Hot air balloon flights have taken off in Doncaster - and despite an unexpected ending to one of the first flights - they are expected to attract many flyers.
Experienced balloon pilot Chris Oxby, from Conisbrough, was at the helm when reporter Darren Burke and photographer Marie Caley joined one of the first flights from Cusworth Hall.
Fellow flyers included Brendan Geeson and his mum Helen from Barnby Dun enjoying a belated Christmas present, Warmsworth couple Connie and Antony Slater who’d always fancied a hot air balloon trip and Terry Tomlinson and brother-in-law Dave Bashford, both celebrating milestone birthdays.
Said Connie: “Its something I’ve always wanted to have a go at. I am hoping to spot a few familiar sights.”
Chris, who has been ballooning for 23 years, turning his hobby into a career and who has flown over everywhere from the Artcic Circle to the Alps, led the pre-flight safety checks then off we went, drifting into the misty skies, peering down on the A1 before inching over Sprotbrough and Warmsworth where on the ground more than a thousand feet below, excited householders waved.
Balloons are totally dependent on the wind speed and direction, and as we hovered over the River Don near Conisbrough, our flight ground to a halt, the wind refusing to shift us.
Chris tried in vain to guide us into an airstream. With gas supplies to the burners running low and our intended landing point, a field just out of reach beyond a copse of trees, the decision was taken to bring the balloon down through the trees.
Gently, Chris used all his skills to perch the basket in the lofty branches and then slowly and steadily, we descended to the ground, twigs and boughs below us cracking and splintering as we arrived once more on terra firma.
It’s not the landing he would have liked and Chris said: “That’s ballooning, unfortunately. You can’t always predict how its going to turn it out and we had to get down somehow.”
But despite the uncoventional arrival, everyone on board is full of exhilaration after the flight, which should have only been an hour, but became two due to the exceptional stillness.
“Brilliant,” said Brendan. “It was really exciting.” While Connie added; “It was certainly an experience but it hasn’t put me off at all. It was wonderful to be able to see Doncaster from a totally different angle.”
* For more details about Virgin Balloon Flights from Cusworth and to book, visit Virgin Balloon Flights