Flight Report: G-CEGG ~ Hopping Over The Harvest

In my report of my last flight, when I flew from The Dog House to Marcham I said that while no two flights are ever the same, it is interesting how flights can be repetitive. Even though the scenery, length or atmosphere may change, the starting and ending points remain the same. And once again, I have repeated the experience – taking off and landing in the same place as I did last September!

Being a mature student, married to the spare time created by my fight against personal battles as I walk the road to recovery, I am in the dare I say it,¬†enviable position of having the free time to grab a Monday morning flight if the weather is right, even though part of me wishes I didn’t. And with the harvest in full swing there seems no better phrase to say than I simply made hay while they sun shined and took to the skies.

With the forecast looking great for a flight from Folly Dog Leg in Hungerford, everything was packed into the car and the alarm clock set for an unreasonable 4.45am. Sadly, ballooning has been in decline over the past few years for a number of reasons, and it is now the normal to fly primarily on your own, making a lone figure as you trek across the sky. So it was with absolute amazement that as we were unlocking the gate to the launch site, another local balloonist arrived to fly as well! Two balloons on a Monday morning, that’s almost a meet!

G-CEGG - Folly Dog Leg - 4th August 2014 - Flight Track

The given wind direction was a traditional south westerly with the expected “right with height” steerage and a pleasant and usable “naff all” on the surface but a gentle jogging 8-10kts up stairs and whatever you say about our weathermen, Monday morning they were spot on. I launched into a stunningly clear blue sky with a big, bright, warming sun beckoning me forwards bathing the countryside in a glorious hue as the world slowly opened its eyes and awoke to a new week.

Honestly, the colours where amazing, the contrast between the orange and reds of the mature crop waiting to be harvested and the evergreen woodlands and pastoral land it is easy to forget just how beautiful the countryside is, and how we often take it for granted. Throughout the year, as the crops grow, you never truly appreciate the actions at work. Because the change is so slow, it’s difficult to see exactly how the fields, the production, form into a machine. It’s only when the harvest arrives and the fields start to be cut that the scale and cycle of production becomes obvious and impressive.

Sadly though, the countryside still bears the scars of the horrendous bout of wet weather we faced once again at the start of the year. And you could clearly see how the water, following the natural shaping and contours of the land pooled and stagnated, destroying anything trapped beneath.

However marked and blemished the countryside may appear, as my flight progressed east, the countryside started to remember its fun side, it’s sense of humour. In the same way that a cloud viewed from the ground resembles shapes and structures, woodland viewed from the sky can seem to take on the same trait, play the same game. Suddenly, the giver of life, the creator of oxygen, looks like a duck, or a crown. It also fascinates me, how while no one can dispute the natural beauty of an organic and forever changing landscape, even the man made parts, the functional parts, can inspire a form of art, all of their own. I have always been drawn, randomly but creatively to the way modern pig units seem to take on an almost tribal “Aztec” design to their layout. A simplistic beauty formed through nothing more than basic structure.

Getting back to my flight though, and having been airborne for around 45 minutes, it was time to start looking for somewhere to land and so, seeing my fellow aerostat ahead of me getting a lot of steerage back to the left – almost onto a straight northerly track – as he descended towards the surface, I knew I would be looking for a landing site north of the M4 motorway even though I was currently south of it, flying parallel.

Seeing what was ahead, it soon became obvious that the Newbury Showground was on line and with the apparent steerage, easily achievable. It was an obvious place to land. And with the decision made, the first job was to cross the M4. The easiest way to do this would be to drop really low and head straight north. But sadly, that’s illegal as you have to be 500ft above the motorway. So it was a case of dropping the balloon as low as legally possible to pick up some left, and instead cross it an angle.

Having got over to the northern side of the motorway it was now time to climb back onto more of a parallel easterly track to ensure I didn’t skirt to the north of the showground and miss my landing spot. With my required track regained and the plan formed, all that was left to do was to cross over the A34 and drop into the Showground itself. Landing in the empty western edge car park rather than the main Showground, with all its “street furniture” of trees, wires and fences, my father in the retrieve car pulled up and we set about packing everything away ending a stunningly memorable flight that not only provided the perfect start to a new week, but showed that once again, no matter how much the outcome of an activity is unplanned or unknown, things always manage to stay somehow the same…

Posted on by 5WC in G-CEGG, Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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