Grass Roots Meet 2016
8th - 11th September

Based on the current forecast sadly we have decided NOT to hold the meet this weekend
See 'News' for more details

About Grass Roots Ballooning.

In the UK there is a large choice of balloon meets to fly from each year. Most of the large balloon gatherings or 'fiestas' are aimed at entertaining the public.
The purpose of the Grass Roots Meet is for as many balloonists as possible to gather on a social basis and fly for fun without the pressure of entertaining crowds - balloonists going back to their roots!.
At Sackville Lodge, Tim Wilkinson and his family provide camping and catering facilities for participants. We place emphasis on helping PUTs (Pilots under Training) with their flying training.
As a gesture of good will we also invite local farmers and landowners to fly from the event as it is their land on which we land throughout the year. The timing of the event is deliberate so that the recently harvested fields provide plenty of stubble on which to land.
Supporters of Grass Roots 2012
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Directions +
Site Entrance: N52 15.60 W000 28.03 GBOS TL 047635
Club House: N52 15.72 W000 25.75 GBOS TL 038637

Sackville Farm Airfield is near the village of Riseley on the Northamptonshire Bedfordshire border between Rushden and Bedford

Once in the village continue along the High Street passed the Fox + Hounds pub
Eventually you will come to a school on your right and a garage on your left

Just after the garage on the left you will see a tree lined private road with a gate house. Turn in here and follow the private road. After about 1/3 of a mile take the turning on the left (marked"Wilkinsons").

Follow the track and take a right turn next to the house marked Sackville Lodge. With the house on your left and farm buildings on your right, continue on for a short distance.

You will see a green aircraft storage building on your right. Turn left into the car park and from there walk between the building and hedge, through the gap onto the airfield. Walk down to the club house keeping the hedge to your left.
Keep a very good lookout for taxiing aircraft and be careful of aircraft starting up.

Friends, family and picnics are most welcome, but no dogs please.

See... The Hybrid Google Map : The Ordnance Survey Map : Directions (Print Version) Close Panel
Directions +
Suggested B+B's (Distances shown from Sackville Airfield are approximate)
Dardenne High Street Riseley 01234 709777 local
North End Farm Riseley Road Bletsoe 01234 781320 local
49 Mill Road Sharnbrook 01234 750715 local
The Old School House Bolnhurst 01234 376754 3 miles
Woodlands Milton Ernest 01234 822914 6 miles
The Windmill Thurleigh 01234 771016 3 miles
Outfields Stables Ravensden 07501 224178 5 miles
The Garth Ravensden 01234 771745 5 miles
The Grange Upper Dean 01234 709943 local
Middle Farm Villa Chelveston 01933 625541 5 miles
The Hall Farm Tilbrook 01480 860696 6 miles
Fairys Lodge Farm Covington 01480 860441 5 miles
The Racehorse Catworth 01832 710123 6 miles
Apothecary Guest House Kimbolton 01480 860352 or 07753 573980 6 miles
Chestnut View Spaldwick 01408 890216 7 miles
38 West Perry Perry 01480 810225 or 07866 895810 8 miles
Grafham Lodges Highfield Farm Perry 01480 810036
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  06 September 2016

'Latest from Grass Roots HQ'.

Earlier today we had to make the decision on whether to run the meet.

This involved discussions with a professional weather forecaster.

Based on these discussions, sadly, we have decided to cancel this year's event due to predicted unsuitable weather conditions.

Should the situation improve and you would like to fly from Sackville you will be very welcome but the infrastructure associated with the meet will not be there.

Unless we hear otherwise we will assume that if you have paid to enter this year's event, this will be carried forward as payment to enter the 2017 event.

