To be honest the name Little and Large Meet although appearing a simple title was a bit confusing until it was explained that you could bring any balloon providing it was flown solo. Naturally that was going to be ignored and as it turned out bigger brethren with the odd passenger (shock horror) crept in and even smaller balloons turned up without any pilot aboard! Then there were the aero-modellers with a vast array of stuff including a brilliant neon lit flying wing that caused a stir when locals reported a flying saucer sighting. It obviously wasn’t as the following morning there were no tell-tale crop marks. Well now one has to be a bit cautious about a first time event so we, cautiously, elected to go to Dave Such’s Little & large Meet on the Saturday. Work and a Pork Pie Friday and no dog sitter meant we couldn’t manage the Friday evening in any case and we had a flight booked for Sunday evening. It transpired then that Saturday would work so we chucked the hopper into the Landie and headed for Sackville around lunchtime.
The weather had already been kind and I was informed that Friday night and Saturday morning had already been fantastic go-goes and the evening slot looked just as good. The traditional Sackville campsite was well boggy so everyone camping had been shoe-horned into the area in front of the top hangars. It made getting microlights in and out a tad hazardous but it seemed to be working OK and there were no compliants. Tea and coffee were on hand and all was most sociable. A bit like a One-Man Meet but with a lot of Grass Roots chucked in including Rob Cross in his Concept which was a way away from be a one man balloon but no-one really minded. Following a rather nice early get together by all present to discuss the possible de-regulation of one-man balloons, which ended up with a nice list of signatures in favour ready for presentation to Ian Chadwick who was due to appear the following day, the Met forcast promised reasonable winds but on the ground the gathered throng were seeing light surface winds with a light and variable kicking in later then becoming as sunset approached. That was that then. A fox and hounds was declared the hunted being volunteered as Dan Wilson. A veritable flock then descended down the runway and prepared to do battle. Well, truth be told, begun to wobble into the air. Having forgotten the fan (intentionally I dare say) we were kindly lent one as the majority of the throng drifted somewhat erratically into the sky. It was rather glorious, little legs dangling and torsos crammed into single baskets ambled across Riseley village heading for airfield. Far away the larger balloons of Richard Penney and Rob Cross climbed high and headed for somewhere a lot further than the tiddlers.
Kindly lent a fan we finally managed to get Sigmund inflated and then spent vital minutes trying to get the harness tight. There is something fundamentally wrong with the straps and they are a devil of a job to pull tight but eventually it was all systems go and we were the last to leave in winds that were, as predicted, very much more light and variable. Staying low we went nowhere. Climbing high we went nowhere even slower so it was back down and a refresher in hedge hopping and stealthily creeping up on Riseley church. In the not too far distance the early rabble were plopping down on the road up by Thurleigh Airfield. Between me and them was at least one very large rape field. Rape is not grown to be waded through and even more fundamentally a landing in the middle of a rape field would be wholly wrong so I decided that I would arrive in Riseley rather than risk a stranding. First off we dropped down very low and had a chat to family in the graveyard then over a rather nice pad where they came out and waved. Then I turned left towards the no-go stud farm. Not good so ups a daisy and hooked a gob full of slow right, very slow right. The fair folk of Riseley are a nice bunch and once back down to tree height and heading down the High Street conversation returned. I misbehaved badly nipping up and over trees and back gardens then backtracking about until the local park appeared in front. That would do thought I, and it did. That’s the great thing about hopping, provided you aren’t going like a train you can drop into anywhere. A nice family wandered over from a nearby house and helped flatten the envelope out, had a chat and kindly offered to run me back to Sackville as for some reason Jane’s phone was having an ‘not available’ moment. Confident all would be well I gratefully turned down their kind offer and headed for the High Street and set off back towards the far end of the village certain that I would soon meet Jane coming the other way.
Good plan wrong idea. Long story short but I got a lift back to the airfield from the Model Balloon Boys and had a go with radio controlled aircraft which eventually started heading for Northampton but was expertly clutched from the jaws of vanishing by the polite but concerned owner who I last saw running off into the setting sun in hot pursuit. Thanks and apologies. Jane it transpired had followed all the other hoppers and was patiently awaiting my arrival with them at Thurleigh or thereabouts on a quiet back road nearby until a message was got to her through several retrieves that I was in fact back at Sackville. Eventually we were all reunited and set about sampling Tim Wilkinson’s fine barbie grub. Chatting to Tim Wilkinson he confessed that he was a tad uncertain about the wisdom of organising an event in the middle of the growing season but he confessed to being happily surprised that there were no incidents whatsoever and that he hadn’t realised quite how easy it was to drop hoppers onto verges, into gardens or spots that a larger balloon would struggle with. Dave Such was beaming. In the end all the slots got flown over 50 flights being made and not a single compliant from anyone including the hopperers themselves. We headed back as we had an early start Sunday morning as it was the Coombe Hill Run. Had we brought a tent we would probably still be fighting with rods and poles even today. When I came to refuel Sigmund it turned out I had made the right decision as there was only around 10 litres left which on the wobbly track and the speed I didn’t have wouldn’t have got be clear of the village never mind the rape field further on. If Mr Such can arrange the weather in such a profeshneel way next year it could even be better. My things to list is sort out a flight bag so I don’t go risking losing the map down a chimney and give me somewhere more comfortable to stuff the striker. Then there is the matter of the straps. More use methinks.
List of the balloons (and some of the piccies) that attended courtesy of Sandy Mitchell. G-BJYF T&C 56A, G-BKBD Thunder AX3-17, G-BKFG Thunder AX3-17, G-BOYO Cameron V-20, G-BSIG T&C 21A, G-BUYC Cameron C-80, G-BVFB Cameron N-31, G-BXIZ Lindstrand 31A, G-BXJZ Cameron C-60, G-BZBT Cameron H-34, G-CBZJ Lindstrand 25A, G-CDAD Lindstrand 25A, G-CEWF Jacobs V35, G-CIBX Cameron Z-31, G-EROS Cameron H-34, G-FFFT Lindstrand 31A, G-LELE Lindstrand 31A, G-NLCH Lindstrand 35A, G-ONCB Lindstrand 31A, G-OOCH Ultramagic H-42, G-READ T&C 77A, G-TIPJ Cameron Z-77, G-UHOP Ultramagic H-3.