Streatley Nightglow 2015

Streatley Nightglow 2015 - Header

For over 20 years on the second Monday in August, or the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday depending on the weather, hot air balloons have gathered on Streatley Recreation Ground and put on a tethered display. Initially this was started purely as a thank you to the local residents for allowing balloons to fly from the site, but slowly, it has grown into a well known local event, drawing visitors from across the region and with the aid of some local beer and barbecued meat, raised much needed funds to help purchase, maintain and develop the Recreation Ground into a much enjoyed and used facility.

This year’s glow was all about the forecast. Originally slated for the Monday, the “Met Men” were saying it’d be too windy, that the trees would thrash around and the conditions just too unsafe for tethering. And they were right, however, give it a few hours and you’d get the polar opposite. Push it back one day and it’d be slightly overcast but light winds. In fact, it’d be virtually stationary. So, without a moment’s thought the glow moved. Tuesday arrived just as predicted with a still greyness that justified the decision and preparations were made.

I had initially planned to tether both the Choc Dips balloons. The shape hasn’t be inflated since Bristol 2012 and the hopper has sat in its bag since my flight from Folly Dog Leg last June. It would also be the first time I’d inflated them together since reuniting them and cheekily, with such calm winds conditions it would be perfect to “stack” them, sitting the cloudhopper on top of the shape, as it were.

Everything was set to go, tanks were refuelled and thumbs started to twiddle as clocks were watched round. With one final job – putting up parking notices around the Recreation Ground – to go something odd happened, it started to rain. Suddenly every plan went out the window. There was no way I was getting the shape wet and anyway, where was the rain coming from? There had been talk of some in Sussex and Kent heading East away from the UK during the morning, but I’m in Berkshire in the afternoon? A quick look at the rain radar revealed all, the band of rain had arrived much farther West, and a lot, lot later than expected and was pushing through Oxfordshire/Berkshire as it headed East.

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It would dry up, the band of rain would move out the area but with little wind to hurry it along, while not heavy, it was persistent and as the event started at 6pm things were looking depressingly miserable. By 7pm, having looked at the sky, bemoaned the wetness, let boredom set in and with the locals getting equally¬†restless about the lack of action I decided why not? I’ve tethered in the rain before, and having brought an old balloon I could “sacrifice” to the weather I set about inflating.

In true ballooning fashion, the lemming effect took hold and soon, with the drizzle still failling, I was joined by one, then two, then three balloons. As the evening wore on and the rain eventually found enough motion to blow past a total of 8 balloons inflated and glowed until dusk putting on a stunning spectacle and proving that as a drink once proclaimed “good things come to those who wait”.

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With the rain stopped, and having brought the Choc Dips hopper in the hope it would, I jumped at the chance to get it out. With the wind completely still I decided that it really was just too good an opportunity to pass up so, while not the Special Shape as planned, stacking the hopper on top of Lambert Smith Hampton would be just as fun and so, I attached a long tether and took to the skies. Stacking balloons works by using the crown line of the lower balloon (a rope tied to the top of the balloon that assists with inflation) and pulling yourself above/over the balloon as you slowly climb up next to it. Visually from below it looks like you’re “sitting” on top of it, were as in reality, you stay above 6-10 feet from it. Hard work on your arms to pull/hold yourself in place but good fun nonetheless. There is even a world record for free flying 5 “stacked” balloons together!

With the BBQ out of food, darkness descended and feeling very tired it was time to call it a night for another year and as the balloons deflated and the fun of packing away in the dark started it was I was happy. The evening had been a success, although I’m still waiting to hear the exact amount of money raised it must have been a few hundred pounds at least, and for reasons I won’t explain, for me personally it was a night to squash a lot of demons from my past.

Here’s to next year…

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Posted on by 5WC in Choc Dips, Hot Air Ballooning, Lambert Smith Hampton First Edition

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