Team Grass Roots

End News
   Articles + 

"Grass Roots 2015":

Report by Robert Cross

Tim and Angie Wilkinson once again opened up Sackville for all to enjoy, working hard with the site preparations, filling up gas tanks, preparing breakfasts etc. Kielder Meats were once again drafted into to help with the catering workload by offering their excellent range of food for lunch and dinners.More...
As has become a tradition, some PUTs aim to do their checkout flights at Grass Roots.
This year was no exception so congratulations to Damian Torrington, Damian Busby, Dave Tree and Daniel Gregory for successful checkout flights.
Daniel at 19 years of age, who checked out with Dave Court, is studying mathematics at Warwick University. He checked out in Lemoncello, a Cameron Z-105. Thanks also to Chris Dunkley, Ian Chadwick and Kevin Meehan who also helped in their capacity as examiners.
Richard Penney and Paul Dickinson from Ultramagic UK generously sponsored this year's event again and have kindly said they extend this to 2016 for which we are very grateful. This year we were joined from Spain by the daughters of Josep, the founder of Ultramagic. The company donated many prizes for which they set distance, height and target competitions.
Daniel Gregory won the hare and hounds whilst his brother Peter, age 17, came second flying a Lindstrand 35A hopper.
Ultramagic also shipped over their 70-sized 'Friendship' balloon. This is flown all over the world always with a different pilot. The balloon is a non-profit making 'peace and friendship symbol' funded by Ultramagic, who ask pilots who have had the opportunity to fly in it to make a donation to the charity. I was lucky enough to fly the balloon on the Saturday evening.
Tim completed his challenge of building and flying his 3 "Sackville" balloons during 2015 in time for the Grass Roots event - a remarkable achievement! And they look truly magnificent!
Landowner relations were generally positive with all local farmers being invited for a flight from the event. After eight years I think we're all getting better at identifying undersown rape!
This year we had the added cost of hiring a marquee now that we no longer have free use of the NFU marquee. This has affected our cost model drastically and we are reviewing the way the whole event is run - watch this space! However the marquee does seem to form the social hub of the event and huge thanks to Barry Newman and team for running the bar.
I'm grateful for the huge assistance by Team Sackville i.e. Tim, Peter Gray and Barry Newman, plus of course Ultramagic UK and Easy Balloons for their continued support.

"Grass Roots 2014":

Report by Robert Cross

This year’s seventh (yes seventh!) Annual Ultramagic UK Grass Roots Balloon Meet got off to a great start when we were able to call it on the first scheduled weekend. The forecast was kind and the synoptic situation leading to the weekend of 5-7 September kept improving.More...
Tim Wilkinson and family at Sackville were kindly hosting the event again, and Richard Penney and Paul Dickinson at Ultramagic UK were again generously providing sponsorship. The NFU sponsored marquee duly arrived and with over 100 balloon teams expected all was looking good.
Along with Tim, the lads from the Chiltern Region had kindly helped prepare the site, Tim had ordered the gas and Barry Newman was once again organising the bar which included some proper keg ales!.

The campsite started to fill as folks arrived from Friday morning. We held an informal briefing for the Friday evening slot which resulted in 47 balloons taking flight. The winds were very light and variable with most balloons just managing to clear the far side of Thurleigh Airfield.
Back at Sackville the bar was open and, with a change to tradition, Tim had invited Kielder Meats down from Northumberland to sell their organically reared food. This was a brilliant move in that the food was fantastic and reasonably priced plus this gave Tim’s wife Angie and the girls a well deserved break as they would still cooking our breakfasts at silly o’clock each morning.

All four slots were flown over the weekend in very light winds. At times it was a tad misty, and we had a shower late on Saturday afternoon which soon cleared for 66 balloons to fly the slot.
The landowner relations element was as positive as ever. Tim had already invited all the local farmers as usual, many of whom flew in the balloons. Some farmers even came back to help crew on the next slot. As a result of the event some sensitive areas will be deleted. On the Saturday evening slot a load of balloons landed in Eileen Wallis’s farm at Riseley. She was so pleased with our conduct and her bottles of wine that she came to Sackville that evening to thank everyone. As a gesture of good will from us, one landowner who had many balloons on their property asked rather than bottles we made a modest contribution to the Beds & Cambs Rural Support Group, for which we were delighted to oblige.

