Ballooning for mistletoe

Saturday 20th October – the day of the Tenbury Wells AppleFest, and I’m planning to drive up and help out as needed.  But a call last night changes all this.  Richard Parry, our ballooning friend, needs a retrieve crew in the morning – and I volunteer, ’cos it’s fun.

He’s taking up 3 guests in Eagle Balloon, starting at Brimscombe Port near Stroud  My job is to chase after them in the van and bring them back.  Should all be over in a couple of hours, giving time to nip up to Tenbury afterwards – in theory…

But I’m forgetting how late an October launch is – 9.00am instead of the 7.00am launches we did in the summer, and so I get behind the Tenbury schedule very early.  Take off is flawless, though windspeed is low, and they seem to hang, just above the roofs of the Golden Valley for ages before drifting off to the north-west.  Radio comms are working well, and I follow them to Wallbridge, where Richard suggests he’ll probably touch-down up at Haresfield Beacon.  The A46 is closed (for 6 months!) due to geological failures, so I try the Whiteshill road – but my watchful eye in the sky tells me that’s blocked due to an accident, and sure enough I soon find everyone turning round.  So, back down to the bottom to try the lanes through Ruscombe – which are closed for roadworks…

This means a longer detour via Stonehouse, and into the Severn Vale around Haresfield village – which is in the middle of mistletoe-filled orchards!  (You knew mistletoe would feature eventually didn’t you).  Richard and crew have by now come over the beacon and are descending into the vale – and I spot them in a distant field at exactly the same time as Richard radios (as usual) that the ‘Eagle has landed’ (yes, I know what you’re thinking, but wouldn’t you say the same in the same circumstances?).

And the best bit is…  the field is a small, somewhat neglected, orchard with apple trees festooned with mistletoe…  Cue for interesting discussions with balloonists and landowners (emerging, still in dressing gowns, from adjoining house) about mistletoe harvesting techniques etc.  I’m in my element…  I’ll look out an aerial pic and add it later…

Everything then packed into back of van – balloon, basket, people etc, plus a few mistletoe sprigs, and it’s back to Brimscombe and thence to Richard’s house for breakfast.  By now it’s 13.00 – and rather late to nip up to Tenbury… 

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