Thursday, 4 July 2019

Balloon Ride over Shropshire

Hot Air Balloons Telford

Last year for the Telford 50, a celebration of the town's 50th birthday my beloved Sweep arranged for us to take a hot air balloon ride after I'd mentioned this being one of my must do's in life.

With nerves in my tummy we set off for an early morning start hopeful that the weather conditions were right for the hot air balloon ride. We arrived at Telford's Town Park to see lots of hot air balloon crews turning up and unfurling their colourful silky balloons, slowly inflating, burners firing and baskets ready. Then our crew turned up and we were invited to help set up, that's part of the experience. Several of you help lay the balloon out and the powerful fan starts to blow air into the balloon envelope. Once it was inflated, the gas started to poof out like a dragon and we were nearly ready.
Inflating a hot air balloon

hot air balloon inflating Virgin Balloon Flight Shropshire Hot air balloon ready for lift off

We all heaved the basket up from its side and then clambered in using the sides of the basket to climb in and swing legs over, then it's a tight squeeze in there with all your balloon ride new chums so wear comfy clothes. One of the other passengers had a dodgy knee so it was a struggle for her. So do consider the physical aspect of a balloon ride. 
balloon basket

The basket is sort of tethered to the crew's truck and then suddenly you are released and then the surrealness starts. Up we went and so were the other balloons, different colours and styles, like baubles on a Christmas tree, hanging in the blue sky. Once you go up, it's not known what direction you will go for it all depends on the breeze really I think. The air becomes still, punctuated by the roar of the flame. Everybody goes completely silent. In fear and in awe.
Hot air balloon flying over Shropshire

Up in a hot air balloonView of Ironbridge from a balloon
You can hear dogs barking as you go over and then spot your shadow on the landscape. The towers you can see in the above image are in Ironbridge. It was fun for me as a newcomer to the county to spot landmarks such as this. I had fun watching a dog running up and down a garden, woofing up at us. I could see people stopping and taking pictures on their phones. Such a great feeling observing from above.
Landscape view from the sky
Horizon view
Then it becomes a little panicky, you realise that you have little control over the situation and you are at the mercy of the elements and the pilot's expertise,  which was amazing on both counts. Our pilot Lindsay Muir was very experienced and competes in hot air balloon competitions around the world, in fact she is probably the best female balloonist in the world. Lucky for us.
Patchwork field view from above

The landscape view from between 5000 and 2000 feet is spectacular, the striations of the fields and the other hot air balloons in the distance. Patchworks of grass and rape oil seed, clusters of trees and toy town villages, our green and pleasant land.
Hot air balloons on the horizon


Ironbridge viewBeing a lover of church exploring I was excited to see a church appearing as we floated gently over the fields of Shropshire, wonderful to see from above, the shape of the churchyard indicative of its age, the pinnacled tower and the Gothic architecture.

Ballooning over a church
Rapeseed fields from above


And then it was time to look for somewhere for the balloon to land which seems to be quite tricky to find a field with no power lines, no livestock, no buildings and enough space, plus it all depends on the direction that the balloon is travelling in due to the air currents. A few nearly but not quites and our pilot found a field, we were told to hold on tight as the basket may topple over and drag across the ground a bit. In the end we landed upright and now found ourselves in a field with a locked gate -this is where the ground crew appear and try to get you out of the field, contacting land owner and offering bottles of whisky : )
Inside the hot air balloon
The final stage of your journey is to help pack the balloon away, so it is all hands on deck and then the ground crew will minibus you back to base to be rewarded with champagne or a fresh orange. All in all a truly wonderful experience and one to tick off the list. Plus it is really romantic. deflating the hot air balloon