Before I set off, I offered on Telegram to stop at Abergavenny and pick up anyone wanting a lift up the Blorenge. But when I was within sight of the gliders flying there, the traffic ahead of me on the A40 came to a stop. I'd seen a faint cloud of black smoke, but thought it was a bonfire. However, a self-appointed traffic marshal (he did a fine job) waved us all into lane one and told us a light aircraft had crashed on the carriageway, so we could expect emergency vehicles.
We all settled for a long wait. The lack of a helicopter was a good sign, suggesting that perhaps the injuries weren't too serious. That fortunately turned out to be right; the pilot and his two passengers survived. A sobering start to a day's flying.
Eventually the cops led us the wrong way down the westbound carriageway, and I made my way on tiny roads into Abergavenny. Richard Howell was already in Waitrose car park, and had arranged a lift up with Hugh, a hang glider pilot - so we were driven all the way to launch.
There a few gliders were getting high, rather more were waiting, and one was struggling for a low save. I had a long wait for a waft to launch into, but was soon climbing quite fast, joined by a blue Advance Sigma and then an OzoneBuzz. The Sigma pilot called out something as we circled - I wasn't quite sure whether he was asking me if I realised what I'd done (had I cut him up joining the thermal? ), or whether he was asking me if I'd seen some incident below us. I later found out that he himself had had a spin soon after launch and was wondering if I'd seen it - I hadn't.
The Buzz and I eventually set off for the east end of Abergavenny, where I hung back over a big built-up area and got another good climb. I didn't have much of a plan. I pushed on vaguely in the direction of Sugar Loaf, but decided that I'd be a bit low when I arrived over it, so turned more west and got a weak climb from the mountain's west spur. Heading next for Magic Mountain, I got a horribly sinky glide all the way to Table Mountain, and the sink continued as I headed away from it, fearing I might even not make the valley and might have to land in a forbidden field. But I found a zero, and dribbled towards the Glanusk estate, where a big event was on (it turned out to be a wedding festival). All the flags there were showing a westerly breeze, although I was still drifting in an easterly. What could be the explanation? Eventually it dawned on me: a thermal! I'd probably missed the best of it (the flags soon switched back), but three playing red kites showed me where to stay up, and one of them started thermalling properly. It soon caught me up, and seemed not to object to my presence, but of course outclimbed me and then set off somewhere.
I dribbled on, but high trees beside the River Usk and the canal persuaded me not to push it too far, and I landed in one of the few fields without sheep - a big flat one, where a safe landing was easy. A stone bridge crossed the canal at just the right place to reach the road, and after a little unproductive hitching a message from Sean Staines said that, having already gathered Kevin Meynard, he was on his way to get me. Very kind.
Back at Waitrose, I offered to collect first Alex Kennedy and then Chris Ashman, but both were soon offered more convenient lifts, so I got the warm glow of being good without the need to actually do anything helpful.
My first visit of the year to Wales, and a most enjoyable one.