Well Saturday turned out to be a very exciting day! We started the day mostly as normal, doing a fairly speedy morning routine as there was a lecture due to take place at half ten in the Ballroom which we all wanted to attend. The lecture was being given by Dr David Stevenson on The Battle of Hawise. Hawise and her husband, John Charlton, were the owners of Powis Castle from 1309, much to her uncle Gruffudd de la Pole ‘s dismay. This culminated in an ongoing conflict stretching almost the length and breath of Wales, re-occurring until Gruffudd’s death in 1332. During the conflict the castle was under siege three times, lasting months at a time, and even though they were still in the process of building the structure the castle never fell! Makes me strangely proud.
The lecture was really interesting, and well worth the rushed morning to be able to sit in. The information Dr Stevenson has researched will be very helpful for the medieval tour and Kate are planning for the new year. We will be leading the tour in costume, not much of a stretch as we are both medieval re-enactors, and Dr David Stevenson may even make a special guest appearance to lead one of the tours! I will post more on the tours nearer the time.
Saturday afternoon we had scheduled some hot air balloons to take off from the great lawn here at the castle. I was very excited to be able to see such a sight up close, little did I know how close I was going to get. I know I may have mentioned it a few time on this blog but I am so incredibly lucky to be working here, and this was another incidence of what fantastic opportunities I have access to here! I got to have a trip in one of the hot air balloons!
Me and Emma were down in the bottom garden, wrapping the stone base of one of our sundials. The base has an existing crack which if left unprotected will worsen due to the effects of frost. We wrapped it in bubble wrap, for insulation, and hessian, so it looks a little more in-keeping in the garden. We had timed this activity to be down in the gardens when the balloons took off when a message came over the radio about a spare space in one of the balloons. Since Emma had to stay on site as she was on duty I quickly responded and ran over to the great lawn to meet my pilot!
There were a total of 14 hot air balloons launched of the great lawn, setting off as soon as the wind was in their favour at about 4.30pm. The balloon I was in held three, but there some with more, and one balloon with just a chair hung underneath it! As they inflated the lawn began to look so colourful and the crowds on the balustrades started to gather ready for the launch.
I did not even have time to get nervous, or think about how I was going to get back, while I helped inflate the balloon. They are inflated by giant motor powered fans, and then the final bit with the burners at the top of the basket. It looked like a giant multi coloured tent as it inflated and I was talked through the ‘steering’ system, a flap at the top opened to make the balloon drop and two either side that make the balloon swivel. The rest of the steering was up to the wind! Once the balloon was inflated I climbed in the basket, had a quick run down of landing procedure, hold on and brace, and we were off!
Rising up above the gardens and then the castle was absolutely amazing!! They look stunning from the ground but even more so from the air, and we gave a big wave to all the watching visitors. Then on the castle roof I spotted Ben, who had been taking these fab photos, and gave him a big wave too. I could not stop grinning as the castle shrank away, and then the town and soon enough we were above 3000 ft in the air!!
The weather was perfect, the sunlight and clouds making beautiful patterns on the ground. It was also nice and warm, I had expected the higher we got the colder it would get and was grateful I had been wearing my huge National Trust jacket. However the burner kept us nice and comfortable so I could concentrate on enjoying the amazing view!
We were up for nearly an hour before starting to descend. The only time I even felt a little nervous was when the discussion of where to land came up, looking around it seemed every field was full of either, trees, wires or livestock. Finally an empty field was spotted and we began our speedy descent. In no time we landed with a small bump, very smooth and nothing to have worried about. The support crew had been following us from the road so they were there in minutes, and so was the farmer of the field and his family. I was a bit worried they might be a bit put out by us unexpectedly landing in their field, but they were so excited! And the lovely balloon team even gave me a lift home afterwards, even though I’m fairly sure I knew where I was I’m glad I didn’t have to put it to the test!
I could not believe how lucky I had been to get a trip in a hot air balloon up over such a beautiful area! This place really is special, and I am so lucky to have such an amazing job that allows me the have amazing experiences like this! Many more photos to come and if you feel like seeing the whole thing in the flesh the hot air balloons are back next Saturday, due to launch at 4.30pm!