Six things we’ve learned about flying hot air balloons in Devon

Hot air ballooning in Devon

Hot air ballooning in Devon - Credit: Archant

With the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival on the horizon Devon Life took to the skies above mid Devon with Aerosaurus Balloons to learn a few things about the activity.

The M5 motorway, looking west towards Cullompton

The M5 motorway, looking west towards Cullompton - Credit: Archant

There are just a few days before the annual Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival, so what better time to leave the ground behind and find out more about hot air ballooning in Devon. Here’s what we learned:

The pilot Arthur Street has 3,000 hours of balloon experience

The pilot Arthur Street has 3,000 hours of balloon experience - Credit: Archant

They start early: Our flight with Aerosaurus meant setting an early alarm clock to be ready for a 5.30am pre-flight briefing at the Tiverton campus of Petroc college.

A small black helium-filled balloon was released into the sky and closely watched to see which direction the wind would take it when it got higher into the air.

The local cattle seemed curious but not alarmed

The local cattle seemed curious but not alarmed - Credit: Archant

That determined the wind direction and led to a decision to launch near Willand and fly back towards Tiverton.

The red earth of mid Devon

The red earth of mid Devon - Credit: Archant

There’s no steering wheel: the balloon is at the mercy of the winds and the flying skills of the pilot. Luckily Arthur Street, who was at the controls of our balloon, has some 3,000 hours balloon flying experience, as well as over 15,000 on fixed wing aircraft.

Blundell's School in Tiverton

Blundell's School in Tiverton - Credit: Archant

The views are incredible: You could spend hours looking down from the balloon basket watching wildlife, looking at mysterious markings in fields, breathing in the crisp morning air and identifying landmarks like the Grand Western Canal, Blundell’s School or the National Trust’s Knightshayes estate.

The National Trust estate at Knightshayes

The National Trust estate at Knightshayes - Credit: Archant

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Nobody seems to notice you: OK, commuters on the M5 probably clocked three big hot air balloons drifting overhead, but it felt as though you could drift silently above the rooftops of homes in villages and towns and not be observed by the occupants – perhaps they were all asleep or eating breakfast.

The aircraft did attract the attention of some horses and cattle, but none seemed alarmed – merely curious.

Waiting in a hay field for permission from the landowner to deflate the balloon

Waiting in a hay field for permission from the landowner to deflate the balloon - Credit: Archant

You land where you can: in our case a farmer’s field near Tiverton which had been cut for hay, the grass and clover lying in neat rows. Arthur gave us a perfect gentle touchdown near Loxbeare. This was followed by a diplomatic visit to the farmhouse to ask for permission to deflate the balloon there.

Drifting sliently across Tiverton

Drifting sliently across Tiverton - Credit: Archant

It’s hard work: there’s plenty of work to be done both in getting the balloon ready for take off and packing it up again at the end of the flight – but well worth it for the amazing experience.

Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival is on 10, 11 and 12 July and includes mass balloon ascents on each day, fire and light shows, two music stages, food festival, trade stands and falconry displays. Learn more at the Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival website.

Aerosaurus Balloons flies from over 20 locations in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire.

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