The Devon town of Tiverton held its first ballooning event since 1988 over the weekend of 20th – 22nd May. Richard Cardy in his capacity also, of official event photographer sends this report.
On my arrival at Hartnoll farm, venue of the 1st Tiverton Hot Air Balloon Festival on the first day it looked rather like any other field in Devon. That said it did also look like being in the back of beyond. I drew my assumptions and took faith in my rather dated Satnav that; I was in the right place.
That was around 1pm on the Friday and the event was not officially open until 5pm later that afternoon, however, I had promised Charlie and Arthur Street I would get there early enough for them to show me the layout of the site, parking etc, and issue me with the relevant passes too.
Eventually making my acquaintance’s with the aforementioned who were both busy putting the final arrangements in place I decided I would be a good idea to go and track down my guest house and freshen up a bit after the three hour drive from Hampshire to Devon, that was not going to happen however until after the site manager had assisted in successfully jump-starting my car as for some reason my battery was flat.
On checking in at the digs and making a quick brew, I freshened up with a shower, changed and went back to the site to familiarise myself a little more.
Briefing was set for 6pm so with plenty of time yet I had stocked up with some food at the local “Morrison’s” en route. We all gathered round outside the registration tent and listened to Arthur welcome us all (That’s balloonist’s, crews, and I guess other hanger onner’s such as myself) to the event, after which we were introduced to some real people from the Met office who would be giving real forecast’s prior to each slot.
Fortunately we were, albeit a brisk breeze whistling across these Devonshire fields going to see a launch this evening, as long as we wouldn’t mind waiting a little while for the said breeze to (as forecast) dropout. So it was, the first mass launch of Tiverton 2011 saw around 40 balloons lift gracefully into a glorious late spring sky. There was Dave Baker in BT, Alison Hougham in Packhouse, and Pat Pruchnickyj in D-OSFB a Schroeder Fire Balloon. Two large Aerosaurus Passenger carrying were almost the last to get airborne and there was a noticeable drop in the temperature and the evening drew on. After the last balloon had lifted which I seem to remember was G-BZBJ (for the spotters amongst you) it was time to repair to the car and prepare for the Friday glow.
Around 14 or so took part in the glow that evening including G-FWAY, G-ONCB, and G-CERL. After which we were entertained by a young lad of the Blackdown radio controlled flying club skilfully putting a model helicopter through some tricky manoeuvres. Saturday dawned a photogenic splendour, whilst for balloonists a visual nightmare, well sort of, those of you who can, cast your mind back to that fabulous misty Saturday morning at Bristol in 2007 when a number of “flying the box” manoeuvres were achieved, fast forward again to 2011 and add a little thicker mist, then you have Tiverton Sat am. Once more around 40 plus balloons took to the air as the second slot was declared flyable. Once airborne and majorly skyward it was clear a perfectly visible, balloons taking to the air that morning included Jon Francis in G-BWPF, G-POLY “Pollywallets” and G-SBIZ “Snow Business”.
Between the end of the am slot and the afternoon proceedings the site was closed, there was a public interaction session that afternoon where the arena was opened up so that people could ask questions to pilots and crew about ballooning and what it involves.
This was followed later by an inflation race involving four teams. The crew and trailer where at the bottom end of the field whilst the pilot had to drive down in the 4×4 and pick up, race back to top end of field and cold inflate. This was a majorly frantic exercise and won hands down by the Fairways team.
Next up on the agenda the evening flight briefing, this was pretty much a forgone conclusion since the afternoon’s programme of events was to have included some tethering, however as many will clarify the wind speed as the day progressed got stronger and stronger, therefore as you may already guessed any chance of free flying that evening was futile. Sunday mornings slot was also abandoned too.
The glow however was at this point still in with a “moderate” chance but as the evening drew on the cloud got thicker and the wind got stronger, it started to turn to “slight”. It is at this point that due to any uncertainty of the weather conditions I had decided that I would return to my guest house gather some cash and go and find a local eatery and grab a sample of the cuisine that was on offer, as well as give me time to decide as to whether to return to the site for the “slightness” chance of the glow.
Later, and now well refuelled, it transpired that I would have to pass Hartnoll farm on the way back, so with nothing to lose I dropped in to find that glow had been abandoned also and the teams preparing to get their heads down or go to the onsite bar. I at this point knowing a lie in was on the cards in any case joined up with the Firefly team of Jon Francis and Co and repaired to the bar with them for a pint of coke.
Before departing I said my goodnights to Arthur Street who invited me to Sundays brunch and prize giving in the bar area. Sunday dawned and I loaded my car after breakfast and made my way back to the site, where a very strong wind was blowing across the field, with no decision made for Sunday evening’s slot I thought to myself once more it’s another forgone conclusion.
So, with the prize giving over made by Arthur Street himself, Arthur said his thanks to everyone and made the decision to call the remaining events for the day off and although the teams and everyone were disappointed, it was a good decision from a safety point of view.
As a whole the event was also raising funds for two main charities, the Devon Air Ambulance Trust and the Exeter Leukaemia Fund (ELF) any other monies would be shared amongst other clubs and organisations, I am very honoured and pleased to be able to include in this report how Tiverton Balloon Festival 2011 was able to share out the £10,000 pounds put aside for its good causes, as follows:
Total Raised £10,000
Also in the week leading up to the event the organisers ran some interesting pre-event educational workshops, (17th 18th & 19th May) at which children wishing to take part were greeted by a balloon pilot, shown the components of a laid out ready to inflate balloon, which was followed by a description of the principles of balloon flight, which was tailored to the age range present. Weather permitting all the theory was then put into practise.
Workshops took around 1 – 1.5 hours for basic tuition, longer if wished for the more senior school pupils as the description went into more detail with a Q & A afterward.
The week prior to the Festival the organisers attended Willowbank Primary School in Cullompton to provide a workshop in their school grounds. Over 200 children attended this. The pilot for this was Arthur Street.
Alongside a ‘children’s area’ on the website which had games, worksheets and crosswords for children to enjoy, there was a school ‘Design A Hot Air Balloon’ competition open to all schools in the south west. An email inviting pupils to take part was sent to over 350 schools. There were 12 winning entries who all won a family ticket to the festival, the chance to meet a pilot and show them their winning design, and a free pin badge.
It is at this point in my report that I myself would like to thank Arthur and Charlie Street, organisers of the Tiverton Balloon Festival 2011 and directors of Aerosaurus Balloons for their continued assistance in the lead up to the event and having me on board as the “Official Balloon festival Photographer” it was a honour and a pleasure to be involved from day one way back in January. Thanks too to Aerosaurus staff in the lead up also as they were always kind and helpful with any questions I might have had. Anyone I’ve missed take this as a personal thank-you also and I dedicate this report to ALL involved. Here’s to 2012!
Images Copyright of Apex Photography 2011.