You grieve. It’s the only way that I can explain the feeling. Paragliding is an amazing sport and offers amazing freedom. Paragliding Wales is especially beautiful. However, we rely so much on the consideration of others – landowners especially – and without that consideration, our freedom is at risk.
Smashing down on the alarm clock in self defence as it assults me at 4:30AM. This marks the start of a long day. But, it could be worse … I could be heading to work.
Instead, I am on my first paragliding trip to the Welsh coast. The forecast looks good, other friends are going to be there and I can’t hide my excitement – even at 4:30 in the morning.
To cut a long drive short (4-hours), I arrive at the launch field with my service station breakfast. Some of the club are already there and we discuss the shape of the sky and what the day is going to be like.
This is the best coastal flying site in the UK!– A.N. Other Pilot
There’s a great mix of excitement, hope and optimism. Eventually the day gets underway with pilots begining to arrive and the wind coming good on launch. However, there are a few waves of rain that make their way in. But they are easily spotted approaching from miles away, giving us time to land and pack up briefly.
At the end of the day, everyone is elated. Soaring along, with your friends, over the sea, with the sun sinking into the horizon over the water … perfect.
I pack up and attack the long drive home. But a terrible 2-nd storyline is revealed the next morning.
DISCALIMER: This is mostly hear-say. I have not been able to talk to the parties involved directly. Even so, my final point is still a valid one.
The story goes like this:
The landowner was on launch talking to some pilots. Pilots were unaware who he was (this is not an excuse, as there isn’t one. I just needed to let you know). Alledgedly, one pilot discarded some litter in front of the landowner. There are mixed reports as to what the litter was, some say it was fruit peel others say it was general litter. Either way, it was a terrible thing to do.
In the version of the story that I heard, it was a fruit peeling so that is how I’ll tell it.
Aledgedly, the landowner asks, “Aren’t you going to pick that up?”. To which the pilot responds, “Nope. It’s bio-degradable anyway”.
“Well, pick it up anyway”, says the landowner. But the pilot still refuses.
The result of this alledged confrontation was that the landowner withdraws access to the site for pilots!
Paragliders Aren’t Special
Personally, I can’t blame the landowner at all. In fact, I find it completly understandable.
There is very little in it for the landowners to begin with and if you add littering on top of that, then letting irresponsible people onto your land is a liability.
My approach – and I recommend this to others – is take your litter away with you and pick up any that you see too.
“Don’t leave the land how you find it … leave it better”.
When it comes to litter in the Welsh countryside this article shows a landowner who has had to completly block access to the public due to the amount of litter. This is not a flying site, but it just goes to show what some landowners have to deal with.
The Price Of Paragliding Freedom
Paragliding Wales is up there as one of the best experiences of my life, however the memory of this glorious day is tained with this huge sadness. I’m sad not only for the loss of a beautiful site, but that landowners will consider me a potential litterer. Tarring us all with the same brush.
Responsibilty is the price of freedom.
I once spoke about things paragliding beginners can teach the pros. Well I think this is one thing we should all learn and never overlook. Buckling yourself in is just as important.
We need to be responsible, so that we can enjoy this immense freedom. Because, flying sites will dry up, legislation will start to clamp down, licenses will come in, costs will rise and we will be left wondering what on earth happend to our beautiful sport.