Monday, 28 March 2011

Bristol - Balloon Fiesta (2) ... take off


.... After the first two balloons were filled (previous post), it seemed like carnage elsewhere in the field as the crowd wondered what the partially inflated balloons were going to look like.

(When I decided back in early January to publish my 2009 south west travels as I was a bit short on material and trying to sort out issues with the new camera at the time, I had always planned to show this post as a grand finale celebration of colour ... Hope you like it.
I have a couple of Christmas posts up my sleeve from this area for later in the year in case I get snowbound again!)

"Have you got a great view ?'    "Ohhh Yes"
This nearby fellow from a British insurance advert kept my attention during inflation for some time as he was only recognisable when the facial features filled out.


It is unfamiliar territory for me to capture a balloon festival and it turned out to be quite a challenge as any viewpoint for photography was difficult. My original location was several metres from the fence and it was difficult to move through crowds to vary the images.




There is a skill in the ground control of hot air balloons that needs to be learned !

can't keep hold of it any longer
An aeronautical engineer called Don Cameron who came to work in Bristol early in his career had social pursuits with a nearby gliding club. After reading an article in National Geographic about the invention of the modern hot air balloon, the team constructed and flew their own in July 1967 after many constructional and design problems.  Excited by the possibilities of this new hobby, Don Cameron decided to build a few more balloons and eventually gave up his job within 3 to 4 years to start Cameron Balloons Ltd. The first decade was all about adventure to unusual places such as the Alps and The Sahara desert with occasional talks to enthusiasts. On one of these occasions, a question was asked about a festival and in 1979, The Bristol Balloon Fiesta was born.
Cameron Balloons Ltd is now the world's largest balloon manufacturer and is based in an old factory with three floors in the Bristol suburb of Bedminster. The company produce 500 balloons each year with numerous special shaped balloons being produced for advertising purposes, many of which are seen here.

Full inflation
Churchill monitors the take off....
.... making sure that Health and Safety is being followed !
local balloonist with G - LENN
From the latest published data (December 2007), Cameron Balloons has had two thirds (1073) of all UK Hot air balloons registered with the Civil Aviation authority.

All this waiting around is making me rather hungry !


The skies are filled with colour and..... propane gas as they all head over Bristol City centre.



Static exhibits... you're not being let off the lead today
Whats this ... 1 ? Putting on (outsize) dancing shoes.

Whats this ... 2 ? ... I think you've guessed
"The Flying Scotsman"... or not as the case may be today


Like so many major events held beside small roads, traffic is always a problem. This route to the festival was normally free flowing when I was taken into Bristol on all of the fridays that I was there.  On this particular occasion, we were to be dropped off by car, but as the road was gridlocked, a 1 & 1/2 mile walk seemed ... and was the quicker option. The best days out are sometimes the most exhausting and First Bus let the customers down badly on the 359 bus route by not providing sufficient evening transport and forgetting about some of their .... last buses !!  A 3 mile walk is tough at the end of a long afternoon with no seats.

The overflow car park !
Lastly, it is time for me to take my own flight into the sunset and say goodbye to the South West and re - position myself into 2011.

Left-Right : North Wales, The River Dee, The Wirral Peninsula, The River Mersey and Liverpool

Monday, 21 March 2011

Bristol - Balloon Fiesta (1) ... colours and faces


I have now moved back up to Bristol for the last leg of my 2009 south west tour.
The Bristol Balloon Fiesta which is usually held on the second weekend in August is now one of the largest in Europe and attracts balloon enthusiasts from various parts of the world.


The free event in the 850 acre Ashton court estate is held over four days and it has been said that 100,000 can be in attendance on any one of the days.

Ashton Court on the edge of Bristol city centre.
Ashton Court Mansion is a historic grade 1 listed 15th century  building which has been extended over the years by the successive generations of the Smyth family who owned it. In 1946 the dynasty of family ownership ended but it was another 13 years before the City of Bristol acquired the forgotten and neglected building. Restoration was a slow process but the building is available for business and wedding hire. Personally, I was privileged to be able to attend an evening function for a wedding during the previous year to when these pictures were taken.


On arrival in the park, the crowds were in awe as the Red Arrows RAF team arrived to do what they do best .... giving a jaw dropping aerobatic display...


Despite the team being formed in 1964, they have a long 20th century history in other forms and despite threats in more recent times of the fleet being dismantled due to spending cuts, it took the British Government to step in and overrule the decision as a matter of public relations for worldwide air shows.

Maybe not quite the 1000 km/h maximum speed

It was time to take my place of the showground and got a good vantage point near the fence ready to watch the colourful spectacle as the balloons arrived in their ground transport.


I didn't expect to come across another colourful spectacle as I took my place behind a feathered friend.

"Who's a pretty boy ?!"
... and his mate.... "yeah, he always gets the attention, what about me ?!"

I seem to be attracting all kinds of animals as a dog arrives on the scene and doesn't seem too excited about what is going on in the field.


