With the lockdown having been extended into June, throughout the UK the regional balloon clubs have issued guides and notes to pilots and many planned events and get-togethers cancelled or are being revued on a rolling basis. Within the clubs, from early on, members had all agreed that flying was going on hold and, following lock-down along with CAA and Government guidelines, it continues. Advice given by the clubs then all follows pretty much the same pattern meaning that everything is on hold. Social distancing in a basket or the retrieve vehicle was always going to be tricky. Of course the guidelines from the CAA have also had a huge effect on all private flying and the Balloon Ride Operators. For the time being everything is therefore on the deck. Being realistic nothing is going to change soon. Even if restrictions are relaxed, in most cases, it will be a long time before balloons arriving uninvited onto a farm or public space will be welcomed with open arms or large public gatherings permitted. It will also most likely see many overseas events cancelled or postponed as well, events that club members often attend en-masse. Many of the regional clubs organise some of the best balloon meets there are and of course these are all affected by the Covid pandemic. Here then is the current take on matters as far as the Regional Balloon Clubs are concerned. Please use the contact details for further information or watch their website if they have one. Most have active wotsit doodah facebook thingies. Both the North West Balloon & Airship Club and the Pennine Region Balloon Association run lots of open balloon meets and have excellent websites listing all their meets outside of the members’ area which are kept well updated. The local balloon clubs are one of the best ways to get into ballooning and their members are always happy to welcome new members at all levels. It also a great way to discover well hidden great pubs! If you fancy finding out more about them, or indeed joining up and enjoying fine flying and great socials please contact them directly. We have tried to contact all the listed balloon clubs and the responses we have received or the information posted on their websites follows.
East Midlands Balloon Group
The EMBG was set up 1988 and covers Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and dinky Rutland. Jackie Ballaby is the contact there. She says,‘Well, pretty busy working from home is not easy and pretty stressful at times but at least we are all safe and well. I don’t think we can add a lot other than the fact all flying is suspended and that we had to cancel our AGM. There is some optimism that no decision has been taken to cancel Chatsworth Country Fair yet so we will have to see, how things go. We will also have to arrange a committee meeting once it’s safe to do so but my gut feeling is that pubs/clubs will not open until the end of the summer, so our committee and club communication is through our email groups along with our Facebook page. I suspect we should use Skype and probably will soon’. For more information please contact email@example.com
Surrey & Sussex Balloon Group
Contact at the SSBG is Ian Wadey. He pretty much summoned up the feelings of all of us really by saying that he is lucky in that all his family are home and well ‘but what a strange time it is’. His youngest (19), Hannah, is doing a degree apprenticeship in aerospace engineering with Airbus at Filton and is now home on indefinite leave and being paid! She also wants to get her balloon license and has nearly 14 hrs under her belt. Ian reckons with the weather we have had recently she would have done her GFT in the last few weeks but naturally she now has no idea when that will be. Ian, like many others, had planned to go to Todi/Sagrantino meet, but even that’s now looking unlikely. As for his, and the other club members, his retrieve vehicle is now on SORN and uninsured, the balloon insurance has been allowed to lapse and the CofA is normally done in May, with a Base Line check in late June. ‘Such fun it will be getting it all back together!!!’. The SSBG don’t actually organise any meets as such but or organise any major events. Locally Brian Smith normally runs his charity Wisborough Green event but that hadn’t been planned this year (taking a break) and been replaced with the ‘Dawn Patrol’ in his Spitfire simulator, clearly not weather dependant but lock down and social distancing critical. Up the road Andrew Holly has taken Goodwood as a venue with his planned weekend event this year, originally planned for May and then moved to July before the virus. Obviously social gatherings of the club are a no no. About 5 years ago he did organise club flyouts on the 3rd Monday of the month and they were very successful with six hits. The following year they suffered with poor weather so then they did every Monday and still failed and it has never been the same since. Such has been the general deterioration of the British weather!!! Ian reckons that, “Its ironical that this year it would have been so good, even the ground dried out nicely and now we can’t fly.” For further details of the SSBG contact Ian Wadey by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
London Region Balloon Club
Although the LRBC holds its meetings in Central London it doesn’t fly from there! Clearly the social side is now down to phonecalls and emails reminiscing about days gone by and looking forward to things settling back down. As far as the monthly meetings go it will probably be the last club to reconvene unless an alternative venue is sought outside London. For more details check the website www.londonballooning.co.uk or contact Dr Camplin at email@example.com but he can’t help with medical enquires, not his area we are told.
