Hot Air Ballooning and a whole festival built around it was the order of the day at Strathaven on Fri/Sat/Sun 28th-30th August and RockSport was in attendance ” early doors ” Sunday to take in the maiden launch of the day just after 7am as the first of 20 balloons took to the skies over the west of Scotland after less than perfect weather had made the first two days of the Strathaven Balloon Festival almost a no-fly zone.
Our Alex Horsburgh tumbled out of bed on his day off to view the sport first hand but he wasn’t getting away with just being a spectator as Festival organiser Gordon McAllan’s first question to him on arrival was ” are you flying ? ” Thinking he was going to side step a brown trouser moment Eck answered ” Oh..I don’t think I’d be able to afford that ! ” but the repost from Gordon was as quick as the Red Arrows ” Oh no..it’s free and there’s a balloon leaving in 25 minutes ! ”
After the colour drained from his face oor Eck said ” Aye..Ok then..I’m in !! ” and within moments he was helping spread the balloon out over the grass with help from photographer Jacqueline for take off with pilots Claire, a feisty Yorkshire lass, and laid back Trevor giving RockSport’s Mr Drivetime his instructions as pre-flight checks commenced ahead of the big lift off. [ see our picture of the balloon taking shape before it was fired up and made vertical for take off ].
Photograph: Jac Arnold
No going back now… Into the basket and off we go… and by this time the usually chatty Alex has gone VERY quiet. ” We’ll be climbing to about 300 feet ” enthused Claire as the cows in the nearby field suddenly got smaller and smaller. ” It’s fine..once we get up there it is just like a balcony in the sky ” Claire assured the rest of her crew and Alex in particular. ” The basket was more steady than I ever thought it would be ” commented Alex later.
He was one of four people in the basket but while one female passenger [ Claire ] piloted the balloon with supreme confidence and the other [ Jacqueline ] bravely took photographs, leaning out over the basket at one point , Eck stood very still feeling the fear and doing it anyway. ” You’re doing well ” said Trevor ” [ Gulp ] I know !! ” replied Alex.
After around 15 minutes in the air Alex was finally starting to enjoy the flight and even liked the moment the balloon went slightly higher to avoid power lines before coming down with a slight bump in a farmer’s field around four miles away after around 40 minutes flight time over the lovely Strathaven countryside.
Time to fold up the balloon to be packaged away in a trailer that was attached to a recovery van sent out by the festival to bring our four adventure seekers back to base. ” What a rush !! ” enthused Alex after getting his feet back on the ground. It was a bucket list moment for the man who used to get vertigo going up a ladder !
We’d like to thank Strathaven Balloon Festival, pilots Claire and Trevor and intrepid photographer Jac for bringing RockSport a new addition to our sporting roster and rest assured we will be back next year to support this fantastic event in Central Scotland.