Grass Roots Meet
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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 2010
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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)
DardenneHigh StreetRiseley01234 709777local
North End FarmRiseley RoadBletsoe01234 781320local
49 Mill RoadSharnbrook01234 750715local
The Old School HouseBolnhurst01234 3767543 miles
WoodlandsMilton Ernest01234 8229146 miles
The WindmillThurleigh01234 7710163 miles
Outfields StablesRavensden07501 2241785 miles
The GarthRavensden01234 7717455 miles
The GrangeUpper Dean01234 709943local
Middle Farm VillaChelveston01933 6255415 miles
The Hall FarmTilbrook01480 8606966 miles
Fairys Lodge FarmCovington01480 8604415 miles
The RacehorseCatworth01832 7101236 miles
Apothecary Guest HouseKimbolton01480 860352 or 07753 5739806 miles
Chestnut ViewSpaldwick01408 8902167 miles
38 West PerryPerry01480 810225 or 07866 8958108 miles
Grafham LodgesHighfield FarmPerry01480 810036
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NEWS: "Getting Ready"

by Tim Wilkinson (Saturday 26 June 2010)

'Team Sackville' is working very hard for Grass Roots 2010. Here's a quick update:

  • The set aside has been cultivated, will be smooth allowing us to use it giving a larger area to play with
  • The grass area is now all cut
  • We have toilets and showers booked
  • The NFU have promised the marque again
  • On the catering front:
    • Bacon butties, tea and coffee for the morning;
    • the Hog Roast is coming again for Saturday; Friday night looks like fish and chips on site;
    • the bar will hopefully be run by local pub on Friday and all day Saturday - unless anyone else has better idea
  • 200 invitations to farmers to come fly with us, warning them you are flying, will be sent out ten days before the event
  • A 4000 litre bulk tank has been purchased with pump and meter, as well as the other tank
  • Contract for Calor to come with a 35,000 litre bulk lorry on Saturday lunch time and stay until finished in the evening, then leave us with 6000ltrs for Sunday - that's the gas sorted!
  • We've had confirmation the other day of a world class display for Saturday afternoon
  • We have collected a 77 tether envelope for training. We need a proper set of tether ropes - can anyone lend us some?!.
  • All PUT's make sure you have all your paperwork with you, as we may be able to help with the gas if it works out.
  • We will pay the gas for any PUT that completes a check out flight at Sackville during the event - book your examiner!
  • We are doing our bit, it is now up to you the balloonists - book up now, give us a chance to organise it for you - It is your event!!
  • Many thanks to the BBAC Committee and Chris Dunkley with your financial help.
End News


"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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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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