Members of the Petersfield-based Sky Surfing Club jumped at the opportunity of some flying when a spell of warm, southerly winds interrupted the wind and rain of recent weeks.

The promising conditions attracted a bumper turnout to various slopes across southern England.

One group of sky surfers travelled to Milk Hill, a popular location on the Pewsey Downs in Wiltshire. Petersfield paraglider pilot Ranald Macaulay was joined by Ali Ghorashinejad and Steve Newcombe, along with hang glider pilots Justin Needham and Jose Pinto. With more than 70 pilots present, the sky was busy at times but many disappeared towards the clouds in thermal climbs, eager to travel as far as possible. Macaulay clocked up a distance of more than 57km – his flight took him more than two hours and at times he reached altitudes of more than 4,300ft.

For a while Macaulay and Newcombe shared the air as they travelled north. Newcombe said: “After not flying for more than five months I was keen to get out as there was a rare break in the weather. I gave Ranald a lift from Petersfield and we arrived at Milk Hill to see about 60 pilots on the slope who were also keen to blow away the cobwebs in their paragliders. After flying around the hill for about 30 minutes in the southerly wind, Ranald and I climbed away in a good thermal and we were off downwind, getting to heights of around 4,000ft. From our view point high up, we could see the flooded Wiltshire countryside below us full of ponds and mini lakes in nearly every other field. I landed shortly before the South Cerney lakes. Ranald continued a lot further north and landed near Cheltenham. A fun start to the new flying season.”

Ghorashinejad's flight took more than three hours to cover 40km, landing near Cirencester. He said: “Conditions were windy and turbulent, typical of the spring conditions, but there was an amazing view as I flew over a water park with people below waving to me. There was a lovely blue sky with beautiful clouds.”

Needham stayed put on Milk Hill, electing to enjoy the freedom of the air on his hang glider. He said: “The conditions were lovely. There were only a couple of paragliders in the air by the time I launched – and they were gone in seconds. I had an empty sky to myself.” Needham spent the next one-and-a-half hours on a round tour of the Pewsey Downs, at times reaching cloud-base at 5,000ft.

A small group of sky surfers made the most of the slopes surrounding the Meon Valley. Goran Oberg managed a 14km hop to Four Marks while another pilot managed more than 31km to land near Basingstoke. Justin Simmonds clocked up the longest distance at nearly 60km, landing just north of Reading. Simmonds’ flight took nearly two-and-a-half hours to complete, at times reaching altitudes close to 4,000ft. A highlight was flying over the lakes at Theale, west of Reading.

By Brian Parkins