Up, up and away for a memorable Mersey ride

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The other evening I went to my favourite watering hole for dinner and a nice bottle of wine.

The Red Fox at Thornton Hough on the Wirral is a bit special.

This magnificent building is in acres of beautiful gardens and used to be Westwood Grange.

The staff and the welcome you always get is wonderful, and the manager, David Green, is a real people person.

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He used to have his own events company, organising food festivals, motorbike shows and air balloon festivals.

It was this I was fascinated with.

It turns out in his spare time he is a hot air balloonist himself.

Talking to David, his passion for the hobby comes over loud and clear – every chance he gets, he is up up and away in his own balloon.

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He says its the best way ever to unwind.

Him and a group of his pals go away every year, flying over the Alps.

David found it very hard to put into words what an extraordinary experience this is.

I didn’t realise hot air balloonists needed a qualified pilot licence.

It is a legally registered aircraft, that’s why you need the licence.

It’s not a cheap hobby either, it’s something I have done three times, and it’s a thrill like no other.

The rides were an exhilarating experience, and can become addictive.

My first flight was in Egypt when I saw Luxor from a different angle, looking down at the temples and seeing the ancient sights with the early morning sun rising. It was breathtaking, tranquil and peaceful.

I didn’t realise at the time how many accidents they had had in Eqypt.

There have been a lot, over the years their safety record hasn’t been brilliant, but it didn’t put me off.

Someone once gave me a hot air balloon experience as a present and we went over the Lake District.

Pete Price's unforgettable trip in a hot air balloon

There are a lot of weather restrictions from hot air ballooning, so it really can be hit and miss.

Unlike aircraft, a balloon cannot fly away from storms. The winds have to be right. So many times, you can turn up for your flight but it’s just not the right conditions.

In the aviation world, hot air balloons are an incredibly safe form of flight. Accidents are uncommon in this country.

The best ever trip for me was on my own doorstep, down the River Mersey.

I was working with the late Phil Easton on the Breakfast Show and there were 30 giant hot air balloons taking off from Birkenhead Park.

The balloons were all shapes and sizes, from a strawberry, can of beer, FA Cup, even a Jaguar car. People came from all over the world.

I got to the park early morning on a beautiful day to this wondrous sight but the winds were a problem that day.

Would they or would they not take off?

Then someone shouted to me “the time is right for this one, quick Pricey, jump in”.

I did, we set off towards the River Mersey and headed towards Frodsham.

I broadcasted from the balloon and the trip was magical, and so peaceful, except for the burners.

People came out of their houses on the banks of the river to wave to us.

It did get a bit hairy when we came to the pylons in front of Frodsham, but we managed to get above them and land on the other side of Frodsham Hill.

We landed on a golf course, but that’s another story.

It’s a day I will never forget, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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