West Midlands Region
Gareth Bufton, reported that true in the English ‘birthplace of the industrial revolution’, balloons are on the ground, socials purely media orientated, fences are painted, grass cut with a pair of nail scissors and the list of jobs that had been put off dwindling quickly. Events-wise Steph Bareford’s New Beginnings Meet became an early cancellation and won’t be rescheduled for this year. The Telford Balloon Fiesta are currently saying that it will now, hopefully, be held later in 2020. For the moment key is to stay safe. Meetings are published in their newsletter Basket Cases. For details contact Gareth by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eastern Region Balloons
The Eastern Region of the BBAC was revived in August 2014, and since they have gone from strength to strength. Covering Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, today they have a core paid membership of pilots, crew, and enthusiasts, who have supported the club and attended many of their events and flights across the region. They became affiliated to the BBAC in November 2015. There is a nice simple little website at HYPERLINK “http://www.erbbac.com” www.erbbac.com for further information on the Club. Jo Scott, contact for the club is still working full time but sent us this; ‘As far as the Eastern Region goes, we have put a hold on further organising until lockdown restrictions start to ease. Various jobs are getting done including trailer overhauls and garage sorting. Keep an eye on our Facebook page: “Eastern Region Balloons” for updates, or email email@example.com
The 3-4-40 Region is the only club being defined by the motorways that thunder through it namely the M3, M4 and M40. It was probably called something else before they built the M40. Jonathan Harris sent us this. ‘All club meetings & flyouts have been suspended until further notice. Members will continue to receive club or national BBAC updates via email. With regards to events, our friends at the Berkshire Show wisely decided to cancel the event in mid March. Plans will now be pushed onto 2021 and that includes balloons which is always nice! Full statement at https://www.berkshireshow.co.uk/our-news/royal-county-of-berkshire-show-2020-cancellation. The Abingdon Air & Country Show https://www.abingdonairandcountry.co.uk, originally scheduled for May, has been postponed until August 31st. The Retro Festival to be held at the Newbury Showground in August in still going ahead however the organisers are monitoring the situation on a weekly basis. https://www.retrofestival.co.uk/newbury. Unfortunately the Woodcote Rally which raises thousands for charity in July has been cancelled for 2020. That’s pretty much where we are unfortunately!’ For further details contact Jonathan Harris via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chiltern Region BBAC
Event Organiser and spokesperson for the CRBBAC John Tyrrell has sent us the following. ‘All events are currently postponed until we have a clear understanding of what the future may hold for UK ballooning. The Club membership cost for 2020/21 has been cancelled for all existing members from the previous year, so a free year. New members can join at the normal rates. On the events front. We have been working with the show organisers of this year’s four events, trying to find available and suitable dates that would work for ballooning in 2020 however, this was done with a very large out of tune crystal ball! So far Staffordshire Balloon Fiesta 18-19 July 2020, a new event for 2020 following on from the success of Northampton and Cheltenham, is still going ahead as originally advertised at Uttoxeter Racecourse. The Oxford Balloon Festival 14-16 August 2020. More details are still to follow, but currently all is looking good for this new event. The Cheltenham Balloon Fiesta has been postponed and has moved to 21-23 August 2020, returning for a second year. Northampton Town Festival originally scheuled for 3-5 July is now rescheduled for 18-20 September and now in its fifth year back on the Racecourse, bigger and better than before and is now the only Northampton balloon event. Again the date was postponed because of Covid-19. PLEASE NOTE – Event dates have been published to keep everyone informed, however, they may be postponed or cancelled depending on the future decisions of Government or Local Authorities.’ For further details, updates or a sympathetic ear contact John Tyrrell email@example.com or call 07792 965731
The British Nationals are still due to take place in August and they are hoping they will get back to flying and restrictions will have lifted by then. There was to have been a Grand Prix event at the Midlands Air Festival, which has been cancelled and Competition Events at The Cheltenham Balloon Festival and the Northampton Town Festival, both of which have now been rescheduled for later in the year. At the moment the Nationals, being held in France (25-30 August) are still going ahead. Like all events the situation will be closely monitored and decisions taken nearer the time. There’s still time to enter the British Nationals, which you can do by completing the entry form here: https://forms.gle/pTig65zGT6EDbtf48
Website is at https://ukcompetitionballooning.com/
Black Horse Balloon Club
Main man Stuart Skinner reported to us that; Due to the National requirement for Social Distancing The Black Horse Ballooning club has decided to cease flying and gatherings until further notice. If you are new to Ballooning or are interested in knowing more about the sport please rummage around the web site and feel free to get in touch so that when the world returns to normal you can get involved as and when can take to the skies again. Having cancelled the All Fools Meet that was to have been held over Easter the One Man Meet planned for 5-7 June will hopefully be incorporated into a later meet. Like everyone else we will follow the guidance and requirements of the Government and the CAA. Website is at https://www.bhbc.club/ or contact Stuart Skinner firstname.lastname@example.org.