Flight training and getting new people involved in ballooning is one of the most important aspects of the meet. I am pleased that a record five successful checkout flights took place, so congratulations to the new pilots Simon Hornsby, Bob Gower, Alina Nikiel, Brian Mead and Robert Lovell who flew successful exam flights with Chris Dunkley, Dave Court and Kevin Meehan.
A visit from Mike Gunston, flying to the meet in his light aircraft from Fairoaks on Saturday afternoon, was a nice highlight as this was his first attendance at a balloon meet attendance since his terrible car accident from which he is clearly recovering. Another surprise on Saturday evening was the debut attendance of Don and Maggie Cameron who flew the slot and stayed on to socialise.

Richard at Ultramagic UK set some light-hearted competitions, the winners of which were awarded with some excellent Ultramagic-themed prizes. The winners included:
Long Distance Award: Ian Chadwick for getting to Old Warden, (on their biggest show of the year).
Altitude Award:William Wood (10,082ft) and Andy Collett (10,000ft).
The Biggleswade Trophy:Went to David Court for all his excellent work on the EASA legislation.
Plus during the prize giving on Sunday morning all new pilots and competition winners were recognised.

I would like to say a big thank you to all of the following:
• Tim for running the show!
• Ultramagic UK for their continued sponsorship. They have agreed to sponsor the 2015 event!
• Easy Balloons for their continued support
• NFU for the marquee
• Kielder Meats for the excellent food
• Angie and the girls for breakfasts etc.
• Barry and the bar staff
• Chiltern lads for site set up and general running around
• Farmers for their support
• Sackville Flying club for putting up with us

"Grass Roots 2011":

A Personal View by Chris Dunkley

After three roll-overs Rob Cross and team finally announced that the world renowned Grass Roots Meet, at the delightful Sackville Lodge airfield near Riseley just north of Bedford, a go-go for the weekend of the 1st and 2nd October.More... This was deemed cutting it a bit fine by some but any misgivings were quickly dispelled when the dear old metman promised a fine weekend. Even Friday looked good so no setting up camp in the rain!!

