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Learning to paraglide with the Derbyshire Flying Centre
Very Reverend Dr Jeff Cuttell
Although he's an ex-paratrooper Jeff had never tried his hand at Paragliding

When you see Steve Hudson's scars, and hear his cautionary tales of maverick fliers you may begin to wonder whether Paragliding's for you.

Maybe a nice quiet game of croquet might be better: or a bit of bird-watching.

But for Steve and his apprentices there's nothing to beat being the bird yourself: albeit one who's only just getting the hang of these wing-things.

For the record, his Derbyshire school's been adding to the airborne since 1983.

The day that Derby's former Dean, Jeff Cuttell joined them, Steve had three other learners in tow.

After the mandatory form-filling, and a briefing shrewdly designed to instil a confidence mixed with respect for possible perils, it was off to the hills.

Any rookie can initially expect to spend more time laying out yards of fabric, straightening strings and strapping on harnesses than actually in the air.

Then there's the trudging back up the hill draped in your deflated sail.

But get your feet off the floor you will if you pay attention to the man in charge.

As master of ceremonies Steve is deceptively laid-back. He's an astute observer, and an old hand at spotting the errors which abort promising flights.

"Hands-up, brakes on, steer left, don't jump, look where you're heading." The litany's patiently intoned, often while running alongside a struggling para-student.

And he's not above aiding your take-off with a well-timed push.

Steve Hudson and Jeff Cuttell

An instructor for decades, Steve's determined that his fledgling fliers will stay safe, though he'll cheerfully admit he spent his own youth strapping himself to anything he could get his hands on.

Those scars are from his early exploits as a hang glider, not from his days as a paraglider.

It's a tribute to his methods that the only injuries in the school's 27 year history amount to a couple of abused ankles and the odd protesting muscle.

For those who persist and learn how to rise and ride the thermals it's patently an addictive experience.

Steve himself admits that flying has altered his whole mindset and lifestyle: give him the chance and he'll wax lyrical about the sense of perspective it induces.

He's a big fan of finding the things which challenge you: of properly assessing the risk, but then taking it - of expanding your horizons.

When your horizon, like his, starts to show you the curvature of the Earth, then you know you're one of his graduates: a real high flier.

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