metropolitan life; THE shortlist; TEN UNUSUAL PLACES TO BUY AND FLY A KITE

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IN LONDON ...

The Kite Store, 48 Neal Street, London WC2H 9PA (0171-836 1666). Recommended: Worlds Apart Sky Rocket at pounds 49.95. Co-owner Andy King will guide you through the stock, which ranges from build-your-own kits to huge flexifoil kites, with a sideline in boomerangs and frisbees. Try Richmond Park, Surrey, but avoid the trees (and deer).

Go Fly a Kite, 5 Royal Exchange, London EC3V 3LL (0171-283 2555). Take the 20-minute journey south from London Bridge BR station to Blackheath (SE3), where wide open spaces provide ideal flying conditions.

High as a Kite, 153 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0UH (0171- 275 8799). Head for Hackney Marshes (E9), training ground for the Airkraft team, set to do well in the World Cup Sport Kite Championship in Australia later this year. Keep an eye out for kite-buggy enthusiasts harnessing the wind power at speeds of up to 50mph.

Kite Corner, 657 Watford Way, Mill Hill, NW7 3JR (0181-959 0619). If you're willing to brave the crowds, you're guaranteed some high winds at Parliament Hill (NW3) on Hampstead Heath, but more complicated kites may suffer from too much turbulence - better for single-line models.

Hamley's, 188-196 Regent Street, London W1R (0171-734 3161). London's best-known toy shop stocks a brightly coloured range of box and diamond- shaped kites. For central London kite-flying, you can avoid the air turbulence caused by tall buildings by flying in the open area of Regent's Park (NW1).

Wind Things, 11 Cowgatehead, Edinburgh EH1 1JY (tel and fax 0131-220 6336). Recommended: Powerhouse Dynamo stunt kite, pounds 34.95. An idyllic setting for kite flying is Holyrood Park, with outstanding views of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags to the south-east of the city.

Bristol Kitestore, 1b Pitville Place, 39 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6JY (0117-974 5010). Recommended: Spirit of Air Pro Rapier, pounds 34.99. One of the highest points in Bristol is Durdham Downs, off Whiteladies Road. Its windiness makes it popular for kite-flying.

The Leading Edge Kite Company, The Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BR (0113-245 3223). Recommended: Fizzwing carbon-fibre stunt kite, pounds 39.95. Shop staff are on hand to help in Roundhay Park, Leeds, every Wednesday evening and Sunday, with advice, demonstrations, and a chance to test fly more complicated models before buying.

Ocean Kites, Unit 13, Bargate Shopping Centre, Southampton, Hampshire SO1 1JF (0170-333 4222) and Unit 4, Kingswell Path, The Cascades, Portsmouth (0170 582 1666). Recommended: glass-fibre Wild Thang, at pounds 14. Southsea Common, Portsmouth, is the place where flyers rub shoulders with kite- buggy riders, but Southampton is barren for kiters, so head for Hengistbury Head, at the west end of Christchurch Bay, where the winds sweep across the headland.

Way On High, 3 Capuchin Yard, Church Street, Hereford HR1 2LR (0143- 226 4206). Recommended basic stunt kite is the Rapier, at around pounds 29. Owner Steve Gibson produces the book Kite Sites (pounds 1.50) which lists nationwide kite-flying locations. In Hereford, kites are welcome at the Hereford Leisure Centre, Holmer Road (off the A49), or drive out to a more spectacular setting at Hay Bluff, outside Hay-on-Wye.

8 For more information phone the Kite Society: 01206 271489

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