This is ‘The other Icicle Meet’ and with no red tape, great food, great socialising and flying in a well-friendly area, it shouldn’t be missed. Its what ballooning is all about. Now I always intend to take a balloon to the event but I always manage to get booked up for check flights of one sort or another so it is probably never going to happen and this year was no different. I’d promised I'd do a check flight over in Lincolnshire on the Friday night so was going to miss the first slot. Saturday morning was a PPL check flight with the slots on Saturday evening and Sunday morning reserved for other thingys!
The flight in Lincolnshire was a CPL for Chris Freeman. After a valiant tether we flew from Little Bytham, landing heroically in Kelsby some 40 minutes later. Now to the less well educated Little Bytham sports a fine viaduct (under which Chris lives) which carries the East Coast Mainline and is where the Mallard hit 126mph in 1938, still the official record for a steam train. There was once pub in the village called The Mallard but that sadly closed but to my joy the Willoughby Arms, just down the road, which was once the terminus building of the Edenham and Little Bytham Railway, was open so all was well, especially with Absolution ale at a respectable 5.3%! With all that steam stuff going on, and the fact we nigh on flew over the trackside memorial to the event, he passed.
Now driving is not my forte unless there is little or nothing else on the road so Jane had already had to chauffeur me up and down the A1 on Friday and so, as she seemed to handle that quite well, come Saturday morning, was summoned by the alarm to provide a similar service to Sackville. Now the victim for the PPL check flight was Adam Griffiths who hadn’t got off to a good start by suggesting that briefing was at six o’clock when in fact it was at quarter to seven! Tea and a fine bacon sandwich (with onions) helped the shock of being early. Conditions were near perfect and Adam took me for a fine flight in G-BEEI, one of the oldest balloons I have done a check flight in. Spotting a landing strip just outside Keyston, Adam made a fine approach but was thwarted at the last by a small noisy aeroplane that decided to take off just as we were on finals. Adam courteously plopped us down in the plough just before the strip and we dragged a short way to the airfield track. All was well and another PPL check out to Sackville!
Back at Sackville Jane had returned from walking the dogs so we did a tour of the campsite meeting up with old friends and getting a very fine cuppa from with the Symonds, who have finally decided to sell their lovely little balloon and retire from ballooning and concentrate on their Triumph TR6. Lunch followed and was a fine affair with a large lump of pig roast, something my dog showed intense interest in!
Before we knew it the evening briefing was upon us and Gavin the Chadders was ushering me towards a 140, large by Sackville standards! This was a flight to add Group ‘B’ to his commercial licence, I was told. We launched in a fine old manner. Approaches, emergencies and all the general passenger flying exercises were completed well and following the most impressive descent and landing in an old ridge and furrowed field, already occupied by Barry Newman and company, that many a crusty balloonist would have been proud to have achieved, he was pronounced fit for purpose. It was decided the debrief would be best carried out in the comfort of the bar at Sackville so, after collecting Chadders senior and his one-man basket from a field in the middle of nowhere, the course was set for home. I do feel that the route back may not have been that direct as there appeared to be some confusion between the Tomtits and iPhones that had been turned on by the Chadwicks in general to help guide us back.
Back at Sackville…..Jane had at some stage met up with Celia Kunert shortly after our departure and as a result was well down her eleventeenth vodka and tonic. The dogs were patrolling plates of grub and the beer was fast running out. We had to get back that evening as Jane was due to take five horses to a Show in the morning so her remains were poured into the car and we bade a fond farewell until the morning. Why on earth Bedford does not have an East West ring road defeats me but I only managed to go wrong once in the one way system going back. The dogs were comatose in the back.
Five o’clock Sunday morning and Barry Conway turned up as arranged and we set off back to Sackville. Barry used to run the Unipart Balloon Club so the early start didn’t seem to phase him. Once again I took a wrong turn in Bedford but soon recovered after nipping smartly the wrong way down a one way street.
I was going to be doing a Base and Line check with Dave Court (the hard working, long suffering BBAC Training Officer) in the 140 which Gavin kindly lent us. The Loughborough boys had a space in their shiny new balloon and very kindly offered Barry a flight so Dave, Andy Kaye, his daughter Chloe and I wobbled off into the sky. The 140 was a bit wheezy so flying light was a bonus! This time we headed out a bit more to the right of the evening’s track and had a lovely flight landing next to Barry Newman (again) just short of the A604. The farmer was there to greet us and Andy arranged to take him and his kids for a flight in his plane in the afternoon. All was fine.
Back at Sackville………..The mandatory tea and bacon sandwiches were consumed and we set about completing even more paperwork. Barry returned all beaming smiles and the closing ceremony begun. Dave Court had checked out Alex Daniels, did a Group B Base and Line check for Ben Pettitt and a Group B initial for Andy Kaye. I managed the same sort of thing but the star of the show was Mike Gunston who had amazingly got at least half a dozen PUTs through their tether training and, providing the wind dropped a bit, was set to do a few more in the afternoon. Big thanks were made to the organisers and helpers and Barry C and I headed for a spicy burger which didn’t disappoint.
To avoid getting lost in the intricacies of Bedford we decided to go home via Northampton and pay a visit to a friend of ours who has a lakeside palace on Billing Aquadrome where we enjoyed the warm afternoon sun and a couple of beers and automatic fishing.
As always The Grass Roots Meet had turned up trumps. A huge thanks to Tim Wilkinson and his family for all their hard work and for providing such an inspiring venue, Rob Cross for his boundless enthusiasm for the event and Peter Gray for generally sorting everyone out. This year special thanks have to go to Barry Newman whose Met forecasts were to everyone’s taste and was always there when we landed! If you have never been to the Grass Roots then I can’t recommend it enough. Roll on 2012.
As a postscript, my neighbour, who is a fount of knowledge on airfields, told me that during the World War II the US Airforce set up Riseley Camp, a base for filling and storing bombs for the surrounding airfields. This was between Riseley and Melchbourne House and was served by the road that now takes you up to Sackville Lodge which is actually the southern drive to Melchbourne House, hence the grand gatehouse entrance. This probably explains the existence of some very military looking huts, roads and concrete bases dotted about the immediate area which are clearly visible as you float out. Rather forebodingly, Coppice Wood, which most flew over was a dump for mustard gas canisters. There was a scandal in the late nineties when it was revealed that the clean up of the woods in 1988 was not entirely successful! So next year we’ll have to have a good potter round.

