Situated on the downs above Westbury/Bratton in West Wiltshire, approximately 5/6 miles from the Somerset boarder lies Westbury White Horse.
In the below pictures the colour coding is as follows:
White Line = The main route taken to get to the top of the hill, but it is also accessible from the Bratton side of the hill.
Yellow Box = The car park.
Black Dot = Where we normally park and set up.
Blue Box = The normal flying area.
Red Box = Bratton Camp.
The White Horse has a reputation that goes, â€˜If you can fly there you can fly anywhere’ going around. So I’m NOT going to try and sell it, instead I will tell it like it is.
The Hill stands some 225m/738ft above sea level and the normal flying area works well in most wind directions. The wind is nearly always gusty up there but we deal with it, when we can that is, which is most of the time. The best directions being NNW & SSW. SW to WSW is not the best of directions, as the wind has to pass over the old chalk quarry and is often turbulent. The opposite side of the field from the car park houses a small farm holding and this is surrounded by very tall conifer trees, this can make SE winds quite turbulent also.
Bratton Camp (which you can see in the 1st picture with the horse in) is nice to fly in a NE on odd occasions but the grass is only ever cut by the sheep, which you will also have to avoid if the opportunity to fly there arises. In a NE when you jump to the right, Bratton Camp field drops away from you really nicely and some lovely floaty jumps happen. It was also really nice flying on there in the snow this year when the wind was NE.
Bratton Down (official title of the area) is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The extensive area of chalk grassland supports herb and grass species that provide a habitat for a diverse assemblage of insects, including the rare Adonis Blue butterfly and the scarce forester moth so flying outside of the blue area is not really possible due to very long uncut grass, which is where lots of skylarks nest also. It is possible to ride along some of the footpaths between the long grasses in various directions for a little distraction from a small, plain, flat field, now and then.
Owned by the National Trust and set aside as a SSSI area means that it is very popular with tourists and sightseers, as well as the normal dog walkers, picnickers, single line fliers, radio controlled plane/car operators, horse riders, para/hang-gliders, and more. So on that basis its not a bad idea to have some insurance.
It is a field/area that is open for public use and all kinds do use it, all of the time. You have to keep an eye out, especially for the â€˜landmines’ (dog eggs!). This is worse in the winter when there are not so many people around the field to prevent the owners from allowing their dogs to foul.
Although the para/hang-gliders (who use NW wind) generally fly in low winds in which we cant, they do overlap with us on occasions. They congregate above the Horse itself on the face of the hill but when they come into land they do fly over the car park and our heads, to land in the main field by the car park. They never shout a warning down to us when they are coming in so can sometimes take you by surprise!
The field although not very big is home to a nice group of kiters. We also get quite a lot of newcomers there too. Some join us and ask for advice and help, others don’t.
When there are a few of us there it can get quite crowded pretty quickly but there rarely is an incident between kiters and I have yet to witness an incident with the general public other than complaining about their dogs going about their business in the middle of our playing field. We still generally have a great time and some excellent social meets up there. When any of us regulars are there, all kiters are always welcome to come mingle with the rest of us and we sometimes even go out of our way to have a chat or give them our help/advice.
Terrain there is not the best with flint rocks here and there, and ruts and divots particularly around the centre of the field where the local boy racers removed the posts and used it as a skid pad a couple years back, but its not bad.
Some of the things you see from there are quite amazing. Sunsets like the one below are not uncommon. Military air traffic flies over quite often, as the whole site is separated by a fence that borders Salisbury plain and the army ranges. We saw the Vulcan bomber fly over twice last year, have seen Apache Gunships flying around and I have also seen the likes of Chinook helicopters â€˜buzz’ the white horse. During the summer I have left there at gone 11pm flying into the dark under a moonlit sky.
If you fancied a little bit of tame downhill on a board alone there are a few small slopes that make for a giggle when there is little to no wind to fly with.
In the nice weather you will often find an ice cream van in the car park to get a sometimes needed, ice cream, or cold can of drink to help keep the heat of summer at bay.
For all its downsides it is what we call home when it comes to flying. We don’t necessarily like it as a fly site but its as good as it gets for a large distance and its about all we got, so we look after it and have some excellent sessions and good times up there.
Content by Terry Wadman, (Zippy)