Wendy Windblows Is Closing

But Bradwell is Continuing Free - Click Here!

Rod As of August 2018, I have had, reluctantly, to wind up the company, and close the system down.

She has been losing money for some time, due to a steady reduction in numbers of pilots - many of whom have been with her for 20 years or more, (and like me, perhaps, illness and infirmity have put them past flying age now...)

Lynn and I have been subsidising her out of our own money for the last year or so, hoping that my health would improve so that I could get her all repaired up and fully operational again, but the numbers have reduced to the point where we cannot afford the huge investment needed to get everything back up.

Nor can we afford to keep up the subsidy to keep her running (see below)
Age, Infirmity, and Injuries - Repairs Are Hard Work!

I will be 70 in January, and it is getting pretty hard to tolerate the long drives up and down the country to service Wendy (often doing 500+ miles a day), never mind climbing masts and stuff when I get there, clinging on in gales and whatever to try and repair electronic stuff on freezing hilltops.
repair Four years ago exactly I had a ladder skate away from me on the day job, and dumped me 12 feet or more on my side onto concrete, and I sustained severe injuries, including my right arm broken in 4 places, a broken right hip, dislocated other hip, broken ribs, pelvic damage, and lots of incidental stuff. I had repeated surgery over 2-3 years to repair all this dented bodywork, and maintained hopes that I was gonna get back to my normal self and repair Wendy up to her fully-functioning status.

However it was not to be, and some of the treatment the NHS put me through (thanks, chaps!) has resulted in unstable heartbeat and Cardiomyopathy, (which means heart failure in English). It is with difficulty I can even walk 50 yards now, never mind about climb masts and slog up hillsides. And I am told recently that this is not going to improve - even in my fancy new gym gear.

During this period of my infirmity, the state of the Wendy stations declined, naturally, and many people, understandably, quit what was not, for them, a fully-functioning service.

(And, by the way, Lynn and I truly appreciate how many people stuck with their subscriptions through thick and thin, hoping that I would nurse Wendy back to health as soon as I got there myself. And spoke encouragingly to us on the phone and email. Thank you all. It was your kindness and support that kept me going for the last 4 years).
30 Years Isn't A Bad Innings...

Therefore, after 30 years (she started at Bradwell in 1987 or thereabouts) with a heavy heart, I have had to decide to call it a day. Wendy does not have any money in the kitty, (just about enough to close down the phone lines and pay the outstanding line rentals and website fees) and I cannot continue to subsidise her against the day when everything might come right.

Those of you who are self employed will realise that a period of illness and immobility following a major accident that had me in the Intensive Scare Unit for quite a while did not do wonders for our personal finances either...it has been a long fight back to something like normality. And, I am tired.

30 years is a pretty long sentence - you don't get anything LIKE that for murder these days - I reckon I am due parole by now!

Privatisation - Loss of Sites

Several Wendys, like Blorenge, Combe Hill, Parlick, Mercury, Firle etc were on police radio masts round the country. They used to let us on there for a very nominal payment to cover the electricity used. However, in the last year or more nearly all of these have been privatised, and the new private owners consider that the rental should be something a LOT more than we were paying... which is totally unaffordable from Wendy's standpoint. There are not enough of us, paying enough, to even begin to pay those sort of fees (over £1000 a site p.a was asked at some) so we had to let those go.

Brief History of Wendy Windblows

Bradwell Wendy, believe it or not, started in 1987, (well before T'internet came along!) with the 1st station at Bradwell, in the Peaks. I worked out that I could create a talking telephone weather station that you could ring up, and it would read out the winds etc to you. It would cost about £2000 to build, and I didn't HAVE £2000 spare, (and the club would not pay for it, although it had £10k in the bank at the time).

(Possibly because all the committee lived in the Hope Valley area, and didn't see the need!)

So I blagged cheques for £20 off every club member I could corner and threaten or wheedle on the hill, (it wasn't easy - lots of 'em were Yorkshiremen, who are renowned for being like Scotsmen with all the generosity squeezed out!) and when I had 100 of them, I cashed the cheques and built it.

