The Hilltop Spacemen


So we scaled the hill of the iron age fort behind our house, and the dog disappeared.
It was just seconds later that we heard a frantic delighted barking somewhere way across the great tabletop which crowns the fort.
I broke into a run.
Heathland is not an easy run. Heather roots are always there to trip and the ground is uneven, and I wondered if I was hallucinating as I neared the barking. For what the dog was barking at was not your average heathland sight.
A gaggle of huge white ballons, suspended in the middle of the heathlands. And three young men,  clustered intently around something which had once been a bicycle.
The dog had made friends by the time I arrived. He was wagging his tail and looking for any leftover picnic. I apologised for his manners whilst he grinned doggily.
“May I ask what you’re doing? It looks intriguing, ” I said.
Such nice young men. Engaged, they said, in sending a camera up high: eventually almost all the way to near space.
They gave me a tour of the kit: the meteorological balloons, the camera carrying contraption which looked not unlike the Rosetta vehicle currently careering towards the sun on a comet, buckaroo style,  300 million odd miles away.
This project was a little less ambitious than that, though mightily visionary for a small Berkshire town.
The little cart would be hoisted up by balloons, anchored on twine wound round the upturned wheel of a bicycle which would be gradually released to accomodate the cart’s wanderlust. And when ready to come back to earth the little vehicle was kitted out with a tiny rocket on each foot to facilitate its landing.
They were racing against the sunset – which is early in Britain at this time of year. Their aim was to get it to 300 feet.
We walked, we came back, and they were still grounded. We never found out whether they got the little craft airborne.
But what a wonderful  to spend your Saturday afternoon.
The dog thought so, too.


15 thoughts on “The Hilltop Spacemen

    1. I’m not sure I’ll ever find out, Andra: it was a random happening, a bit like that mid-desert buggy in Priscilla Queen of the Desert…hope fervently that MTM is comfortable and healing fast. Love to both of you.

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