Monday, 14 June 2021

Caversham Heights Society meeting

THE final lecture for the 2014-15 season took place on April 1.

THE final lecture for the 2014-15 season took place on April 1.

Colonel Paddy Verdon OBE, from the Queen’s Gurkha Signals, gave an enthralling and very colourful talk on the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in New Mexico.

This is the oldest and biggest balloon festival in the world and Albuquerque is a unique setting since the city’s location on the Rio Grande river and its unusually clear and steady wind patterns make it an ideal location to hold balloon races.

After giving a brief history of hot air ballooning from its origins in Paris in 1783 up to modern times, Paddy talked about the Albuquerque  festival.

It all begins before 6am when balloons are sent up to test the wind speeds. If they are stormy or exceed 15 miles per hour then it is deemed unsafe to launch any of the 800 balloons that are there to compete.

These 800 balloons come from around the world, although most are from the US, and are divided into different classifications.

Judging from the pictures used to illustrate the talk, the balloons range from the quite sedate and normal to the completely bizarre and wacky — typical of the brashness associated with certain aspects of American society.

Some long-distance balloons can travel up to 2,000 miles across the US. Some hardly make it off the ground and others end up in the Rio Grande.

Surprisingly, about 80 per cent of the hot air balloons around the world are made in the UK while most of the rest come from Brazil. They are made from nylon, which is stitched together very carefully, and come in different strengths and sizes.

A goodly crowd of members enjoyed this unusual and colourful end-of-season talk.

The 2015-16 season begins in September. For more information, call 0118 959 5307 or email irishjill@

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