Balloon Repair Station

Grass Roots – The Formula for Success

Since the Grassroots Meet ended there has been an enormous flurry of goodwishes to Ultramagic and the Sackville Crew on Facebook, Twitter and the BBAc Forum. Steve ‘cloudhopper’ Roake kindly sent us his take on the event. Steve writes;

There are some things in life that just have success written all over them. From the moment Rob Cross had the vision of the Grass Roots Meet, to the first ever one, via Harvest Moon event at Savernake, and some four later versions, some balloon events just have the formula.

Sackville Lodge and Grass Roots are entwined. Whether it is Tim Wilkinson patrolling the launch field on his Quad bike, or the ladies of the Clubhouse cooking for the masses, certain elements need to be there in place to fuse the whole thing together. Whatever “it” is, this event has it in droves. From a great location with sympathetic local farmers, to a relaxed communal camping field and easy flying, the essence of the entity is just right, even the knight in shining armour (the sponsor), Ultramagic UK took a relaxed approach to the event and chilled with the masses, happy to be there, supporting the back to basics routine without shouting about their input.

The Simple facts are that following the failure to get a grant from the BBAC, Ultramagic UK stepped in and saved the day! What better way for Richard Penney to introduce himself as the new dealer to the marketplace than by supporting the biggest non commercial event in Europe. Support from the factory came in Paul Dickinson, who personally introduced an award celebrating 30 years of Free Spirit ballooning, and in rude health also present was Tim Revel, good to see Tim and Hilary out and about after Tim’s recent sight issues.
Mark my words, there are some serious Hero’s involved in Grass Roots. Captain Fromage himself (the big cheese), Mark Stelling (who knows every balloon in every barn across the country ), was there giving the met and even diverting across to Staffordshire enroute to pick up an envelope(G-CCRG) for the spotters to enjoy. Peter (I’m available whilst I’m awake) Gray managed the paperwork with aplomb and his usual level of attentiveness, nothing being too much trouble for the man to whom the car is a home.

Do you ever get the sense that things are going to be “just so” ever? Watching a Tiger Moth float over the fence into the airfield instilled that quintessential Englishness about the place, and as an event that welcomes all and sundry , it was fitting that the old girl was there doing her thing.

As you wandered around the Camp Site, from the Norfolk contingent in the top corner, via Team Bailey, through Chadwick City (definitely the prize for the biggest tent), right across to Collett corner, all were welcoming and all were having a good time. In my section of the flora and fauna, were some serious Hampshire types with, Shaun Nother arriving sans crew. Team Dreamweaver were assembled from a good mate Lestyn from Cardiff, and Anita and Mark Frayling from Andover. We were temporarily joined by first timers from Bedford and Milton Keynes and by Steffan who had just put out an enquiry on the BBAC website and had been instructed to come along and get stuck in at the deep end- all are welcome!.

Having just returned from a very successful St Niklaas event the week before , it was a pleasure to hand over the trusty LBL 90 to a low houred P1 in Mark and to Anita ( a P.U.T who is getting there nicely), and just relax and enjoy the flights from a secondary perspective . Sometimes you forget what a pleasure it is just to be in the air and to achieve 7 flights in two weeks in what has been a dodgy year is just crazy.
Each flight had elements of fun attached to them , the most poignant being Anita “going for it”, across Grafham Water reservoir and sharing her first water crossing and “fast” 9.4 knot landing. Seeing 71 balloons in a line up is pretty special too, with pilots exercising restraint and giving enough space to achieve safe sensible departures.

Arriving back from a morning flight and witnessing people getting their first taste of hopping courtesy of “the Dunkley’s”, and knowing that the seed had been sown is also a special feeling . Looking across at G-BSIG from the refuelling area , was a sight to behold and it was also fantastic to see a very short sheared Chris enjoying himself in his own right and not having to give his services as he always does to a check flight or an examination.

Refuelling was fantastic , with three tanks catering for everyone and Team Wilkinson on hand to ensure a smooth flow with minimum fuss, and once again thanks to the NFU, a fantastic marquee housed the briefings and the oh so important Bar facilities. I wish I’d have been there first hand to witness Ian Warrington’s rendition of a four engine plane having an engine fire but thanks to the power of U tube and life’s endless supply of videos I laughed my socks off when he got dosed!

Steve (Mr Music) Miles was on hand to supply the essential tunes and supply the events PA system and once again it boiled down to the fact that when you chuck in a Hog roast , some beautiful flying , decent showers and easy camping , most people are in their “utopia”.

I say this every year, if you haven’t done Sackville, then you haven’t lived!
Me , I tethered three , brought three, flew in one and had all out at some point in the weekend Okay so five percent of the action was kind of down to my input but for those who choose to go next year, let’s find those rare envelopes that haven’t seen the light of day in years and let’s give them an airing, and lets welcome some European friends to Britain’s Friendliest meet, because it’s worth the effort to come and be part of the BBAC’s biggest member participated event of the year.

Thanks to Ultramagic UK for not only supporting the event for next year, but in subtle ways such as the signage ensuring everyone had and continues to have a great time

Steve Roake September 2012
Pictures courtesy Tim Wilkinson, Jaimie Edward