heading vaguely for Newport to look at interesting and pretty bridges while working my way generally east towards the Severn.

Ruperra Castle

Well that’s odd.  I thought I was pretty good on castles in Wales but I didn’t know this was here.

Ruperra close

It’s clearly been added to a lot later with extra building development, and are those the remains of formal gardens?  A pretend castle?  A almighty big folly?  Almost certainly not the medieval square castle it mimics.

Back on the ground later some Googling informs me that this is Ruperra castle, built in 1626 and is a ‘mock castle’ with an interesting history of its own from Charles 1 to the Charge of the Light Brigade, links with the Tredegar estates, used by the army during WW2 by searchlight crews, and eventually bought for a rather out of the blue attempt to build a world level polo club!  It now stands for sale for about £1.5 million…

I any case, after a nose, I flew on to Newport going south of it for a change, and getting a great view of the transporter bridge.

Newport

South east of the town I checked fuel and time and decided that I’d probably come far enough.  I twirled through a few steep turns just because then, took advantage of the low lying open areas to do a few PFLs before turning back.

First looked good but I spotted cows in my chosen field at around 300′ which I didn’t want to upset for no real reason, so climbed away.  Second one went to 50′ by dint of an almighty sideslip to stop overshooting and the third I knocked off at 500′ after belatedly spotting wires.

I need more practise choosing fields!

Did a few stalls just for practice – not that the X’Air does much.  Even holding it stalled it just sort of wobbles downwards.  But I played about slowly slowly for a while. I’m much more used to the feel of it at the slow and fast edges of the speed range now and it’s enjoyable.  I had missed that after years of the Tomahawk, that natural comfortable familiarity in the air with a particular machine is starting to come back and it’s lovely.

Heading back towards Cardiff it suddenly occured that things had gone a bit quiet while I’d been absorbed with the handling.  The radio appeared to have turned itself off.  Hmm.  A prod on the power button didn’t help, but reseating it in the power pack thingy did.  Must have dislodged something while disporting myself under the guise of ‘practise!’.

I skirted north around Cardiff as I headed back.  Didn’t really find the school I was looking for (too far north) but I hadn’t flown much close to the city and it was fun.

Back over the windfarms, turning at a sufficient speed to give me a clue that the landing would require some concentration.

I was coming from the wrong direction from our new routine of a left basedf join to avoid a noise sensitive neighbour, so headed out to the beach before doubling back on myself to join by by usual route to the M4 elevated section.  I certainly was moving fast on final!

The rate of descent needed to be fairly high to not get swept past the field and it was hard to focus on the right airspeed with the ground cues saying something different.  Second sideslip of the day put me back where I needed to be though and while the landing was longer than usual it was still a case of needing power back on to get up the hill rather than brakes to stop!

Perfect machine for the job!  Even if I did now very much need a warming cup of coffee and some major mud removal!

Lovely flying day.

Really must must land away soon though!

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