Wendy Windblows (called that cos you phone her up "when de wind blows") was so successful over the next year or two that I had requests for a lot more of them at other sites.

sarah The voice for Wendy was provided by the lovely Sarah, who ran a recording studio in Sheffield, and patiently recorded loads of words and phrases, such as "The wind is varying between" and "miles per hour" and "average direction is" that the computer could stitch together (along with the spoken numbers) to make up the readout.

This worked brilliantly in the end, although it took weeks of mucking about programming to get it to sound natural! In 1994, we changed Wendy to a regular subscription annually of £20, and set about building a whole network of them around the UK at flying (and later, windsurfing) sites.

Most sites did not have a mobile phone signal back then, so we had to use radio-telemetry to get the data down to the nearest village, and place the computer and phone line there.

The subs went up to£24 a year in 1999, but we instituted the "loyalty" system in that year...,
Wendys Unique Loyalty System

Unlike today, where every firm seems to offer you dirt cheap rates to attract you, then tries to shaft you in Year 2 and later when you are paying by DD, in the hopes that you won't notice the extra cost; at Wendy, we decided to reward loyalty.

We said that, as long as you stayed a member, YOUR SUBS NEVER WENT UP!

Yep, as long as your ongoing subs were paid each year, you paid only what you paid at the start, when you joined.

If we put prices up for new members (as we had to from time to time to pay the bills) THE PRICE RISE DID NOT AFFECT YOU.

If you quit, and came back maybe a year later, you paid whatever the rate was at the time - say £46 a year, rather than the £24 you had been paying.

This gave people a strong incentive to stay - even if you were going off to Oz for a season, it paid you to stay a member of Wendy, rather than cancel and rejoin at maybe double the rate next spring.

It was this idea that, I think resulted in her long life as a service, of over 30 years. Many people have been members that long - and a LOT more than 20 years. Along, of course, with how useful she was to so many pilots....

I have just realised - I was 38 when I built the first one! Bloody Hell, no wonder I feel old!

Nowadays, with t'internet and all, and facebook groups and so on, it is much easier to find out what's going on at sites, etc, so she is pretty well out of date. So the end had to come anyway, I guess.

Can't Anyone Else Take It Over?

wether repairs Wendy requires a very unusual combination of abilities, which I happen to have.

(One reason probably no one else tried to do anything similar with any degree of success. Or possibly my stupid stubbornness and masochism had something to do with it. Lynn suspects the latter).

Firstly, you have to be good at ladderwork - the wind sensors need to be at least 25-30 feet off the ground, and the higher the better. Some were 60 feet up - and one site - Firle, they used to be on top of the big towers on Beddingham Hill - 150 feet high! THAT took a bit of climbing! (In a stiff breeze, the top of those things sways back and forth about TWO FEET! Most disconcerting, I assure you.)

You have to be comfortable climbing ladders at least, and masts sometimes.

(See the picture up the page, near the top, labelled "You Fancy Doing This?" - where I am halfway up the Dyke mast).

At the same time, you have to be competent in electronics and mechanics AND a pretty good programmer of computers too.

I have found that while some people, like the ever-helpful Steve Greenwood (who has been invaluable in the last few years when I have been unfit to climb high) are comfortable at heights, they don't have the electronic or programming knowledge. And the ones who CAN do electronics and programming are scared witless by heights. (Yes, working up ladders or masts is NOT the same thing as flying!)

I have seen more than one putative taker-over of Wendy come out on the hill to "help" me service a station, and freeze into sweating immobility six steps up the ladder, gibbering gently! I had to practically lift them down off it! THAT isn't going to get the repairs done!

Equally, I have had people want, in the distant past, when it was more popular, to buy Wendy off me (but wanted me to carry on doing all the repair and servicing work!). THAT is a non-starter, chaps! The idea of selling it, I explained slowly, was NOT to get rich (I should be so lucky!) but to stop chasing round the country doing the repairs! Even when I still COULD fly, before I was injured, I got very little flying time in!

