03 July 2006

The balloon flight!

Motorbikes? Fast cars? Racing? Forget that lot! I want a hot air balloon! Saturday night’s balloon ride was amazing!

Lynda phoned Dave Ling at Balloon Adventure Flights at just before 5:00PM and was told the weather was fine and that the flight was on - great news! We then sat down to watch the second half of the England football game but, to be honest, I don’t think either of us was too bothered who won, we had just been told we were going flying!

We arrived at our take off point, The Hurt Arms public house at Ambergate, at around 7:00PM and were met with the sight of another balloon being readied for flying, great we would have another balloon to watch on our flight! Our Ladybird balloon arrived shortly afterwards and once we’d been checked in by one of the balloon staff we started to help unpack the equipment. Whilst we helped with the balloon that we would fly in a further two more arrived on site. We’d not be short of something to look at that was for sure!

The setting up of the basket, balloon and burners was a lot quicker than I had expected and within about 20 minuets, the Ladybird was almost ready for take off. The basket looked quite big at first glance but by the time everyone was inside, 12 plus the pilot, it wasn’t exactly spacious. Everyone climbed into the basket whilst it still lay on its side and waited for the balloon to pull us upright as the hot air finished inflating it. As soon as this happened, it was just another couple of blasts from the burners and we were off!

The first thing that struck me as we became airborne was the speed that the balloon moved at, not upwards but sideways! We did manage to clear the trees at the side of the field though, just! From then on it was just the most gentle and smooth form of transport that I think I have ever been on. The only thing that broke the peace and tranquillity was the occasional roar from the gas burners.

For me, the wind could not have taken us in a much better direction. At first we followed the River Derwent towards Cromford before gaining height and a slight change in wind direction. This change was enough to take us away from the river valley and over towards Wirksworth, Middleton Top and Longcliffe. This route was almost retracing the walk I did at the end of last year for The British Heart Foundation!

We were also able to pick out many other places that we knew, some quite a long way off in the distance, others almost directly below us. Lynda spotted a pair of Buzzard way way below us at one point; a Swift flying around level with the balloon whilst we were at around 2000ft and we also spotted the power stations at Ratcliffe and Willington. Dave, the pilot, showed us Crich Stand just off to the right of the balloon at one point and also the city of Nottingham way off in the distance behind us.

Carsington Water was visible for much of the flight and, from our position high above the Derbyshire countryside, we could see some of the many stone quarries that are usually hidden from view when at ground level.

Our flight lasted for around 55 minutes, covered something like 11 miles and reached a height of 3000ft. That just left the landing! As we approached the small village of Pikehall, Dave the pilot told us that he was starting to look for somewhere to put down. Now, to me this wasn’t the sort of area that I would choose - small fields, lots of stone walls, some rather hilly ground and the odd small group of trees thrown in!

A little over half a mile later we were on the ground! Our pilot had spotted a field close to a farm, right next to the farm drive and, to my way of thinking, performed an almost perfect landing! Okay, we did finish up with the basket on its side but I’m told that around 80% of balloon flights end that way. Even the falling over of the basket was fun - we were dragged along for a short distance once we touched the ground and then, when we stopped, the basket steadied itself at an angle of about 45° for a second or two before gently tipping over. All that remained then was to help get all the equipment packed away again, and loaded onto the trailer, before celebrating with a glass of Champagne!

Click here for balloon flight photos!

No comments:

Post a Comment