Hot Air Balloons and Hedge Mazes

Tuesday, early June (2nd), a long hot day, spent too long admiring the blue cloud free sky from the office car park coffee in hand inhaling a colleaugues secondary fag smoke. (well, pensions doing crap so I plan to sue him in the long term and fund my retirement!)

1730….and Im off, get home eat and go fly…

1900ish and I’m at the airfield preflight checking “red sparrow” for a lovely evening sortie. The temperature has dropped a bit, the thermals will have calmed, not a breath of wind, the blue sky beckons.

Soon I’m in the air, enjoying the smooth air and listening to the dulcit tones of Cardiff Approach handling a string of easyjets and GA.
I turn North and bimble off into the evening sky.

15 minutes later and I’m just North abeam the old Severn Bridge a couple of miles inland heading towards Monmouth. I have a balloon in my 12 o’clock a couple of thousand feet above me and about 5 miles away and I’m climbing up to meet him, will he be my friend?

Well yes, I’d read a forum post only 2 days previously about whether balloons like microlights coming near them. The answer, yes, they like it, their passengers like it, much photosnapping opportunity !
However, they don’t like you going above them because ballons can climb very quickly and the pilots eyeline is obscured upwards by the balloon.

Playing with Hot Air Balloon near Monmouth

Playing with Hot Air Balloon near Monmouth


Recalling this and obeying the rules of the air (which stipulate powered aircraft give way to non-powered) I head to its right hand side and keeping a good safe distance I level off at the same height of 6500 feet amsl.  




Hello Balloonists !

Hello Balloonists !


The balloon is drifting in a southerly direction, which was towards me so having passed on it’s right hand side I turned left to pass around behind it allowing some waving at the baskets occupants.

 One loop around and with a waggle of my wing I bid it good evening and head off.


 I’m descending through 6000ft now, the few clouds I have found hang lazily like cotton wool and although I like flying over cloud I also fancy a low pass along the river at Monmouth, so letting engine  idle I pull in the bar a bit and dive off some height, pausing every minute or so to give the 582 some revs. (Its a humid warm evening, ripe for carburettor icing, so it’s good to keep some warmth in the engine.)

Monmouth is attractive from the air, the river passes straight through it and is flanked by some nice old buildings including a private school and crossed by a nice bridge.

Flying over Monmoouth

Flying over Monmoouth

I wave at a boat and a canoe below. The canoe has a team of four rowers and is zipping along leaving a long smooth wake and little dips where the oars had been !

Lush green river valley near Monmouth

Lush green river valley near Monmouth



After Monmouth I turn right a bit to run along the river Wye admiring it’s stunning sweeping horseshoe bends winding across the landscape flanked by rich green trees on its banks.



I overfly Eastbach Farm airfield and then turn around dropping to 1000ft to overfly a site of memories from maybe 2 decades ago, a fantastic hedge maze near Symonds Yat. I’d been there previously with my parents and brother, when it was a young maze.

The Maze Men at Symonds Yat Hedge Maze

The Maze Men at Symonds Yat Hedge Maze

It’s a great fun place run by two witty banter full twin brothers in stripey green jackets with red bow ties and straw boaters. They also tried to teach me to juggle !
They built the “jubilee maze” in 1977 and it’s since spawned a museum of mazes and seems to be going strong.


View Larger Map

The maze looks great from the air and other attractions seem to have sprung up around it.

The sun is sinking into an orangey glow off to my right now, soon to sink below the hills, so I pull on some speed and whizz back Westwards to overfly Raglan Castle.

“Kemeys traffic, golf-charlie-barvo-lima-xray, inbound from the North to join overhead at 2000ft on 1024″……….no response, seems I’m the only one flying this evening.

Back at the field I descend on the dead side and do a lazy wide left hand circuit onto runway 31 and taxi up to the hangar.

Click, click…..bbbbrrr,brr.brr……………mags off and the engine shuts down.

Helmet off, suit off too, its still warm down here! The evening smells of the countryside are lovely, the birds are twittering, the sun is setting a deep orange casting long shadows from “red sparrow” as her engine emits happy creeks as she cools off.

A perfect summer evening, such a privaledge to fly.

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"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." -- Leonardo da Vinci

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