"Grass Roots 2011":

report by Robert Cross

It was with great excitement that after the Grass Roots meets of the previous three years we started planning for this year's event. 'Team Sackville' starts planning the event as soon as the previous one has ended.More... Although the format of the event is the same each year, the reality of how each event pans out is always slightly different. Grass Roots is partly about going back to basics, with lots of balloon teams gathering for a big flyout without all the pressures of large commercial meets.

It has now become a well established event and we have found our home at Sackville Lodge airfield near Bedford. Tim Wilkinson and his family host the event and go to great lengths to ensure everyone is looked after and has a good time. The event is held in late summer so that there are plenty of landing opportunities in the cut fields.
Unlike most meets, part of our philosophy is that we will 'roll' the event so that if the weather is wholly unsuitable on the initial planned weekend we will roll it until we have a weekend where flying slots are available. This is possible through the flexibility that Tim has developed with local suppliers. He also allows everyone to camp on site so there is a very communal spirit and participants don't have to splash out on expensive accommodation. We invite local farmers to fly from the event in an effort to strengthen our relationship with the local farming community. Thanks to this age of email we provide all balloonists on our mailing list with 48 hours notice as to whether the event is on or not.

Planning includes looking at the challenges we had at previous events and how we can make it better next time. There is lots to sort out including catering, gas, camping, airfield layout, toilets, showers, bar, liaising with CAA and neighbouring airfields, marquee from the NFU, grant from the BBAC, pilot emailing and registration, met forecast, risk assessments, liaising with emergency services and of course what happens if the weather makes all the plans go wrong. All of this is done with a small team of Tim, Peter Gray, Mark Stelling and myself. We are grateful to Barry Newman who acted as this year's safety officer.

This year we once again approached the BBAC for a grant of £1000 to help us with the costs of running the event. This involves making a presentation to the Main Committee at the May meeting in Stratford. Other parties who are also making a grant request make their pitches. Each pitch is typically followed by an interrogation (questions) from the Committee which we all try to respond to appropriately, after which we are asked to leave the meeting whilst the Committee discusses the merits and deservedness of each plea. On re-entering the meeting I was told that our grant request would be met in full which was clearly a great outcome for us. Once again through these pages Team Sackville thanks the BBAC for its continued support.

The continued support of the NFU should not go unmentioned. They provide the use of a marquee free of charge. All they ask is for two day’s notice and they bring the marquee to Sackville and erect it. With regard to gas, last year's winter pushed up the price to 60p on the basic price. After many phone calls from Tim, BP stepped in and would supply a tanker to fill on the Saturday of the meet, plus they would supply up to five checkouts with their gas to a maximum of 100 litres each. Tim purchased an extra 4000 litre tank and another 2000 litre tank with meters - gas sorted!

This year’s summer weather was not brilliant. Many events were hit by bad weather. As our first weekend of 9-11 September approached we started to get both restless and excited. We were aware that nearly 90 balloon teams had expressed their intention to come to Sackville. As we monitored the weather we had a very easy call. On the other side of the Atlantic the hurricane season had been in full swing and the remnants of these hurricanes were hitting the UK thanks to the position of the jetstream. So with perfect timing the ex-hurricane Katia swept across the UK. The winds were not hurricane force but the forecast winds were strong enough to pretty much guarantee that no balloons would fly, so we easily decided to postpone the event.
It’s always easy when it’s clear that the weather is going to be truly awful, but the most agonising decisions are when it looks marginal – do we, don’t we? Many attendees have stated that they would come anyway regardless of the weather because they like the social element, but we really want the event to include flying balloons.

