Direction: SSE - SSW (160° - 200°)
Map Ref: OS TR 259 385
Coordinates: N 51° 06’ 06” E 1° 13’ 34”
Nearest Phone: There is a public phone box in the Varne Ridge Caravan Park across the road from take off.
Pilot Rating: HG/PG: Club Pilot+10, but both with cliff launch experience or a club coach present
Site description: The chalk cliffs between Folkestone and Dover
Take Off Altitude: 110m (360 ft)
TTB: 110m (360 ft)
Access: Take the slip road off the A20 from Folkestone and follow the B2011 towards Capel-le-Ferne. Just past the Royal Oak pub on the right turn left down the Old Dover Road. Take off is two hundred metres down the road on your left. – the flat grass area in front of the Varne Ridge caravan park. There are four benches facing the sea.
Parking: On the left of the road by take off. Although the road is quite wide at this point leave as much room as possible for general traffic and if in a taller vehicle be mindful you could be blocking the view from Varne Ridge and park accordingly.
Take off: An open area of lawn with four benches facing the sea. The cliff falls away immediately, so a committed take off with good control is necessary.
Flying the site: When the wind is straight on, soaring flights are possible in light winds. Soaring flights between the eastern railway tunnel and the western end of the ridge before Folkestone are easy. Do not venture any further east of the tunnel unless you are sure you can get back, especially at high tide. There is no bottom landing beyond the point, though in an emergency you could land at Samphire Hoe (the reclaimed land adjacent to the tunnel works).
Landing: The bottom landing is on one of the two concrete aprons at the foot of the cliffs to the right of take-off. You may also bottom land on the beach, but take care to avoid the public. You can land on Jock’s pitch but not the bowling greens. Top landings are NOT advised for HG, as the majority of pilots who have attempted it in anything but the very lightest of winds have damaged gliders or suffered injury. The same applies to PG, but top landing can be undertaken after a risk assessment by the pilot on a day to day basis, noting that the position and strength of any rotors is dependent on wind strength and direction. Severe rotor can occur even in light winds, especially if the direction is close the eastern or western limits. If in doubt, don’t!
Restrictions: Do not land on any of the bowling greens, the caravan site, or Railtrack fenced-off areas.
Hazards: The Warren is among the most committed paraglider take-offs in England. There is rotor behind take off so make sure your glider is well under control when you launch. Wind direction at take-off can be deceptive. Take time to make an accurate assessment of conditions. If the direction of the wind is outside the range of the wind rose do not take off. The cliffs can be treacherous when the wind is blowing outside the specified range, even when the wind speed is low. Do not fly if the wind is off to the south west (225° - coming at you from a point past the end of the harbour wall) and be cautious if the wind is SSW (200°) and veering. Do not fly within 200ft vertically or horizontally of the railway line at the bottom of the cliff. Landing on Jock’s pitch involves awareness of the position of the various power and telephone cables close by.
Be fully aware of cloudbase. Cloud can descend very quickly and fog banks can roll in from the Channel. The nearby radio mast (2 km away due NE) is 436 feet amsl at its base and 1240 feet amsl at its top and is a useful reference for low cloud. Be very cautious when the forecast and observed Relative Humidity is high, and certainly when it’s over 90%, as there is a strong connection between high RH and local fog formation.
- Novice pilots should not fly at high tide.
- It’s a good site to organise retrieves, so as far as possible engage in conversation with fellow pilots before taking off.
- Be courteous and respectful in the take off area. It’s owned by Varne Ridge. Avoid stepping on the bench seats, as they are used by the public and are also memorials to people who have passed away.
- The access to the bottom to recover HG is restricted in summer: ask at meetings for details. Cars may currently be driven to the bottom all year round, access via the turning near the modernised Martello tower off Wear Bay Road. However, please be very courteous to the camp site officials, and do not leave your car near their entrance or where it may obstruct the narrow lane any longer than necessary.
- Bring a charged 2m band radio with you. Mobile phone reception can be poor at the bottom landing area.