In the summer, Bristol once again proved just how big its heart is as a group of like-minded, local hot air balloon pilots lead by Derek Maltby (who pilots the Bristol Blue balloon) rallied around to support key workers and carers.

They were keen to offer something special to the unsung heroes of the South West and what better way than to take to the skies and soar above the city they have so selflessly served. Often a bucket list wish for many peoople, the selected passengers were nominated by the public. Any key workers could be put forward, including: school staff, postal workers, refuse collectors and those working in retail. 

The flight took place on the morning of Sunday 6 September. We've collated just some of the feedback from the key workers who were nominated and selected. Read on to find out just what it meant to them:

The Lord Mayor of Bristol at the ascent
Credit: Visit Bristol

Matthew

This was such a lovely gesture from everyone who gave up their precious time. I would like to say, I met some wonderful people on the day from key workers, pilots, balloon teams and even the Lord Mayor of Bristol.

It was an eye-opener to hear the stories of what everyone did throughout lockdown. So many different job roles, how people had kept their spirits up throughout and mucked in. Tackling new ways of working and doing what us Brits do best by adapting to what ever is thrown at us.

I was so lucky to be paired with pilot Derek Maltby and the Bristol Blue balloon team. Wow what an experienced outfit! Very professional and welcoming; they made us feel like heroes and safe in their hands.

The flight was a chance for us to see Bristol in all its glory. Derek was a good guide to all the local sights. He explained how he controlled the balloon and what we were looking out for when picking a landing. Once landed, Derek was accommodating to all the local children and families to have their picture with the basket.

So once again a massive thank you to all involved. I can't thank you enough for making my dreams come true.

The Bristol Blue Balloon getting ready to ascend

Credit: Visit Bristol

Christine

We choose to do this work, without wealth or recognition, and it means so much that people are proud of all key workers contributions and wanted to show their appreciation.

I moved to Bristol to help out with the pandemic. I left a permanent job to work in a role I feel very passionate about on a five month contract. I am a crisis worker for a local domestic abuse charity here in Bristol.

It is a privilege to do a job I am passionate and dedicated to. I am in a lucky enough position to be able to support others who are not-so lucky. I can honestly say there is nothing else I would rather be doing with my time, I love my job, and what it stands for, and I am proud of what can be achieved for those we support.

I have always been open and frank about how difficult and sometimes down-right impossible our roles feel. It is the sacrifices that we chose to make, in order to provide the support we care about deeply, that makes this event and the recognition it brings mean so much more.

Thank you for taking me on a magical carpet ride.

Inflating the balloons
Credit: Visit Bristol

Emily

The balloon flight was absolutely amazing ... I was really touched and felt very appreciated for what has been a horrible six months for all of us, no matter the profession!

Alix

It was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life and after being so nervous beforehand, I enjoyed every minute! I'm so grateful to everyone for giving up their time and resources to put this event on. I'm sure it brought smiles to the whole of Bristol when they woke up and saw the surprise balloon appearance in the skies.

Catherine

It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to say thank you to everyone who was involved. Everyone was amazingly kind and generous. I can only imagine how much effort it must have taken from everybody who was involved to organise and get things up off the ground. It was really magical being in the air over Bristol, and truly peaceful.

Balloons ascending in to the sky
Credit: Visit Bristol

Becky

Quietly, it is something I have always wanted to do but not got round to organising myself. It was a complete surprise that my husband, Jim, had nominated me for the prize draw and an even bigger surprise that my name was drawn from the hat! The experience itself was many things: heart warming, exciting, fascinating, awe inspiring, exhilarating.... I could go on!

Nigel, our pilot, was professional and informative. He made me feel completely at ease throughout the whole process. I was particularly honoured to hear that despite only recently becoming a father, he still volunteered to pilot our balloon.

One thing that struck me was that it was so wonderfully peaceful drifting though the air. I am not sure why but, I always imagined it would be much noisier! I am still going over the experience, not one I want to forget – it was perfect from start to finish.

Nick

What an experience! Please pass on my heartfelt thanks to all of the Ascent Balloon team who were such a wonderful crew to be part of for the morning. The ascent, flight and views were truly magical and the team were expert and friendly.

The children in my class were able to look out of their windows to see their teacher floating 2,000 feet above them; they were as excited as I was when I shared my story with them on Monday morning!

Balloons over the houses of BristolCredit: Visit Bristol

Abi

I think I've yet to come down from the high that I had. 

My pilot, Rob Schwab and his crew were incredibly friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and put me at ease straight away (I'm scared of heights). Everything was just perfect and I can't praise them enough.

It was a beautiful flight, with a chance to be hands on at the end by mucking in and helping with all the packing away - part of the overall experience. I think it would be true to say, if i could afford to get involved more, I would genuinely love to do more ballooning.

Once again, big thank you's to everyone involved, one item on my bucket list well and truly crossed off.

Melissa

My balloon ride was a truly magical experience. I have never experienced anything like it. Once my initial nerves went - I loved floating up, in and with the elements. I could have done it for the whole day yet, of course, we needed to come back to earth at some point!

At a very stressful time, this was a beautiful gift of surprise and wonder. I could sense the excitement and pleasure on the faces of the others who got to experience it.

Again, my biggest thanks to you all, the stewards too, all those who volunteered their early morning hours to help this wonderful project.

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