My feet are hanging over the edge of a bright purple plane 15,000 feet above the Cambridgeshire countryside. An involuntary scream accompanies our exit from the plane as my instructor and I plummet towards the earth at breakneck speed. I’m clinging on to my harness for dear life, as though that will somehow save me, my mind blank as the parched fields rush towards me. Yes, I’m skydiving in the UK and I must be mad!
I gulp in air and assume the traditional skydiving position as I marvel at how just thirty minutes before, I thought we were going to be thwarted by the weather. I find myself grinning like a banshee, mesmerised by how quickly we are dropping.
I’m suddenly yanked skyward by the graceful opening of our chute and another scream escapes. It’s funny how in the exhilaration of the moment, I’d forgotten about the chute, so it’s more an annoyance than relief. Especially, when Tim asks me to simulate landing by awkwardly raising my knees. I’d much rather admire the landscape. I force myself to focus, knowing that danger lies in the landing. Frankly I don’t want to break any more bones!
Why did we go skydiving in the UK?
How the hell did I end up here? Just a few weeks before, Jason and I were chatting about skydives. My grandma had just passed away, and Jason had experienced a minor health scare. Our mortality was on our mind. Clearly, the obvious thing to do in that situation, is to sign up for a deadly activity in a life affirming quest!!!!
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So it was, that on this hazy summer morning we found ourselves driving down a narrow track lane, dust billowing behind us. Our search for a small airfield lead to a ramshackle series of buildings, reminiscent of wartime. Despite the early hour, a gaggle of chattering people were already milling in line. We joined the queue, with my stomach doing somersaults, although this is not my first time skydiving.
One misty morning twenty years ago, with a pounding hangover and a head full of regret for an impulsive drunken decision, I walked out onto an airfield in New Zealand, clambered into a tiny Cessna and plummeted from the skies. Thankfully I lived to tell the tale, and it’s now time to recreate (minus hangover or backpack!) the experience with Jason.
North London skydiving experience
Our skydive training takes place on mats in a big hangar. We practice the positions we will need to assume when exiting the plane and landing. It’s all much as I remember although this is a much bigger operation than my last skydive school.
Waiting for our skydive
The weather starts kind and the plane chugs up into the sky, dispersing little white dots which slowly transform into colourful chutes twirling playfully.
As the first batch of skydivers descend to the airfield, I get excited, my nerves replaced by adrenaline. Grinning jumpers pose for photos with their instructors and give one another celebratory slaps on the back.
A short while later, grey clouds chase away the sun and a waiting game begins. For three hours, I edit presentations but as lunch time passes, I start to develop serious concerns that Mother Nature is not going to be kind to us.
But then suddenly our names are called over the tannoy and a frenzy of activity ensues. Ushered into the hangar where we’d done our original training, we suit up, grab our sexy helmets (I know, the marriage requests are going to be flooding in) and goggles and step into our harnesses.
It seems only minutes before we wander out to the plane, posing for photos and I try to ignore the painful hammering of my heart. We clamber awkwardly into position and wait nervously as the plane slowly ascends to 15,000 feet. Tim tries to engage me in conversation, but all I can think about is how I might only have a few minutes left to live. That’s a big distraction!
Taking the plunge
All too soon, the door gapes open and the first skydiver disappears over the edge. Tim makes his final adjustments and shuffles me towards the plane’s rim. Arms locked in position, my legs flail wildly as we leave the plane. Air whistles by as we hurtle earthwards at 120mph and I’m intoxicated.
Then the chute disgorges, we float blissfully above serene countryside, and Tim teaches me how to pull on the cords to circle above the landing area. It’s more violent than you might imagine, and I half-expect to lose the cheesy chips we had to hurriedly scoff. It’s not long before I’m lifting my legs to shuffle inelegantly onto the grass. Yay, I survived!
I glance nervously around and breathe a sigh of relief as I spot Jason also safely on the ground.
We skydived with North London Skydive centre https://ukskydiving.com/tandem-skydive/a very professional outfit with well thought out processes, designed to facilitate the maximum number of jumpers in minimum time. They are based in Cambridgeshire just south of a small market town called March.
You need to arrive by 7.30am so if you are travelling from afar, it may be best to book into a local B & B. We stayed at Fourwinds Leisure in March which is a campsite with a few glamping caravans.
Skydiving takes place subject to weather conditions so you will need to be prepared for potential waits and disappointment. The weather can change quickly and as quick as the clouds roll in, they can roll out again. I’d settled in for lunch and coffee when we were summoned unexpectedly. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions on the North London skydiving site.
If you want to skydive for less, do as we did and book a Wednesday flight. It costs just £175, compared to £230 for a weekend jump. The downside is of course, that you might need to take time off work to jump.
Would you jump?
So the big question is, are you crazy enough to jump out of a plane? We didn’t book our jump specifically to raise money for charity, but we are of course using the opportunity to help raise funds to hit our £10,000 fundraising target for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.
We have raised over £6,000 but are desperate to raise more so if you can help us out, please visit our JustGiving Page.
Photos taken by Tim of the North London Skydiving centre.