We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to make our escape from the delightful Victoria Park in Bath. This was our first time in a hot air balloon, we had no expectation of what was before us, other than perhaps some anxiety of this basket carrying us atop without any help other than the flames from an oversize barbeque bottle.
The loading was an interesting experience, as we attempted to board whilst undergoing some quite gusty conditions. Nevertheless, there was no turning back now, and the sight of our posteriors hanging out the back of a giant picnic hamper provided some frivolity amongst the bystanders and self-appointed experts on how to get in a balloon.
We’re off, and as we drift into the distance I get the urge to recreate a scene from ‘UP’ or perhaps ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ but am swiftly brought back to reality as the pilot refers me to this thin red cord adjacent. “Don’t pull that, it lets the air out!” Enough said.
If you’ve never been aloft before and have some concerns about vertigo, I can assure you there isn’t any. It’s quite a surreal sensation, no wind, no sound apart from the occasional burst from the extra large Bunsen burner, which does wonders for split ends if you stand a little to close.
Once our loved ones have disappeared, never to be seen again, we get down to the serious business – surveying all that we own ( I can dream!) from 1500 feet. We gently purr along, the people busying themselves below. mostly oblivious to our presence. It gives you this strange feeling of detachment. Like the world is going on around you, and you have left it behind, for a moment anyway.
A quick blast of the Bunsen and sheep, deer and rabbits momentarily scatter, until they realise the risk has passed and carried on their scrumping from the abundance of grass that surrounds them.
What amazes me, as you leave the large areas of urbanisation behind, how much of our countryside remains intact and almost untouched, it’s just so much better than browsing ‘Google Earth’ and much more of an experience than landing or taking off on commercial aircraft.
Cars and trains take on this distinct toy-like appearance, whilst the gentle murmurings of cattle seem to travel from afar, unabated by the normal hubbub of everyday life. The whole experience really is quite wonderful. Observing the farms and fields, the woodlands and rivers from above give me a new perspective on farming and agriculture, how much I still have to learn and discover about the countryside I love so much.
We once again pass over an urban area, where a family offers up some sausages from their evening soiree, and two lads pursue us with vigour on their gear-less cycle, perhaps hoping to hitch a ride or see us crash!
Our pilot is seeking a suitable place to land, deflate, stall, crash – or whatever the technical term is for bouncing and dragging our hamper along the ground, as long as he misses the electricity pylons, I’ll live with the alternatives!
Having scooted over the local cricket pitch we crouch down before touch down, which can only be described as unusual, bouncing twice and then gently dragged through some rather long vegetation, scattering grass tops amongst our hamper contents. A pleasant and uneventful landing leaves us with the tiresome yet fulfilling task of packing the balloon and awaiting our more regular form of transport home.
Ballooning is just the most perfect way to experience the English countryside, it’s a surreal and gentle form of transport which gave us the opportunity to appreciate the abundance and beauty that surrounds us. If you haven’t done it – do it!