Jumping (and walking) in Devon

The day started well with a drive down with my jump buddy. We had planned to come last night but glad we came today as it had rained heavily in the night and I’m not sure how much sleep we’d have had in the bunk house.

Dunkeswell is a super-chilled drop zone with lots of people camping in tents or vans. 

Skydiving is a small world. I saw a few folk I knew,  caught up with them. We all had to do a regular plane jump before the heli jump. I’m still on kit hire as my rig is waiting for me to ‘grow into it’ for a few more jumps. 

I grabbed my kit and got manifested. Once on the flight line, where everyone goes when they’re next in the plane and having their gear checked, I met a few people and we planned to do a 6-way (six people jumping together as a group).

The beech plane is quick as anything- much quicker than the caravan I’m used to. Ten minutes after boarding the plane, we were at 15,000 feet and the door opened. Two people went before our group then we were in the door. I was doing a linked exit with Alex, which meant we went out holding onto each other, and everyone basically piled out with us!

It was awesome fun, we managed to get a three way and then break off to pull our canopies. As I pulled my pilot chute, my helmet lifted right over my head and span to the ground. I tried to make a mental note of where it landed, convinced it was in a field of sheep!

When I landed I was expecting to get a telling off but was 100 percent sure it had been done up. 

The helmet cost me £300, and the audible alarm inside which beeps at different altitudes so you know when to pull cost £200. So now I had £500 lying somewhere in a Devon field. 

Everyone said it was pointless looking for it, that it was gone. But I asked an instructor where he’d look if he were me and he showed me four or five fields he’d try, which were along the line of the plane’s flight path.

I set off, with a bit of optimism – my helmet is neon pink and pretty hard to miss! Three fields and several gate and barbed wire climbs later, I was going along the edge of a field of cows. 

I thought cows would be more afraid of me than I was of them. They eyed me for a bit, but stood still. I was about half way across the field when three of them started to walk towards me. They looked pretty malevolent (as opposed to simply curious). I looked at the gate at the end of the field. Would I make it if I ran? I reckoned cows could shift if they wanted to but I wasn’t sure…..

I walked carefully but as quickly as I could, while trying not to look scared…

I got to a point where I thought I was close enough to the gate to out sprint the cows (how fast can cows run?!). The cows suddenly lost interest but I wasted no time getting the other side of the gate. 

Still no helmet. I was starting to get my head around the fact I wasn’t going to see this thing again. This thing which matched my jump colours and saved me from concussion at best when I had my accident.

By this time I was boiling hot, but has soaking wet feet and was about 3 miles from the drop zone. 

I saw some roofers at a farm building and asked them if they’d seen my pink helmet. They responded in a totally unsurprising way – burst out laughing and pointing to each other shouting ‘my mate’s a helmet!!’

Two more fields to go and I was rapidly losing hope. It had come off at about 4,000ft so even if I did find it, would it be in pieces?

I’d now skirted the whole area in ever increasing circles. Then, there it was, right in the middle of a field. I ran over to it, laughing at my good luck like I was meeting an old friend. I picked her up, she was still in one piece. Even more unbelievably, the audible was still tucked into the inside! 

I’ve now named her, as she and I will surely go on to have more adventures. And she is a bit broken, like me. Phoebe, welcome back. 

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