We also postponed the following weekend due to another forecast of poor conditions. The third weekend was not possible due to Tim having to work in Ireland. Eventually we opted for the first weekend in October as a huge blocking high was forecast over eastern Europe creating light winds over England. We also experienced a brief ‘Indian summer’ with temperatures hitting the high-twenties Celsius.
The only downside to postponing is that we lose some of the original attendees and there are fewer fields in which to land. However there were still over fifty balloon teams in attendance. On the Friday afternoon slot Rob Bayly kindly gave me a ride in his balloon. During the course of the weekend the wind speed and direction in the first three slots landed us in the same area and some very patient farmers kept good humour. It is fairly rare that the wind speed and direction remain constant at a balloon meet over three consecutive slots, but on the fourth slot we went on a more southerly track.

We always encourage PUTs and training at Sackville. This year was no exception. There were many PUT flights. In previous years there has always been a check out flight at the event. This year was much better with the following achieved:

Adam Griffiths did recommendation (with Andy Kaye), GFT (Chris Dunkley) and solo (Ian Chadwick).
Alex Daniels did recommendation (Jon Dyer) GFT (Dave Court) solo (Jon).
Ben Pettitt and Dave Court did their Group B Certificate of Test and Base / Line Check, with examiners Dave Court and Chris respectively.
Gavin Chadwick and Andy Kaye did their Group B initial Type Rating with Chris and Dave respectively.

Congratulations to all of you.

We are aware that the following PUT flights occurred:
Steve Cook – two flights, one with Mike Gunston.
Matthew Jemmett with Ian Warrington.
Caroline Jemmett with Rob Jemmett.
Gareth Bufton with John Sproat.
Alex Court with John Russon.
Robert Lovell with Barry Newman and Martin Lovell.
Stephen O'Boyle with Sue Kidd and Ed Lubbock.
Jonathan Walton instructor flight with Mike Gunston.

Mike Gunston kindly ran tether school which enabled a number of PUTs to have this element of their training signed off.

Geoffrey Walton did exceptionally well by flying a farmer's wife and two children on the Friday afternoon, then another farmer and two children on Saturday morning, followed by yet another farmer and wife on the Saturday afternoon, this time landing on his farm!

Throughout the weekend the social hub of the meet was the NFU marquee, with Tim, wife Angie and family continually cooking great food for everyone. The hog roast made its customary appearance.

After flying on the Sunday morning we held the prize-giving. Adam and Alex were recognised for their checkouts. Chris Dunkley was also given a bottle of whiskey in recognition of his ongoing support and all the recent work he had done in the non-lifing legislation of balloon tanks. Mike Gunston received a prize for running another tether school and Angie and the girls were recognised for all their hard work.

So what did all this work achieve? Fifty-plus balloons turned up to accomplish approximately 150 flights. Various checkouts were done and we had a successful tether school. There were no landowner issues of note, and probably, most importantly of all, we very much hope that everyone had a great time. As the saying goes you only get out of it what you put in. Everyone put a lot into Grass Roots, and we believe everyone got a lot out of it. As far as Team Sackville is concerned seeing so many enjoying themselves is a great reward in itself.

We thank everyone for coming – without you there would be no event. We also thank everyone that made it possible.

We look forward to Grass Roots 2012 which is scheduled for 7-9 September – put it in your diaries!

"How Grass Roots Came About"