North West Balloon & Airship Club
Along with the Pennine Region the NWBAC run some cracking meets and have a busy social side open to all-comers. Posted on their website is this..’After the latest announcement and guidelines from the government about the current pandemic, the committee has already postponed all of their social events in April as well as unfortunately cancelling our Thornton in Craven Easter training meet. As yet the meets for the rest of the year are still going ahead but the committee will be reviewing them all nearer the time. They appreciate that some people who have booked to join us have also booked accommodation and we apologise for any inconvenience but the health of all of you is paramount. Please keep yourselves safe and we will keep you updated as things change. James Marshall, Chairman’. For further information contact email@example.com or through the excellent website at http://www.nwbac.com/meets.asp?p_id=13
Pennine Region Balloon Association
The PRBA run some of the friendliest meets in some of the most stunning areas of the UK, some in conjunction with the NWBAC. They cover the area east of the Pennines from Northumberland to to North Lincolnshire. An announcement on the PRBC website states that; ‘due to the current covid-19 restrictions on society at present, our balloon meets are postponed. however we will leave these as ‘live’ on the system just in case the world makes a rapid recovery and we can hold them. Please ensure you check back here if intending to come along to a meet. Stay safe everyone and we will be back in the skies as soon as we can. Our club meets are not restricted to club members, everyone is welcome. There isn’t a charge to attend our meets with or without a balloon, there may be a small charge towards overnight stays in tents/caravans and motorhomes and this will be specified on the entry form. These need to be booked in advance please. If you would like to join us, we ask that you register via the relevant meet entry form under “Click for Entry form and Meet Info”. This is simply so we can keep you up to date with what is going on and to let you have further details as necessary. The closing date for entries is usually the Saturday prior to the meet to allow us to finalise the details with the site. However, if you have left it too late and the deadline has passed by, don’t worry, just get in touch and we will try to fit you in. For more information about our meets, please contact the club’s meet organisers; Alex and Elaine Smith, via the email address; firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07974 316123’ For more information on the club itself contact Trudy Laws email HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org. Website details http://www.prba.org.uk/news_lbox.asp?nws_id=297
British Balloon Museum & Library
Sadly my favourite the fantastically social and totally entertaining bi-annual BBM&L Meet, Inflation Day, had to be cancelled. Its not as if the CAA has decreed that private flying is off the agenda but then the Government closed Golf Courses which included the Club House. Pressuire is building for it to be held next year over a weekend. Fortunately, apart from supporting appearances at balloon meets with bags of rotting mildewed envelopes, the BBM&L has a huge library so of all the clubs they can sit back and have a jolly good read. If you aren’t a member then join a still very active movement. The website is a great source of stuff, they produce a really brilliant sad mag called Trailrope and their extensive collection includes experts on the subject and resources from postcards and stamps to technical publications. For further information contact the Secretary Tim Turner email@example.com or check out the website: www.britishballoonmuseum.org.uk.
Mid Hants Balloon Club
These are a difficult lot to get hold of despite having a nice little open to all website. Having finally tracked a spokesperson down it transpires the website and all the contact details are having a Corrie makeover so please bear with them. They are like all the others not flying and socialising virtually as opposed to virtually socialing which would also be true. The Mid Hants, as they are known, cover Hampshire, southern Berkshire and west Surrey but also has members from Kent to Wiltshire. They do have some well-protected launchsites so are worth getting to know! One of the great occasional get togethers they have involves flying out of West Wittering, hopefully, generally, with a southerly component! Great website (being updated) at www.midhantsballoonclub.org.uk or try the emailing them but don’t hold your breath. The MHBC contact is Richard Phillips email firstname.lastname@example.org. but check the website as the details will be updated soon.
Oswestry Balloon Club
We did try very hard to contact the Oswestry Balloon Club but in the end admitted defeat. They were formed in 2017 and are now affiliated to the BBAC. They do seem to be very active (not at the moment as all their socials have been cancelled month on month) but the website although promising seems to be a bit vague. Check it out at www.oswestryhotair.co.uk. There is an active Facebook and Twitter thingy that I don’t know how to do, never wanted to but perhaps need to reconsider! Thanks to all the Balloon Club contacts for their help in compiling this list. Pictures are courtesy of the balloon clubs’ members. Thank you. For details on membership or further information on their meetings and events please contact them directly.