IT'S THE WEEKEND: Abergavenny paragliders fly like a bird
3:20pm Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
STEVE Milson enjoys nothing better than soaring thousands of feet above the Monmouthshire countryside.
“Man’s oldest dream is to fly like a bird,” explains Abergavenny paragliding instructor, Steve Milson, who has been paragliding for 24 years and has thousands of flying hours to his name.
“There’s nothing more exhilarating and peaceful than being up in the air above the Brecon Beacons which offers some of the best paragliding terrain in Wales.”
Mr Milson, who runs a teaching school Axis Paraglider, can regularly be seen launching off the Blorenge mountain either in tandem with a student or on his own.
“The modern paraglider has opened up the skies to thousands of people from all walks of life, right across the world. It’s a sport that unites people’s differences and gives them a common interest.”
“People come to us if they’ve been given a tandem flight as a gift or just want to experience the feeling of flying and then we have students who want to learn to fly solo.”
“It’s open to all walks of life but you do need to be reasonably fit.
“We’ve had youngsters from the age of 14 wanting to fly right up to three ladies in their late seventies who wanted to experience it.”
“Learning to fly is scary and expensive but we provide intensive training and an introductory day to go through basic training on how to launch and by the end of the day do short flights of around 20 seconds five metres off a gentle slope. It’s a bit like learning to ski and done gradually over ten days.
“Most people get the bug very early on and go on and qualify to fly. They tell me they find it more rewarding than a tandem flight.”
“We’re very lucky here in South Wales as we have some stunningly beautiful countryside and sites to fly from such as the Blorenge mountain or Hay Bluff in the Black Mountains.”
Mr Milson, who is the safety officer for the South East-Wales Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club, which has around 500 members and owns 1,000 acres on the Blorenge, said South Wales is one of the best spots in the UK to fly but also enjoys flying in the French Alps and Morocco.
Among his most memorable moments up in the air was dressed in a baby costume in a paragliding festival which he organised in the skies over Abergavenny and flying during the solar eclipse in 1999.
He said: “We were passing the Skirrid Mountain and had all our equipment in the back and saw a group of people playing drums.
“We decided to take a flight and had the perfect view of the eclipse. Flying through the dark parts was quite eerie.”
Another form of paragliding that is becoming popular is the art of combining paragliding with falconry.
Mr Milson has featured in several TV programmes, having taken wildlife presenter Iolo Williams, Barney from Blue Peter and Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison on a parahawking experience.
Mr Milsons’ company – the only Welsh company to offer the experience, can regularly be seen flying in the company of Birds of Prey.
The former assistant-film director for Batman and Empire of the Sun, works with falconer, Martin Cray taking people on a training flight that can last around 20 minutes.
He takes both gliding and wildlife enthusiasts up in the air enabling them to soar above the Monmouthshire countryside alongside birds such as Red Kites.
“People who are interested in birds of prey can get very close to them,” he explained. “To see it soaring and flying from the air is amazing.”
“We give the passenger some food as a reward for the bird and it will come and land on your falconry glove.”
“We often take two paragliders up together and so the bird will fly between the two.”
A flight normally lasts around 20 minutes but those who want to become a pilot can sign up to an eight to ten day course to become a solo flyer.
“We’ve taken wildlife presenters Iolo Williams and Ellie Harrison and Barney from Blue Peter to film parahawking footage and were even presented with our very own Blue Peter Badge which was a dream come true,” he added.
Mr Milson is also registered to take people with disabilities on a tandem paraglider using a specially-adapted harness. A tandem paraglide costs £119, a day’s introduction to paragliding costs £150 and a parahawking experience costs from £300 available from paraglide.co.uk
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