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Balloon Flights from Shugborough Hall

October 24th, 2008

Shugborough Hall is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield. Today it is managed by the National Trust and offers a fascinating visitor experience for adults and children alike. Much more than a house full of dusty old relics, the estate comprises several different sites including the Hall Farm, the County Museum, the Victorian Kitchens, and of course the Mansion House itself. All of this is set in 900 acres of landscaped gardens and meadows – the perfect backdrop for a balloon flight!

Many of you may remember Lord Lichfield (better known as Patrick Lichfield, the photographer). After his untimely death in 2005, his son, Lord Thomas, has now taken residence in the Mansion. We were fortunate enough to have flown Patrick Lichfield on several occasions over the years, and he even used our balloons in a couple of his photographic projects – most memorably for the Range Rover brochure and also for the British Tourist Authority.

On a trip to New York several years ago, our chief pilot was astonished to find a huge illuminated picture of one of our balloons, flying above Shugborough, in the airport concourse at JFK! It was all part of the advertising campaign orchestrated by the British Tourist Authority.

Shugborough also hosts many special events such as concerts, firework displays (not just on November 5th!), gardeners weekends, craft shows, gamekeepers fayres, Hallowe’en spooktaculars and Christmas by Candlelight evenings – there really is something for everyone.

 
 

Frequently Asked Questions – Buying A Flight Voucher.

October 10th, 2008

For most customers, buying a balloon flight voucher is not an everyday experience! Naturally, you have many questions, and need some answers!

Here is a brief list of the most popular questions and their answers:

1. Do I need to choose a date? – No, most customers buy a voucher without choosing a particular date for the flight. This is usually because the voucher is a gift for somebody else, and is often a surprise (maybe for a Birthday or Christmas), and so it’s not possible to ask the recipient in advance about when they’d like to take their balloon flight!!

2. Is there any age limit? – No, there is no legal age limit, although we do not recommend taking children younger than about 8 years of age. This is because young children may behave in an unpredictable manner, and it would be a shame for everybody, if, for example, the child wanted to land soon after we’d taken off! Also, the side of the basket is about 3’10″ high, preventing small children from seeing over the side. It’s simply not practical to hold young children up, so that they can see over the edge – think about Michael Jackson dangling his baby over the hotel balcony a few years back! At the other end of the age scale, we have no issue with our more mature passengers, and fly hundreds in their seventies, eighties or even nineties. We’re still looking for our first centenarian passenger! Just keep in mind that a small degree of agility may be required, and that the balloon may land in a field that requires passengers walking a short distance across a bumpy terrain – nothing unusual, but just regular rural stuff! Finally, whether young or old, remember that balloon baskets do not have seats, and so passengers need to be able to stand for an hour or so. This is not as strenuous as it may sound, because passengers tend to lean on the side of the basket, and move about in their compartments, shifting their weight and position to be comfortable – imagine leaning on a field gate as a good analogy.

3. Does the price include everything? – Yes, there’s nothing else to pay. Our prices include VAT, insurance, a flight voucher that’s valid for a whole year, return transport from wherever we land back to the launch site, and free access for a many spectators as you wish to bring! Balloon launches are a spectacular and exciting occasion, so bring the family – kids love it!

4. What kind of weather does ballooning need? – We need clear, calm, and dry conditions. More specifically, we cannot fly if the visibility is below 3000 metres, or if the surface wind is stronger than about 8mph. Rain is usually accompanied by fresher winds and poor visibility, and of course thunderstorms are the most violent phenomena of all! To get the best weather for ballooning, we fly either early in the morning, or last thing at the other end of the day – basically within the first and last few hours of daylight each day! Of course, if the weather causes your flight to be postponed, you simply rebook for another date.

 
 

Winter Flying!

October 7th, 2008

As Winter approaches, it’s all too easy to assume that balloon flights become a Summer memory. Well, I’m pleased to say that this is not the case! As we press on into Autumn the colours of the countryside take on their finest hues, and the landscape adopts a more relaxed composure now that the harvests are safely in!

In my view, there is no finer time to fly than on a frosty Winter’s morning. The hard, blue, cloudless sky contrasts with the white fields and hedgerows. The landscape takes on an almost monochromatic colour scheme, and the air is as clear as gin! Visibility is not hampered by the heat haze of Summer, nor is the pollen or dust of harvest set to impede the clarity of the atmosphere – in fact the Winter visibility can often be measured at over 100 miles.

“Surely it must be cold up there” I hear you ask! Well, no, again this is a misconception. The temperature in the air, on a frosty Winter’s day, is usually a few degrees warmer than on the ground! This is because the air near the Earth’s surface is chilled by being in close proximity to the very cold ground. Coupled with the warmth from the burner, this makes for a very pleaseant flying experience. The only time when we might feel the chill again is after landing!

So don’t forget us in the Winter. You might be missing the most spectacular time to fly!

On a personal note, I can honestly say that my best balloon flights have all been in the Winter, in Switzerland, flying in the coldest of conditions, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Whilst we cannot promise the same scenery, the prospect of Winter balloon flights in the UK is still something to relish!