As a UK based hot air balloon pilot we don’t really have the luxury of taking long breaks during our busiest season, this is why going to Glastonbury Festival is now always a no go for me. However, so we didn’t miss all the action on the Thursday morning we decided to attend from new heights, 3100ft to be exact!
As Glastonbury Festival becomes the fourth largest city in the South West with well over 200,000 people, aircraft are subject to temporary restrictions to ensure safety. This meant that we could not fly below 3100ft above mean sea level (AMSL). Helicopters were buzzing below us no doubt taking artists and important people to and fro the festival.
After reading The Air Navigation (Restriction of Flying) (Glastonbury Festival) Regulations 2022 and checking the Notice to Airmen, we were confident our flight plan complied with all regulations and legislation. The height restriction was 3100ft AMSL with a radius of 2.5nm from the centre of Glastonbury Festival.
We looked at multiple forecasts mainly from the Met Office Aviation Briefing Service and Windy, we knew ideally that we needed to launch south of Shepton Mallet and to the east of the A37. Launching at 06.30 and looking for a suitable launch site that morning we felt it was a little early to bother a landowner. Luckily we found a Village Hall carpark in Doulton on the edge of Shepton Mallet. To counteract the ESE wind above 3100ft we flew low until we reached the edge of the restriction, this pushed us far enough South to fly directly over the Festival site itself.
We knew Glastonbury Festival was vast, mainly from the fact that I have never walked so far in a weekend than I did during the festival in 2019! Looking down on this huge pop up city from above was incredible. It stretched from one side of the valley to the other and extended for miles, glamping, camping and parked cars could be seen much further away than our footage shows.
As we approached the edge of the festival site above 3100ft we were in level flight, without a burn we started to climb at a rate of 250ft per minute. It was quite incredible that the heat rising from the thousands of parked cars, tents and people could cause such an effect at such a height.
We started our decent after clearing the restriction about 45 minuets into the flight. This was just to the west of Sticklinch on the A361 connecting Shepton Mallet to Glastonbury. We landed just south of Glastonbury Tor after an exceptional 1 hour Glastonbury balloon ride.
Fingers crossed the weather will be as good next year as it was this year!