Hanggliding and paragliding are popular sports around the Peak District and on summer weekends the sky around Mam Tor seems full of hanggliders and paragliders, buzzing around like large flies.
Hang-glider near Mam Tor
The sport needs a breeze and an updraught, so the area around Mam Tor (including the edges above Treak Cliff, Lord's Seat and Rushup Edge) is ideal, for it catches the wind from all directions. If the wind is coming from the south you take off from Rushup Edge, if it's from the north then take off from Lord's Seat, if it's from the east, then from the summit of Mam Tor itself, over Hope Valley. Other popular areas for the sport include Shining Tor in the Goyt Valley, Bradwell Edge in the Hope Valley and some of the Eastern Edges such as Curbar Edge, Eyam Edge, Bradwell Edge and Stanage Edge. Bunster Hill near Ilam is also used by paraglider pilots when there is a southerly wind.
Like most flying the hardest parts are taking off and landing. Once in the air you can glide around for ages on a good day, and if you catch a thermal it's possible to travel quite a long way - it's not uncommon for an experienced hangglider or paraglider pilot to get from Mam Tor as far as Ashbourne and trips are occasionally made to the east coast.
Para-gliders above Hope Valley
As a form of flying the sport is ultimately under the control of the Civil Aviation Authority who have accepted a self-regulatory system controlled by the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. This means that to become a hangglider or paraglider pilot you must join a club affiliated to this association and undergo training at a licensed school, of which there are several in the Peak. The training costs £750 or more, and this is on top of the £2000 - £4000 you would pay for a hangglider or paraglider canopy, and £600 - £700 for personal equipment, so it's not cheap sport. However, enthusiasts insist that the exhilaration factor is high!
In the Peak area there are two active clubs - the Derbyshire Soaring Club (which covers the northern and central area) and the Peak Soaring Association (active in the southern Peak).
More information about equipment can be obtained from the Airways Airsports shop in Ashbourne. They also offer training courses from their Darley Moor site just south of Ashbourne. See www.airways-airsports.com
for more details.