Named after the bird of prey, kites have been flying for almost 2,500 years, if the legends are to be believed, writes Matthew Brace.

One holds that they were invented by the Greek scientist Archytas of Tarentum some time during the fifth century BC.

More recently, Far Eastern nations adopted kites as a religious symbol to keep evil spirits from homes, and kite-flying as a competitive sport.

Kites have been used extensively for weather experimentation, carrying aloft instruments to record valuable data before the use of balloons and aeroplanes.

Before the 20th century, larger versions were used to lift soldiers into the air in experiments designed to increase the powers of surveillance over opposing armies - a sort of primitive military parascending.

The typical kites we see today flying above parks and gardens in London are the malay (or modified diamond), the three-sticker (or hexagonal) and the box-tie kite.

Optimum wind speed is 6mph to 15mph and the best flying conditions are in open spaces where the wind blows steadily and close to the ground.

Under Civil Aviation Authority rulings, kites have to be flown below 60 metres to avoid passing aircraft unless prior arrangements have been made, for instance when kite-flying competitions or conventions are being staged.

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