When, in 2008, Rob Cross had his entry to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta turned down he decided to set about organising his own Balloon Meet – whereMore... he could set the rules.
He knew he wanted a summer version of the Icicle Meet or in other words another ‘Harvest Moon’ – a large no-hassle grass-roots event, where everybody could come along and enjoy themselves.
With the help of Mark Stelling Rob was introduced to Tim Wikinson, the owner of the airfield at Sackville Lodge near Bedford. When Rob visited Tim at Sackville the site quickly revealed itself as being a perfect venue for a Balloon Meet of the kind Rob had in mind and with little persuasion Tim gave the nod and suggested anything was possible. If Rob was thinking of 100 balloons Tim wanted to double it to 200!
Tim is the latest generation of Wilkinsons to live and farm at Sackville and as the event drew closer he assured Rob that there would not be any landowner problems because he had personally invited 80 surrounding farmers and told them they could fly in the balloons – a condition of entry to the event was that every pilot should fly a farmer.
Tim Wilkinson is one of those guys who can fix most problems in no time he had arranged gas refuelling, a hog roast, toilets, bar etc. Everything was in place to ensure everyone had a great time. He had even negotiated with suppliers that with a couple of days notice they would postpone if the weather was bad.
The forecast for the planned weekend of 6 September 2008 was awful so the whole event was postponed three weeks until 27 September – this allowed time to secure the use of an NFU marquee free of charge care of the BBAC!
The re-scheduled weekend loomed with a perfect forecast and the event was called ‘On’ – only possible in this age to the internet. ‘Team Sackville’ as they became known congregated at the airfield on the Friday to set things up – a bar was created, an area for pilot registration together with signage for the site, all from raw materials lying around the airfield. The NFU team arrived and erected the marquee – very professional.
Throughout the weekend we wanted to make sure that as many people as possible could fly so much matchmaking took place to ensure lone pilots, PUT’s and crew were all drawn together. Farmers were assigned to balloons and ‘swaps’ were arranged between balloonists and flying club members.
All in all, judging by the feedback the initial aims of the first Grass Roots Event had been achieved with everyone enjoying themselves.

"In Praise of Sackville"

by Edward Lubbock (reproduced courtesy of Aerostat)
The second Sackville – ‘Back to Basics’ – meet was held in 2009.  I didn't attend the first meet in 2008 as there was a ground-swell of opinion that the meet might have serious repercussions & it was generally felt that a plethora of new sensitive areas (SA’s) would be the likely outcome. As National LRO I decided to sit on the sidelines to suck-it-and-see! - but the meet was a resounding success, leaving me with no alternative More...than to bite the bullet and go to the next meeting.
What a breath of fresh air greeted me. The location was first class, there was no pressure to fly and Rob Cross together with his ‘partner in crime!’ Tim Wilkinson pulled off what must have been the UK meet of the year. Breakfasts were fantastic, briefings were exemplary and the constant availability of refreshments was second to none. Apart from the excellent flying, the hog and lamb roast deserve special mention.
So that brings me to the other point – how many new SA’s resulted from the meet? The answer is NONE!! Both Tim and Rob had taken on-board the mammoth task of notifying all local farmers and landowners of the meet. The outcome was a very healthy tolerance towards the ballooning fraternity. In fairness, one SA was added to the local map but that was already a problem waiting to happen and was not a direct result of the Sackville Meet.
In conclusion, top marks to Rob and Tim for all their efforts in taking us back to where ballooning should be! A fun sport, to be enjoyed by enthusiasts and a meet which made it clear to the landowners and farmers that the last thing we want is to cause them problems. Local farmers and participating pilots were encouraged to get together to foster a better understanding of each other’s perceptions. A number of local landowners took up the offer and I think that they left with a more positive attitude.  Rob – sign me up for 2010!!
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Articles +  
“What can I say – an absolutely massive thank you to everyone involved in organising Grass Roots for a fantastic weekend! I’m so glad that I was able to finally make it this year and although the weather could have been better, to fly every slot as we did was brilliant and it really has reinvigorated my enthusiasm!!!!! It was also great to meet so many ‘old faces’ who I haven’t seen for years, as well as meet new people and put faces to names I’ve read and heard about over the years. Our Tekno kit certainly sparked a lot of interest and was a great ‘ice breaker’ for meeting new people. Please pass on mine and my teams thanks to Barry, Peter and everyone else involved – you all deserve a decent rest now! I look forward to hopefully attending again next year for more great flying. We just don’t get to do that low level fun flying down here. With every best wish and warm regards from a sunny Devon”. Peter Harding.

“Very many thanks for your successful efforts on my behalf towards my licence. I'm very relieved that those efforts were rewarded with a successful result. I'm already looking forward to coming next year as a P1”. Simon Hornsby.

“Many thanks for organising the balloon event. I came with both my sons this morning, neither of whom had been up in a balloon before. Tremendous spectacle to see such an event taking place, although the visibility was not good, the experience was wonderful, and something which my boys have been looking forward to for some time. The tranquillity of gradually ballooning across the Bedfordshire countryside, was a great morning.
Thanks so much for laying it on”. Gavin Hunter, (Farmer).

