A few days ago, we had a request for an unusual event on the Recreation Ground. A man wanted to use the space to launch a hot air balloon. Could he? Well, we could see no reason why not, and the Football Club raised no objections to this use of the field.
It was an event entirely dependent on weather. In this case, whether the wind was blowing in the right direction at the time of the proposed launch. Because of this uncertainty, advertising it could easily have left hopeful witnesses disappointed instead of excited, so we said nothing.
Come the day, Thursday, Faith, our trusty booking manager, got word an hour or so before the team arrived. I’d been primed and went down there on spec, camera at the ready.
We saw the vehicle on the main road and were waiting at the gate to guide them in.
‘What a great site for a launch!’ was Thomas Lee’s initial reaction when he stepped out of his car and looked around.
There followed 30 minutes of intense technical activity as the basket was prepared, an older balloon unfolded by Allen Lutz and laid out on the turf. Trainee pilot, Rob Grzesiczek, operated the diesel driven fan to start inflation, and then with help from pilot Thomas, used hot air from the gas cylinders to complete the job.
That first inflation was only for show, so photographs could be taken to help sell the old balloon. It was quickly deflated and packed back in its bag.
Next came the new balloon; smart blue nylon spread out over grass and slowly brought to fullness with the fan followed by hot fierce air. Gracefully, the fabric rounded out and floated up to vertical, and everything was ready.
To cheers from the small crowd of onlookers, attracted by the spectacle, buoyancy was briefly tested. And, released from its tether, the floating giant graced grey skies as it ascended over Lydbrook trees and made its way toward the River Severn and its destination, Cam, across the water. An interesting event.
We made no charge for this first launch, unaware whether the Recreation Ground would suit the purpose, and happy to use this attempt as a test. Now we know it can be done, we’re open to similar events in future.
So, if you’d like to launch your hot air balloon, or undertake any other activity that won’t damage our playing surface, please contact our booking manager, Faith Myers. You’ll find her details under the ‘Bookings’ tab. Or you can email us using the small form under the ‘Contact’ tab, but I must warn you I check that only once a week.
Cost? Well, we’re a committee, democratic and cooperative, so we’ll discuss that at our next monthly meeting, 6th November, and agree a fair price to pass on to prospective users.
By the way, Thomas thinks an item of equipment was inadvertently left behind: a length of rope, about 5 feet in length, with a metal karabiner attached at one end. If anyone has come across this, please let us know – probably easiest to contact Stuart Allison direct by email at stuartkallison(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you.