One of the country’s most secret balloon meets went ahead over the first weekend of March. Tricky to give it a date as it does vary which is why it may be called ‘The Leap/Not The Leap Meet’ where a band of confused folk trot off to a venue in the Hay-on-Wye, Welsh Wales area to celebrate the Leap Year or that it isn’t a Leap Year each year. This little known prestigious ‘do’ is organised, if that is the correct term and it probably isn’t, by none other than the Dark Lord of Extra Days Peter Dowlen. Started a few years ago by accident, this year was the sixth such undertaking and centred on Llanpwllsomething. The gathering bases itself at a hotel and includes such things as competitions with little or no rules with nip all in the way of prizes and a high altitude barbeque which is why it has become an international meet. Clearly then ballooning takes a very low profile however, since its inception, five of the six meets have seen a fine enthusiastic gaggle of balloonists wobble into the skies. On the one year they didn’t fly a passing American Balloonist who happened to be in the area seeking lost members of his family tree joined in and tethered his balloon.
This year was double bubble and threw the meet into chaos as Saturday morning dawned socked in but still. Now bear in mind if it was a Leap Year this would have been the 29th so that was a good omen. After much parking up and waiting around in zero viz the ensemble adjourned to the hotel and had a fine breakfast during which the pea soup turned into a more favorable clear leak jobbie so off they all went again to the Common at Llanadog which had sufficient ‘l’s to qualify as a Welsh place. You may have spotted now that 2014 is not a Leap Year as you can’t divide four into it so Saturday wasn’t really the 29th but in fact the 1st March which just happens to be St David’s Day who happens to be the patron saint of Wales of course and played in the front row when they beat France, any road down an allotment planted with leaks the murk did clear and fully fuelled up five Saint Daviders sauntered into the bright sunshine landing in Llandovery the same day all close together. Despite the recent deluges, floods and wind both the launch field and landing field were amazingly dry and they drove on the ground without any problem whatsoever followed by coffee with the Landowner friend in a welcoming warm farmhouse kitchen, all 10 of them!
Chief Beirdd Peter Dowlen who accepts no responsibility for the organizing or running of the event, reported, somewhat surprisingly poetically but he was in Wales, that, ‘Prior to the flight the fog, which was pea soup first thing, meant we had a leisurely breakfast and then down to the launch field which local balloonist, Arwel Davies, uses. We waited whilst the fog got thinner then thicker then thinner then thicker then thicker then thinner and slowly the Sun came out. Once it was almost too bright we got cracking and lifted off as the fog went into a very thin layer and we went up and it disappeared revealing the Welsh landscape in true splendour. We could see for miles and the Brecon Beacons had a good topping of snow. We flew Bennett, G-OJBS, and were up for 40 minutes and went 5 miles’.
Following the flight and later that same day it was back to the Hotel for a fine and full St David’s Day Dinner with the starters being leftover leak soup followed by a traditional rare roast beef carve up at the table enjoyed by friends and comrades from the US, New Zealand, France, Ireland, England and, of course, Wales. Ale, perry, cider and tales of derring-do followed in to the late hours. Thankfully the weather turned far more Welsh for Sunday.
Part of the weekend was taken up with a pub crawl contest, quel surpris, with eight pubs involved. Mr Dowlen, Richard Turnbull and Larry Saunders-Fern had selflessly, the previous weekend, visited every one to check the beer and take a few shots inside of unusual things including some of the cisterns in the Gents. All the participants had to do was find which photos applied to each pub. Tim & Di Tickler shared first prize with the 14 feet team consisting of Catherine Limon, Lizzie Limon, husband Paul and their 2 black labs, Hobie and Mason. Both got all of them correct including a trick one that was in a licensed establishment in a neighbouring village! Runners up were the Colin Jones Team. Nobody seems, or be concerned, what the prizes were. The true splendour and spirit of the Meet was summed up by Peter Gooch, ‘indeed fine and dandy – flew on Sat 01 Mar in Llandovery as was at Piggy D’s ‘Not The Leap Year Do’ – good oh it was too’.
Pictures courtesy Olly Lupton.
To see the first meet flight of the year see the movie at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0wMyGsoZdo
Some more lovely pictures taken by Olly Lupton are at https://picasaweb.google.com/100958546678004041803/LlandoveryWalesFeb2014?authkey=Gv1sRgCI-Pk43S5qW5DA#