Shropshire's Espiritu Balloon Flights

PUBLISHED: 20:51 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:16 20 February 2013



Photographer Paul Wills went up up and away with Shropshire's Espiritu Balloon Flights. Would you like to do the same?

It's a breeze

Photographer Paul Wills went up up and away with Shropshire's Espiritu Balloon Flights. Would you like to do the same?

You can walk around Shropshire. You can cycle or travel on horseback. You can paddle or row quite a bit of it. All quiet, peaceful forms of travel. However, panoramically, ballooning is on a much higher plane. Of course, a balloon costs much more than a bicycle or a canoe so you'll be looking to hire a ride. You can do so with Shropshire-based Espiritu Balloon Flights. Run by Ian Bridge and his wife, Hannah, the company offers opportunities to fly from a dozen sites throughout the county and, literally, go with the wind.
Although you don't actually want wind - breeze is better. Ian says: "Calm weather with good visibility are the ideal conditions for ballooning and these occur early in the morning or in the evening."
Yes, we are talking of 6.30am (5.30am in the summer) flights for early risers (excuse the pun). Ian, your pilot, will have woken much earlier and checked the weather forecast from various authoritative internet sites.
As a championship-winning pilot, Ian has vast experience of both handling a balloon and monitoring the weather. He recalls his most unusual flight: "I flew from Chateaux D'Oex, Switzerland, and landed in northern Italy. I was carried up to 21,000 feet in ascending air travelling at 60 miles an hour over Monte Rosa. There were clear blue skies and snow covered alps as far as the eye could see and it was seriously cold!"
Such extreme conditions won't prevail in Shropshire and most flights take place between Easter and mid October. Ian will often fly early in the morning and then in the evening at weekends and most days of the week. Yes, he does maintain an unusual sleeping pattern.
Passengers are told to make a pre-flight call the previous afternoon for morning flights and the same afternoon for evening take-offs - to check whether the flight is on or not.
Ian flies what he describes as a small balloon which, nevertheless, holds six tonnes of air. He carries six passengers and prefers a compact balloon because it allows for greater manoeuvrability in the hilly area of Shropshire.
He says: "I can drop down into valleys and then rapidly climb again - which allows the passengers good views of the countryside and makes landing in Shropshire terrain easier. A larger basket is very cumbersome in all aspects of flying."
When the passengers and any spectators arrive at the take-off site, Ian briefs them about the launch procedure - they can be briefed to participate in the inflation or they must keep 10 metres away while the balloon is being filled with hot air.
With the balloon securely tied to Espiritu's Land Rover, it is inflated - surprisingly rapidly. The passengers then climb aboard and Ian briefs them again about the likely direction of flight and the area over which they'll be flying.
He says: "I generally fly up to about three to four thousand feet. Sometimes, we float along at just 100 to 200 feet - although never where there is livestock in the fields. Sometimes we'll fly over a passenger's house. When I do a private flight for a farmer, they often want to fly low over their own land and their neighbour's land."
With our photographer, Paul Wills, on board, Ian took off from in front of the Sweeney Hall Hotel, Morda near Oswestry at 7.10pm on May 2. After flying over Oswestry and Oswestry hill fort, Ian climbed to 3,000 feet to change direction to north north east and continue over St Martin's. A slow descent gradually turned the balloon more and more to the west until after flying over the Dee valley, Ian was able to make a gentle 'stand-up' landing in a meadow beside the River Ceiriog at 8.15pm
Espiritu Balloon Flights Ltd, Plox Green, Minsterley, SY5 0HT
Telephone/fax: 01743 790100
While Espiritu Balloon Flights tries to accommodate everyone, you should call them for more information if you have any question about whether you are 'fit to fly'. Espiritu Balloon Flights regrets that its baskets do not have wheelchair access.

Win a balloon flight
Espiritu Balloon Flights is offering Shropshire Life readers the opportunity to win a free balloon flight for one person. Answer the question below and send it together with your name, address and telephone number to Espiritu/Shropshire Life Competition, Archant Life, PO Box 3106, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 9GB to arrive by midnight on August 31, 2008.

Question: What was the surname of the two famous French brothers that made the very first hot air balloon 1783?
The winner will be the first correct entry selected at random from all correct entries. The prize is not transferable and no cash alternative is available. The Editor's decision is final. Employees of Archant or their relatives, the prize supplier and associated companies are not eligible to enter. Terms and conditions apply.


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