Tuesday 1 July 2008

Plucky Stuff

Here's a tale of old-fashioned (and gloriously pointless) British pluck. On this day in 1957, Peter Scott, the naturalist and (subsequently) gliding champion, was up in his glider when he spotted a promising cumulo-nimbus thundercloud and decided to have a crack at getting his Gold height badge. This is the kind of cloud that pilots avoid at all costs - but not the more intrepid members of the gliding fraternity. Scott plunged into the side of the cloud and, amid hail and ice, found himself being bounced about violently at 20ft per second as the altimeter raced to 11,000ft. An ascent of 700ft in about 30 seconds was promptly followed by a violent hurtle downwards, then up again for another 700ft, with full air brakes out and 80mph on the clock. Another almighty jerk, down again, then finally out of the cloud. Trying to shut the air brakes, Scott discovered that they were frozen open. On landing, he was pleased to note that he had indeed climbed to Gold height. .


  1. His poor old dad was certainly in the pointless / glorious category, I often wonder if he knew, sitting there with his fingers and toes turning black that he was setting up John Mills for a rattling good part. I admired Peter Scott, really the first TV naturalist ( if you discount that dotty couple Armand and Michaela Dennis) I enjoyed the programmes from Slimbridge, the first wildfowl trust ?, a very good water colourist as well, didn't know he was a glider pilot, its a pity Oddie doesn't mimic him. Para glided (canopies instead of wings) when it first started in Chamonix until one afternoon a 14 year old schoolboy showed how to do it properly, slunk off / tail between legs / muttering to nobody in particular.
    Whats all this about HRH Archer and a punt ?, Mary will be cross.

  2. Just wanted to say thanks for last night, Nige. I've posted the picture of your owl on my blog today. Judy loved the stuff you told her about moths.

  3. Night of magic, Richard, night of magic - I was still so excited this morning I could barely get my teeth in. Hope the earlobe's healing - I gave the owl a good spanking after you were gone, I can tell you. And Judy's just the kind of person we need to be the face of British moths - I look forward to working closely with her, very closely - and of course to your promised evening with the Madeley beaver. Can't wait. Oh and the hatchling's in the post....

  4. The please was all ours, Nige. And the ear is fine. I kept that side well away from camera tonight.

    Judy is quite excited and can't wait to light her bulb. By dawn, there won't be a moth left alive in a ten mile radius and it's down to you and your inspirational talk.