Southdown Gliding Club welcomes responsible walkers and your dogs.

At Southdown Gliding Club (SGC), we welcome walkers and their dogs. As an operational airfield, we have a duty to maintain a safe environment for us all to enjoy and so we thought it would be helpful to share some important information and guidance.

We respectfully remind walkers that they MUST keep to the designated footpaths, preferably with dogs on a lead at all times. However, for the safety and protection of both dogs and our pilots, we MUST insist that dogs are kept on the lead while walking along the Western side of the airfield (where the Windsock is). No matter how well behaved your dog is, we have seen time and time again, a dog chasing after a launching glider or tow cable, or other distraction – sometimes into the path of a landing aircraft.

The Gliding Club field is privately owned by SGC. As such, public access is restricted unless permission is granted to come onto the field. We absolutely respect the rights of way of all walkers which is why we work very hard to maintain the condition of the footpaths that are under our ownership and control, many areas of which we have improved so that they are in excess of the mandated 1m wide requirement.

It is important to note that as an operational airfield, SGC are under the governance of the Air Navigation Order Part 10, Chapter 1 Articles 240/241, (just as other operational airfields such as Shoreham Airport and Gatwick Airport are), and that under this Government legislation, it is a criminal offence to endanger an aircraft, person or property at the airfield.  We have been erecting signage at various points of the public footpath to help walkers with understanding where it is safe to be.

The below aerial view of the SGC field illustrates where the public footpaths are. Please be aware that there is no public right of way via the main driveway entrance to the gliding club. Access to the public footpaths at SGC are from the Storrington to Pulborough Road, to the West of the main club entrance (not shown on the photograph below), and from the North East side of the field perimeter.

So where can you walk?

To the East (Storrington side), the start of the footpath is sign-posted from the main road, through the Static Home Park and carries on North under the trees, exiting at the North East side of the airfield as shown on the photograph. This is the first and only point of entry on to the SGC airfield from this particular footpath. Note that up to this point the path runs through a wooded area and is under the ownership and responsibility of the Static Home Park to maintain.

From the NE corner, the footpath then tracks close to the tree line at the bottom of the dip. If you see us operating from this end (i.e. taking off towards the Downs), you are very welcome to approach one of the club members to check if it is OK to stand and watch. Please do ensure that you come up the slope from the North end directly to one of the club launch operators, not from the sides of the field. We would love to chat with you and answer any questions that you may have.

The footpath carries on to the NW corner of the SGC field. it is absolutely crucial that you follow the tree line to the corner of the field. Please do NOT be tempted to cut the corner on the top of the slope. There could be a either a powered tug aircraft with a trailing tow cable, or a glider coming in to land.

From the NW corner of the field, the footpath climbs up the slope and continues along the western edge of our airfield. Head directly in a straight line towards the windsock. The line of the footpath continues on straight across the field to our boundary fence at the Southern edge of our field where you will see the individual green glider hangars, (not the very large multi plane hangar to the West). We have laid some flagstones in the ground to help guide the way across this section. The footpath continues BEHIND the individual hangars and then back on to the Pulborough road. Please DO NOT be tempted to take a short cut directly from the side and across the field as this will take you straight into the launch point area.

If we are operating from the Southern end of our field and you wish to talk to someone, by all means come and talk to us but please ensure that you approach from the Individual hangars on the Southern edge of the field, rather than walking across the field from the footpath on the Western side where the windsock is.

Did you know?

Please be aware that we can land in any direction on a given day, especially if there is no significant wind strength, so tugs and gliders could be coming in to land from any direction. The gliders in particular are virtually silent on their approach so you won’t necessarily hear them coming. Tugs tend to land closer to the footpath at the western side of the field and may not be landing in the same direction they took off from. This is why it is SO important to stick to the designated footpaths….in doing so you will be perfectly safe.

The presence of people and aircraft make it obvious when we are operating from the North or South end of the airfield, however, there are often occasions when all gliders have been launched and are away on a cross country. (In good conditions we can fly hundreds of miles from home for 5 to 7 hours or more!) This may give the impression that there is no-one flying when in fact gliders may be coming home and landing throughout the afternoon, and often up until sunset.  Just because you cannot see any aircraft on the field, please NEVER assume that an aircraft or glider will not be landing.

We also use motorgliders for training and some of our members have self-launching gliders. These are completely independent to the aerotow or winch launching operation as they  will take-off under their own power and may have the engine switched off for landing.

We don’t just use powered aircraft to launch our gliders. We also have a winch cable launch system that quickly pulls the glider from one end of the field to the other. The steel winch cable is wound in rapidly by a very powerful motor at the opposite end of the airfield to where the gliders are launching from. When a glider takes off by winch, the winch cable will quickly lift off the ground and can be very difficult to see. When the glider releases at the top of its launch, the cable will gently float down by parachute whilst it is being wound back in.  We are very careful to watch for any chance of drifting cables and will delay launches if we see walkers that may be in the way, but be aware that we may not always see your dog if it is off the lead. More safety reasons why walkers should not stroll away from the designated footpaths and should keep dogs on a lead.

Grob 109B

One of our Motorgliders – Grob 109

View from the winch of the glider mid launch

One of our vintage gliders during a winch launch

Did you also know..

The Southdown Gliding Club is operated completely by volunteers, and the maintenance of the field, including grass cutting, clearing pathways, fences and general field improvements, is carried out by our members in their own time. We have been very busy clearing the footpaths under our responsibility to give walkers plenty of space to walk along the designated pathways.  We have also been adding multiple new signposts along the footpath to help guide walkers safely.

We have noticed that a few walkers have been straying off the safe designated footpath and breaching our perimeter about halfway up the field on the Storrington side, taking them directly onto the airfield whilst aircraft are taking off or landing.  In the interests of safety for all, we continue our efforts to block this unauthorised entry point so that walkers instead follow the safe designated path and only access the field at the correct point of entry at the North East end.  Were we not to maintain our perimeter in this way, it may give other unsuspecting walkers the impression that this forced ‘open’ section is a correct access point. They might unwittingly proceed to walk directly across the middle of our field, which would be INCREDIBLY dangerous for all parties. This has already happened on many occasions.

Having been chatting to many walkers who enjoy the footpaths around our airfield, we understand that many favour hedgerows rather than fencing as a footpath perimeter. As a result of hearing this feedback, in our efforts to promote enjoyable and safe footpaths, we have planted approximately 1000 saplings across the north end of our airfield.  Some temporary fencing has also been installed to protect the young saplings for the next few years. The line of planting is shown in green on the picture to the left and gives a very generous width of footpath to use. We hope that this will make the designated footpath route more obvious and much clearer, plus it is a great initiative that enables SGC to contribute towards carbon offsetting and encourage some wildlife.

Thank you for reading

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope that you found it useful and that it helps to explain our safety concerns, as well as why we have been and continue to take significant measures to provide a safe, pleasant and enjoyable area for the public to enjoy our wonderful countryside.

If you have concerns or questions about this article, please contact walkers@southdowngliding.co.uk

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A view of what the airfield looks like to us from the air