It was a rare occasion. There were more balloons in the sky than on the roads. The air was calm, and I cycled slowly round the parish under the full glare of the sun, the sky bereft of cloud. To the west the moon remained high, waxing as I waned.
Even the hedgerows were quiet; the fields too, sheep seeming to slumber as starlings pecked away on the fleece. Horses too were unusually still, only one, a large chestnut mare ambling over to investigate the mean machine down by the fence. But The Grasshopper passed slowly on, heading by then into the sun, uphill still.
Aloft I watched not the usual display of buzzards escaping pestering rooks, and I listened not to squeals as they circled ever higher before plummeting down in a frenzy of feathers and outstretched talons. Not this time, for the skies were alive with something else.
And the air was still, so the rush of the burner drifted across the hillsides. And higher still rose the modern day Passepartouts, as the gas whooshed, the air heated and envelopes lifted baskets ever higher. Now it wasn’t quite up, up and away, for they didn’t travel far from the park, but it was a sight to behold.
The Balloon Festival has been a feature locally for nigh on 15 years now. But it is a rare occasion when the wind leaves the skies to the pilots, or the rain stays away. This year we had both; perfect conditions indeed. And did they revel in it.
From the kitchen window balloons drifted into view, sunrise and sunset, not once but thrice. At best we managed only three in view from The Towers, but out on the trails it was a different story and from the hills approaching town there were up to nine in view, in the air together.
Full details of the event can be found here, with pictures of the balloons, and aerial shots of our little market town. The Festival is just another initiative in the efforts to keep trade in the local community, another reason not to head to the retail parks elsewhere. Long may it continue.
And, believe it or not, it’s another reminder of that gap weekend down Morocco way that I mentioned the other day – any excuse is a good one for that. But I remember clearly having a blether on the roof of the riad with a glass of mint tea as the call to prayer rose all around, about our local balloon activities. And the sight of the Cameron Balloons colours in the sky again, took me straight back to Tessa and mint tea and brilliant times. For it was in Marrakech that we met. She had worked for Cameron Balloons and knew our weekend well.
It’s amazing what comes to mind when out for a cycle. And in two or three hours on the roads I was accompanied by more balloons than cars. If only it were ever thus.
Preparing for the final push home I rested with banana – one of my five-a-month – and water, an excuse to stop on yet another climb, engaged by a couple of bright young things from our wee school. They had been sent out early, armed with binoculars, as mother rested after a night on the fruit. But the cocktails wore off later and I’m indebted to The Milkmaid who was out later with her camera, and was happy to pass on the shots above.