Country File at Walney Island

Following an out of the blue phone call from the BBC mid November 2010 the crew of countryfile arrived in the Barrow in Furness area on the 15th  Dec 2010. They were spending 2 days filming around the Duddon Estuary area.
Whilst reasearching the area they discovered it was statisticaly the windiest place in England, following that discovery they wanted to know how the area utilised the usually windy climate and what people did for pastimes.

Initially their researcher wanted the presenter to do a kitesurfing course, after spending some time explaining the complexities of a kitesurfing course combined with the time scale and not forgetting the minus temperatures following the recent snow they decided a powerkite lesson with the aim of a short buggy ride would be the best option.

The presenter doing the short course was Adam Henson. The briefing for the day was for the film crew to get some footage of some local kitesurfers, a bit of a chat about the area with local kiteschool owner then after a lunch break a couple of hours to get Adam to a good enough kite skill level to get somewhere in a kite buggy. As with most locations in the UK Walney had suffered endless windless weeks in December so it was by some kind of miracle the forcast for the 16th December was for 25kn dropping slowly throughout the day and cross on shore with an early morning tide “perfect for this location”.

Just as it was getting light the rain was bucketing down and the wind was a squally 28kn +

Out came the 7m  and 8m LEIs ready for the crew arriving to get some footage of the locals, 3 or 4 managed to get down and were on the water before the countryfile crew arrived. The wind started dropping but with a sky full of dark stormy clouds the gusts were a challenge even with small kites. The crew signalled they had enough footage and the next plan was to have a short interview and film a speed run courtesy of the local kiteschool owner Gary Powell of North West Kitesurfing. This is where the strange Walney weather started to demonstrate its unforcastable nature, during the interview the wind dropped to half of what it had been and switched nearly 180 degrees to cross offshore but because of the time element there was no time for setting up bigger kites or waiting for the wind to settle so the filming continued and the film crew managed to catch one speed run and a sudden stop in 3” of water !

After another short interview it was time to have a  lunch break and Brief Adam about the impending short lesson. Adam had never flown a kite before so it appeared that the buggy within a couple of hours was going to be a tall order.

After lunch the wind had died to about 8kn which was well below forecast so a range of powerkites were packed and wheeled onto the beach on a buggy.

After a short safety briefing the session started on a 2 line 1.5m trainer kite, after just 10 minutes on the trainer kite the skies went black and the session continued through a 15 minute squally snow storm which stopped as abruptly as it started. Adam had already built some good kite skills in a short time and it was time to try his first 4 line fixed bridal kite which was a 2.1m. The wind picked up again and the 2.1m had to be dropped and changed down to a 1.5m until he fully grasped the concept of kite flying and gained more confidence. Now the sun decided to shine like a summers day after just 10 minutes Adam was flying as if he had a full day and as the wind had decreased again we decided to try the 3m in preparation for the buggy. Once again Adam was unexpectedly quick to grasp the concept of powerstrokes, scudding and simulating the buggy movement and turns.  The film crew remarked that no-one would believe the program was an the same day as they had experienced 4 seasons of weather in the space of about 4 hours.

After a short buggy demonstration Adam keenly jumped into the buggy and slowly moved the kite from zenith to experience his first movement by kite. After just one reverse jaunt and two release to kite killers Adam was managing to complete a 30-40m return run continuously on his own and this was all within less than 2 hours of continuos tuition. The film crew were happy and stopped filming but Adam continued scudding around for a further 10 minutes until everything was packed and the rest of the crew were off, he definitely enjoyed the day for sure, so much that he bought a 2m trainer kite to take back home.

See the fruits of the  session on the 16th January at approx 7pm on BBC1.

Report courtsy of Gary Powell of North West Kitesurfing