“I had my first hands on at Grass Roots 2013 and I was overjoyed to check out and solo at this year’s event. The gas, the book, the "plonk" and the certificate really were the icing on the cake, how very kind, thank you. I will be sending my paperwork off the CAA this week! See you next year, I'm looking forward to flying a farmer”.Brian Mead.

“Thank you for organising a fantastic and very successful meet and I already look forward to attending next year! After my successful flight up to and slightly over 10,000ft at the weekend I thought I may as well submit this to the BBAC to start my Silver Badge Scheme. I have attached evidence from my GPS and photographic evidence, which was shown to Peter at the weekend, along with a copy of my application which I was hoping you would be able to certify the flight after ‘accepting indirect evidence of the flight’ as quoted from the application”. William Wood.

“First time I have attended Grass Roots and must say a great big thanks to all of you. A really great meet, just as ballooning should be.
Many congratulations and look forward to next year”. Geoff Down.

“Yet again, please would you pass Team Johnson’s thanks to Team Sackville for another wonderful event. I cannot believe that it has been going for 7 years – still a great event and one we would not want to miss. The new catering arrangements were really good and all our team and guests made use of them, so I hope they will find it worthwhile doing the same next year. It must take a great strain off Tim and family”. Dave & Sue Johnson.

“Wonderful weekend again. Thanks to you and your team again for a great event. Flyable all day every day more or less! I got 4 lovely flights in and made some great new farming friends. Where else do you land on someone in the morning, fly them that evening with their girlfriend and next morning they ask if they can do the retrieve! (which they did perfectly). Brilliant”. Rob Bayly

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Tethering –

Ballooning activity at the event isn't just confined to the morning and evening free flying.
During the day participants are encouraged to bring their old or unusual balloons to tether or 'hop' across the airfield.
We also run the established 'tether school' where PUTs can have their tether officially passed and signed off by a qualified BBAC instructor - this is a big step towards gaining the PPL(B).

Instructors –

There are always BBAC instructors on hand if PUTs need to do an instructor flight as part of their BBAC-approved flying training syllabus.

Farmers and Landowners –

As a measure of good will we invite c.200 local farmers and landowners to fly in the balloons at the event as a 'thank you' to them for having balloons land on their fields during the event and during the course of the year.
Part of the conditions of entry for balloonists is that they volunteer to fly a farmer.
We reinforce our positive relations with the farming community by having use of an NFU marquee at the event which is generously loaned to us free of charge by the NFU.
We ask that after each flight you give the customary gift of a bottle of wine to the farmer/landowner on whose property you have landed.

Training –

Pilot training runs through the heart of the event, whether it's helping with the provision of instructors or simply making PUTs welcome to a mass take-off event, after all today's PUTs are our pilots of the future!
We also intend to offer PUT's the chance to sit their PPL written exams under exam conditions in Tim's house - provided that they have told us and a resident examiner what subject papers they would like to sit!
Where we can we will sponsor the gas for PUTs to help them on their way.

Check Flights –

The 2009 event saw the first PUT (Paul McKinley) do their successful General Flight Test with examiner Chris Dunkley from the event.
If you want to aim to do your GFT at this year's event we will do everything we can to assist including sponsoring your gas.

Inspections –

There will be BBAC-qualified inspectors to conduct annual inspections of balloons.
If you would like to make use of this service please contact the event organisers beforehand, or arrange directly with your preferred inspector.

Flight Swaps –

Sackville Lodge Flying Club is friendly and there are many based aircraft.
If you would like to 'swap' a flight in a fixed-wing aircraft for a balloon flight please feel free to liaise directly with the flying club members.

Relaxed/Sociable – Fun Flying !

Unlike commercial meets or 'fiestas' there is no pressure to fly from this event.
It’s deliberately sociable with most participants camping on site.
The social 'hub' is the NFU marquee, and catering is provided throughout the weekend (for details see under 'News' section).
The whole idea is that everyone comes along and has lots of fun!!

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