Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published August 12th 2010
When you were a kid you might have read books staring Dick and Jane, in almost every edition of which there was an illustration of at least one child flying a diamond shaped kite trailing a tail of bows. On windy afternoons you can still see these sorts of kites out flying across the skies of bare and windswept Black Heath, but you can also see all manner of modern models – kites with more than one line coming off them for greater manoeuvrability, kites that take two hands to fly them, kites shaped like flapping butterflies, kites shaped like soaring eagles, and last time I was there, a kite in the shape of a flying pig.
If you haven't flown a kite since your days with Dick and Jane then things have changed, and some of the kites you'll see flown over Black Heath are more like little para gliders than traditional kites. Lesson 1: These cool contraptions are power kites.
The ones with four lines are called revolution kites.
One really nice thing about kiting is that it's not just fun to do it's also fun to watch, and not everyone who shows up on the heath on a windy afternoon is there to fly kites. You can watch from one of several pubs or picnic spots – though bear in mind it will be windy... And on the flat heath itself there's no tree cover – that's why it's such an ideal spot for kiting! Another nice thing about kiting, especially on Black Heath, is that most people are pretty generous about sharing their skills, so don't be un-nerved by that little kid with the power kite who's getting to do all manner of loops and whoops with a couple of fingers - just watch and learn.
Lesson 2: Some of the guys who've mastered their kites take the next step of joining a kite club where they get their kites dancing with other kites, and it is actually called dancing. If you're lucky you'll see some of this being practised. Best case scenario a dragon kite is being taken out for a fly as well – these need a couple of people to man them and look something like the dancing Chinese dragons you see round Chinese New Year – except 50 feet into the air.
From there the next step up is kite boarding, which is the name for what those people whose upper bodies seem to be kiting and lower bodies look more like they're skateboarding are doing. Usually people kite board on water or sand, but it works on grass too. If the wind conditions are right you can apparently get to round 50mph.
Obviously if you do opt for the interactive experience you need to be respectful of people using the heath for less cool and thrilling pursuits. And until you're an accomplished kite flyer you might want to stay clear of the more experienced guys 'cause if you get your line caught up with them it can be a pretty serious untangling job.
If you like the sound of this but would like to have a crack at it before you invest in a power kite, these guys will be able to help you out with a beginners session or lessons or you could rent a kite. Or you can fashion yourself your own Dick and Jane style kite with help from this website.