Girl Guides become ‘Girl Glides’ as Shalbourne Gliding Club encourage women to soar the thermals

Written by Sue Round on .

Shalbourne Gliding Club is hosting a 'Women Go Gliding' Day at their Rivar Hill site near Shalbourne on Sunday 3 September as part of a drive to encourage more women to the sport.


This follows a session on at the end of last month where gliding club members volunteered to give trial gliding lessons to twenty seven Girl Guides from the 1st and 4th Newbury groups and their leaders (main pic above).  Guide leader, Katharine Smith said,  “A truly wonderful day of flying.  Every girl had a brilliant time and I’m sure it is something they will remember for a long time.”


Women are under represented in gliding.  Of around 8000 glider pilots in the UK only 5% of them are women.  At Shalbourne Gliding Club only 4 out of some 60 members are female.


Stephen Ottner, club publicity officer, told  “It’s crazy that less than 10% of our members are women.  Gliding is a sport where women can compete on an equal basis with men yet relatively few women take up the sport.  We want to help change that with a day designed to give women the chance to discover the joys of silent flight.”


Liz Sparrow, an instructor and member of the British Gliding Team who finished in the top five in each of the last three Women’s World Gliding Championships will be leading the day.  Co-founder of Women Glide UK, Liz is part of a countrywide initiative to attract more women to gliding.


According to Liz who became “completely hooked” on the sport after a trial lesson in 1990, “Gliding is simply the best sport in the world.  It uses free energy and gliders travel big distances at high speeds across the gorgeous UK countryside.  It doesn’t require huge physical strength, but thinking skills and intuition, a little like a chess game.  I can’t imagine a better way to spend a day.”


Liz explained that “on a reasonable summer’s day from Shalbourne, gliders can expect to travel around 500 kilometres.   This could take them past the Malverns into Wales, across to East Anglia and back. And it all happens silently with no emissions.  Last year’s Monaco Grand Prix was held the same day as the UK Mountain Soaring Competition in Scotland.  Both competitions took place over 100 kilometres but the gliders travelled faster than the Formula 1 cars!”  


The Shalbourne Women Go Gliding Day will be divided into two half day sessions (10 am and 2pm) which will start with a talk on what is involved in learning to fly a glider and what is possible.  The cost of either the morning or afternoon session is £50.


The British Gliding Association simulator at Ringmer - home of East Sussex Gliding ClubThe British Gliding Association simulator at Ringmer - home of East Sussex Gliding ClubParticipants will then be able to sample a flight in a full sized glider flight simulator before taking to the skies for a trial lesson with an instructor in a two seat glider.  If the trial lesson is not possible due to weather conditions (or other reasons) a voucher will be provided that can be redeemed at a later date.


The number of participants is limited so pre-booking is essential at



And the final word from Liz Sparrow : “Gliding is a genuinely inclusive sport. I would like many more people, especially women to have a go.”  


Click here for statistics on women in gliding.