Those interested in doing Wendy (or something similar) seem to think it was largely a case of buying some cheap weather gadget online, or from Maplin, and sticking it up on a hill somewhere, and forgetting it.  Doesn't work, chaps. They lead a HARD life up on them thar hills, and storms, lightning, winds, ice and snow, all take their toll. As does seagull shit blocking the rain gauge and stopping the solar panels working - oh yes, and lowlife scum stealing the solar panels, or using an air rifle to pepper the wind cups to make 'em spin madly! Or irate locals who think its a spy station for a wind farm, and vandalise it because, surprise, surprise, they don't WANT a wind farm nearby!

All these have happened, more than once. The mainentance load is ENDLESS. And domestic-style wind stations from Maplin etc are only fit for your garden. They last about 2 months on the average flying site before keeling over with their legs in the air. Many ridgetop Wendy sites get wave-doubled winds in excess of 120mph several times a year! Bradwell and Accre and Wether Fell particularly. That wrecks instruments like anemometers. Every time.

So, no, I have never found anyone sucker enough to take over the workload!

Just negotating a good Wendy site is nightmare. You need:

1) Somewhere where the winds are relevant

2) Somewhere where you can get landowner permission

3) Somewhere where you can get 4WD access (for erection and servicing)

4) Somewhere where the public do NOT go (or it will get vandalised in a fortnight)

5) And not at takeoff, in the venturi effect, where it will over-read like crazy, (venturi effect) and not read true direction, due to slope pull-on in light winds..

6) And also not at takeoff, because some idiot will wrap a paraglider round it and wreck the wind cups!

All these have happened.
So - What's Happening Now?

Well, by the end of August all the Wendys and the website, will cease to function, as the lines are discontinued and the website pulled from active service. I intend to keep my local station, Bradwell, going on a free basis, for the time being. (I am going to go out and service her in the next few days, That is around 1st week in September). I have enough spares for that for quite a while, and it's not very far away. You can call her after 12th September on 01298-872-221. No password needed.
What About the Last Subs I Paid? Can I Get Them Back?

I'm sorry, it's very unlikely - we are just about to wind up the company, and after the Taxman has has had his bite and the other bills for phone lines etc have been settled, I doubt there wil be anything to distribute to the ordinary creditors of the company.

The only consolation I can give you is that, for the past couple of years, Lynn and I have subsidised it to the tune of at least fifty times what you have paid, in an attempt to keep it going this far. We won't get that back, either. Never mind the huge amount of our time that has gone into it, unpaid.

Look at it this way, she has saved you FAR more in otherwise-wasted fuel and time than you ever paid to her, hasn't she? ONE wasted trip to the hills can easily cost you a year's membership of Wendy, so she has saved you at least ten times what you've paid.

Bradwell is Continuing Free - Click Here!

Cancel Your Standing Order!
We will not be taking any more credit or debit card subscriptions as of now.

However, many of you pay by Standing Order instead.

(That means that YOUR bank sends the money to us at the right time, automatically).

It is more likely that this is the case if you have been a member for many years - we stopped doing new Standing Orders about 8 years ago - everyone since then has been on Card payment).


We cannot stop these Standing Order payments from happening. It is YOUR account that sends the money, your bank will only listen to YOU to cancel the payment.

We cannot tell them to stop paying - they will not listen to us. We are not the account holder. YOU are.

YOU have to get onto your bank and see if there is a Standing Order set up to either:

Wendy Windblows or Telespeed Weather Systems Ltd.

It will be payable either monthly or annually.

It is IMPORTANT that you check this right away, and if there IS a Standing order, then cancel it, NOW.

If the money comes in to the account here, it then belongs to the administrator dealing with the windup of the company - we cannot refund it to you. It is not ours to do so. Prevent it being paid and keep the money yourself!


Any queries, you can email us at: wendywindblows@tspd.org.uk

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