Thursday, 28 July 2011

up, up and away!

It's not often that we get up at the crack of dawn, but we did yesterday for a very good reason:  Steve's first ride in a hot air balloon!

After helping the crew inflate the envelope, we climbed into the basket ready for lift off from Oxpens field, close to the city centre, our friend Ruth waving us bye-bye as we floated upwards and flew slowly south.

The sun was rising through the clouds over east Oxford, illuminating the historic buildings in the heart of the city. We could even see our own house, not too far away to the west!

We drifted slowly south, watching the sunlight glinting on the Thames, passing Boars Hill and onwards towards Abingdon.  The views were stupendous - villages, farmland with wonderful field patterns and the A34 snaking alongside our route.  

We could see people - early-risers walking their dogs and going to work; farm animals and wild animals, including the rabbits in the fields below. A red kite took off beneath us as the sounds drifted gently upwards.  The cooling towers of Didcot power station pierced the misty distance.

All too soon, it was time for the pilot to look for somewhere to land.  He chose a field on the edge of a village called Steventon and headed for a field with a large marquee where the Truck Festival had taken place the weekend before.  

Then drama!  Too late to abort the descent, the pilot realized that our landing field was strewn with metal barriers left over from the festival. The basket with passengers landed safely, albeit tipping over to one side - thankfully giving us a view of the sky, rather than the ground - but the balloon envelope started to deflate over the fences, threatening to tear it to shreds.

Once we had stopped moving, everyone got out of the basket as quickly as possible and headed to the metal fences - one person per post - to try to stop the fabric of the balloon from tearing.  And it worked, except for one rip which happened as we landed.

Envelope safely stowed, out came the champagne ready for a toast to all who sailed in her and saved the day!  Then into the minibus which had arrived while all the excitement had been going on and back into Oxford and home for another cup of coffee before resuming a normal day.  

Isn't life exciting?

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