Unfortunately the Parrot is not so sure and requests a swap from the shoulder to the opposite knee and is also for alternative reasons not too bothered about what is going on the other side of the fence !!

I hope you enjoy the following series of images as a more intimate introduction to the festival...

"I think we are missing something! "
"I'm sure I packed the balloon in here last week !"

"Found it... I hope this stitching holds that I did after last time ! "
" Having difficulty inflating.... I wonder if I can ask for a volunteer ? "
" I'll come and help blow it up "
"That's better, keep blowing we're getting there"
"Help, I'm getting crushed against my car with a balloon ! "
"Not much to look at but it's warm in here "
"First up, all done and ready to go, just need to wait for all the others now"
To be concluded in part 2 as more balloons are inflated and take off commences ........



Sunday, 13 March 2011

Weston Super Mare, North Somerset


I have moved back up into Somerset to the third and last of a trio of south west English sea side towns (First image 21 June 2009 and all others 8 August 2009). Weston Super Mare was a small village from Iron Age times until the arrival of the railway in 1841 and the subsequent Victorian tourist boom.


Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who I talked about in an earlier post ("Bristol Maritime History..."), lived with his family on the street shown above while he supervised the extension of his railway south from Bristol.


Weston Super Mare became so popular that Birnbeck pier was built behind the original area of holiday activity shown in the title image. Sadly the listed building that originally hosted the arrival of miners and their families on vacation to the town from South Wales, which was opened to the public in 1867, finally closed due to safety concerns in 1994.
However due to the distant position of these facilities, the trade of town centre shopkeepers was not as great as what it could be.... a second and more central pier was planned and finally opened in 1904...

A second pier closed to the public... empty pier
In more recent times (28 July 2008), it was thought that one of the English seaside "delicacies"... a bag of chips may have had something to do with an extensive fire that destroyed the historic building at the end of the pier within 2 hours. However a chip pan fire was ruled out and it was an electrical fault with similar equipment. It was said that by the time 11 fire engines and 80 firefighters arrived on the scene, the heat was so intense that they were unable to get to within 60 metres of the early morning fire.



Due to the fluctuating tides of the Bristol Channel and the levelness of the sand, the seafront and beach is extensive at a distance of about 1 mile out to sea at low tide.


At the end of an extensive promenade lawned area, Pier square connects the Grand Pier to the town centre and has in itself a small but maybe not insignificant history in the development of the town. At the birth of the tourist industry in Weston, a project was conceived to turn wild sand dunes in this area (difficult to believe when you see the beach now !!) into lawns and parkland. Opposition to this plan held out for 40 years until approval was given for the 3 miles of sea wall and promenade gardens. Originally the area was for the private use of the residents of this street but was eventually opened to the general public in 1910. The Boy and Serpent fountain from the Coalbrookdale Iron company in Shropshire was donated 3 years later by a little known or documented Thomas MacFarlane. It seems that Mr MacFarlane had an interest in promoting trade by improving the town.
2010 was another milestone in turning back the clock in trying to revive the fortunes of an ailing seaside town when the great grand daughter of Mr MacFarlane unveiled the restored fountain in the same year that the £3.9 million "GRAND PIER" . The pier was re-opened on 23rd October 2010 to 52,000 visitors.


My many visits over the previous few years were unusual in that I didn't follow the afore mentioned town planners ideals by visiting both the sea and the town centre on the same day. On this, my last occasion, I only visited both to visually document the empty pier whilst purchasing some essential shopping supplies.... only to discover something more interesting described later in the post. The High street is a fairly standard affair where the shoppers can be occasionally entertained by other means than the chain stores.

The most expensive bus stop you've ever seen
In order to revitalise the fortunes of the town centre, a piece of public art was constructed in 2006 called Silica. The 26 metre structure costing £280,000 was a source of confusion to residents as they didn't know exactly what it was meant to be.... a carrot, a spaceship. It was actually supposed to be man's harmony with the sea ... I think I'll stick with the spaceship idea and send the planners up in it !!
I only mentioned this building once to the people I knew in the area who paid their council tax to this authority, the very thought of it annoyed them as they said project was funded with public money.

2009/2010 grand pier substitute attraction.... view of the seafront construction work.

Although the town has suffered as a tourist destination along with all other British seaside resorts since the 1970's thanks to the cheap European budget holiday, business as you can see from this post is ticking over thanks to innovations that keep the place alive even if the majority seem to be local weekend or  daytrippers.

An amazing seafront attraction is the sand sculpture exhibition that seems to be open for most of the summer ...

WSM seafront

sand copy, originals in the background
Exploring the exhibition !!

Deja Vu ......   familiar ?? !

maintenance in progress... over use or trying to get comfortable

sand bound

Virtual donkey rides

2009 fish theme

err... it wasn't to be for me though

Lastly this man and all this walking and talking has tempted me to do the ultimate seaside thing of finishing off with an ice cream. Oh I've just been reminded, it's March... ahh well, the summer will soon be here.


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