What a ropy way to pull glider up hillside

Dunstable Downs in the 1930s

Dunstable Downs in the 1930s

If you fancy blowing the Christmas cobwebs away with a post-lunch walk across Dunstable Downs, here’s a Yesteryear target for you.

Aircraft expert David Underwood has traced this pre-war photo showing pioneer flyers, with Pascombe Pit in the distance, preparing to launch a Slingsby Cadet glider off the steep hillside.

When the glider eventually landed in the field below, it would be hauled back to the top again by a car engine which ran ropes around a pulley. You can see the ropes and the pulley’s wooden cover in the picture. Today, post-Christmas strollers heading down from the visitors’ centre should be able to find metal struts still embedded in the turf, although bushes and undergrowth have altered the view somewhat. We are guessing that the struts are reminders of this 1930s picture and of times before a winch was introduced to propel gliders into the air.

If you think that the lad in then foreground is standing a little too close to the ropes, gliding club historian Ted Hull has a record of a child being dragged into the box over the pulley. Fortunately, the youngster was not hurt.

Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.




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