The day started of as usual. Run, shower, eat, go! We were on the road by half nine. We were headed straight for Sutton Bank, a hill that at 978 feet high leaves no disappointment for those wanting a view. The word spectacular springs to mind. Sutton Bank is home to the Yorkshire Gliding Club, established in the 30's and boasting what some call the best gliding experience on earth. My dad had the opportunity to glide here 15 years ago and has always promised himself he would do it again. In June he decided that Matt should share the experience and gave him a voucher for his birthday! (The jury was out on whether this gift came from a place of love.) From where I sit gliding goes like this. Basically they put you in the front of a two seater plane with no motor, tie said plane to another small plane and drag you off the cliff. The plane with the motor then releases the motorless glider and off you go to chase currents at ridiculous altitudes.
We arrived at the gliding club at 10:30am and were told that the weather was not good enough for flight, but if we called again at 2 pm perhaps there would be better news.
I'm not sure if Matt was disappointed or relieved. He said disappointed, but seemed to exhale slightly with a grin. We had a few hours to kill so we decided it was time to find some real fun for the kids. In the valley below was a place called Monk Park Farm. It is a children's play ground with and extensive petting zoo. What a blast! The kids were in heaven and for £20 we enjoyed feeding goats, guinea pigs, lambs and ducks.
But there were endless other animals that you could see and touch,including chickens, pigs, guinea fowl, chinchilla, rabbits, donkeys, wallabies and on and on. Funny enough, the ducks were the biggest hit. They ran freely through the park and since we were literally the only ones there, they took a shine to our kids (who carries little bags of feed, of course). The ducks charged the kids, swarmed them and quacked their little brains out all the while pecking at our feet and tugging on our pant legs. Noah and Eden were in heaven, laughing and running in a pack oaf 40+ ducks of varying size and breed.
As we were getting ready to leave they spotted a track with little motorized cars to drive. We gave them each a £1 coin and off they went to drive. It was by far their favorite thing at Monk Park, and perhaps all of England so far.
We carried on a little further up the road for some lunch and, guess what! We found a pub! Haha. Enjoyed another pub lunch and Eden made a friend in the bartender. She pulled up a bar stool and chatted up thei barmaid while we finished our pints. What a kid. She can find a friend anywhere.
At 2pm sharp Dad rang the gliding club back and was told to head back up. The weather had improved enough and they felt that the flights would go between 3 and 4pm. So back up the hill we drove. We saw the White Horse of Kilburn that is impressively huge as it looks down over the villages below.
Once at the Yorkshire Gliding Club, Dad was the first to volunteer. He crossed the airfield, hopped into his parachute, climbed into the front of a very small flight vessel and before we knew it he was being dragged at tremendous speed towards the edge of the Bank. Then he was airborne and moments later, completely out of sight.
An amazed Matt looked on with excitement. Clearly he was game; ready to fly. When Dad returned, a landing that was both silent and balletic, the grin on his face left nothing to the imagination. He had just visited the heavens and returned to tell the tale. He soared 3000 feet above Yorkshire and admired the castles and Dales from the view of the birds that constantly circle these parts. "Totally exhilaration" were his words.
With little trepidation Matt trotted across the airfield and donned the very parachute my Dad had just removed. He expertly climbed in to the glider's seat, (which they had to remove parts of to make space for a rugby prop) buckled his belt and kissed me goodbye. I am certain at this point that I am far more nervous than he and that, perhaps I am married to a crazy person.
The tow plane ties on, the motor roars to life and I watch as my husband is dragged to the brink and then sails over it with reckless abandon. In moments he too disappears into the clouds and distance.
This may have been the longest 30 minutes of my life and I am not embarrassed to say that the joy and relief that filled my mind and heart kind of overshadowed my initial response to his smile upon return. This was no ordinary smile. This was the smile of a child who has discovered wonder in the world. This is the smile of a man who has found a feeling that he thought long lost to childhood. Complete joy. A new appreciation for this life, at 6000 feet in the air! And a longing to do it again...soon.
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