This was a gift from my daughter Lisa and her husband, Andy, for my 70th birthday.

Although titled "Virgin Balloon Flights" the company is nothing to do with Richard Branston, they just pay to use his name.

After five cancellations due to bad weather I finally got a definite date of 6th November 2009

The site was at The Hurt Arms Pub, Ambergate, Near Matlock

At 9.15am the pilot arrived in a 4x4 pulling a trailer containing the balloon and basket.

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The basket was placed on its side.

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Two large fans were placed at the base of the balloon and it was partially inflated with cold air.

Then the basket and burner were fastened to the balloon and the burners ignited.

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The hot air caused the balloon to lift, dragging the basket upright. The basket was anchored to the 4x4 and all 16 passengers jumped in. Then we were off! I was a little concerned about the large hole you can see in the right-hand photo caused by the burner on a previous flight. The pilot just said "Don't worry"

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We passed over two schools where the kids screamed and waved to us. We were flying at about 12 knots 300-400feet above the ground. There was no co-pilot so I asked several question on how to control the balloon. Apart from operating the burners to gain height and opening two types of vent to allow descent there was very little control- you just went where the wind took you. After about 40 minutes the pilot said he would now start looking for somewhere to land. Nothing seemed suitable and places where we could have landed were too far left or right.

On and on we flew. 1 hour passed, then 90 minutes. Chesterfield town centre appeared, you can see the crooked spire in the right-hand photo. After 2 hours the pilot started to get desperate. He said the propane was running low and he had no alternative but to land in a farmer's cultivated field.

We ditched with a heavy bang into a field growing winter wheat, the basket was dragged on its side gouging deep ruts into the field. It took ages for the following rescue vehicle to locate us and gain access into the field.

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We were then asked to pack the balloon into its box. This proved very difficult because there seemed more balloon than space available. Two lads had to climb on top and jump on it. The organisers were concerned that they would have to pay the farmer compensation for the damage done to his crops. Fortunately he was not in and his wife said not to worry.

We left the field then one of the Virgin staff opened a hamper and served us Champagne and orange juice.

We all enjoyed the flight thoroughly particularly when  it lasted over two hours and the pilot said you have bought one get one free.