Launching The Beat Balloon At Norwich Cathedral

The ‘Beat balloon’ was delivered by Cameron Balloons in October 2016 and the first consideration was how Beat’s staff could get to see it. Photographs are all well and good, but until you see a balloon up close (and especially a cloudhopper) you just can’t quite grasp the true size, scale and beauty of it. The problem though is that Beat are based in Norwich, and I’m not. As an area, East Anglia isn’t heavily flown – there aren’t any existing balloon meets organised there – which made this tricky. To allow the staff to the see the balloon, I’d have to arrange an “event” myself and make a special trip.

But this raised the question of how? The simplest option would be to arrange to fly alongside one of the few pilots operating in the area, but this would be tricky for the staff – you can hardly ask an entire office to decamp to a field on the outskirts of Norwich purely to watch me take off! A better option would be to arrange a tether – where the balloon would remain tied to the ground – within the city itself. This would solve the problem of the staff coming to see the balloon, as well as, counter the ‘Harry Houdini’ disappearing act that would happen after take-off as I floated off away into the distance.

Now it was time to solve the issue of where?

Finding a location to tether isn’t that difficult. Put very simply, you just need a large open space, which is free from obstacles and has vehicle access. A sports pitch, for example, and thanks to Google Earth I could hunt around Norwich without leaving my home for the perfect place. It soon became clear that while there were plenty of parks, playing fields and schools within the city which could be investigated, none really grabbed me as being quite right. I’m so proud of this balloon, and this tether was for me to show it off to the staff of Beat, the location had to be special. A plain, bland football pitch just wouldn’t do.

Continuing my hunt on Google Earth I stumbled over Norwich Cathedral. Initially, I didn’t pay it much attention – however much it would meet my criteria for a spectacular venue – but then I noticed there was a large area of grass just south of the main building. It looked perfect in size and contacting the cathedral confirmed they owned it. A very wet winter had left it waterlogged though and sadly, they didn’t want a vehicle driving on it. They did, however, suggest that the tarmac area around the western Erpingham Gate entrance could be used instead without issue. It was perfect and I had found my location.

With “How?” and “Where?” sorted, all that was left was “When?” With 2016 having slipped into 2017 and a long wet winter having stopped any chance of inflating the balloon yet it became likely the tether would be its first outing. It was only a few weeks until Beat’s  Eating Disorders Awareness Week – usually the end of February each year – and it seemed like the obvious, and fitting, week to aim for. Sadly, however, the weather just didn’t cooperate, and it rained all week.

While defeated by the weather, the Cathedral, thankfully, said they were happy for me to pick another week and try again. Their suggestion was that, as the tarmac area is surrounded on three sides by school classrooms, looking at half term – when any disruption to school lessons from the sight of a balloon tethering outside the window would be kept to a minimum – was the sensible option. I completely agreed and said that once again I’d keep an eye on the weather and only go ahead if it was 100% right.

With half-term looming large, the forecast claimed the weather was settling down. Seventy-two hours before the first day of the school break and the exact weather I needed was being promised. The skies would be grey and overcast but there was no threat of rain, and the cloud cover would keep the surface winds light as well. It wouldn’t be picture perfect, but if it stayed as is, it would be too good to miss. So, 48 hours later, the day before our first chance of the week and their prediction was still holding fast, I called the tether on.

It was time to hit the road to Norwich…

Posted on by 5WC in Beat, Hot Air Ballooning First Edition

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