Harrogate woman celebrates 80th birthday 2,000 feet in the air

An 80-year-old Harrogate woman celebrated her landmark birthday in unique fashion on Saturday - in a hot air ballon more than 2,000 feet in the air.
Anne Gray and her nephew Stephen Gray at the end of their flight (s)Anne Gray and her nephew Stephen Gray at the end of their flight (s)
Anne Gray and her nephew Stephen Gray at the end of their flight (s)

Anne Gray, who has lived in Harrogate for the past 35 years, was given the birthday treat as a surprise by her nephew, Stephen.

After travelling from Norway to help celebrate Anne’s birthday, Stephen was able to join his aunt as they took to the skies above York in their Virgin Balloon Flight.

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Miss Gray, who celebrated her birthday of Monday, April 6, said that despite her age she was not frightened by the prospect of the balloon ride, but drew the line at a sky dive.

She said: “One of my other nephews remembered that I’d once said I always fancied going up in a hot air balloon so when they all got together to talk about what to get me for my birthday, that’s what they did.

“I’m not scared of many things and am quite fit and adventurous for my age so I’m not frightened of the physical stuff. Although I would draw the line at a sky dive, as that’s a risk too far for me.

“It really was excellent, I couldn’t fault it and it was a lot less scary than I thought it would be. Once you’re up in the sky and he stops boosting the burners, it really is so quiet and the views were wonderful.”

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Anne described how her nephew rang her up ‘out of the blue’ upon his arrival to ask whether she wanted a birthday hot air balloon ride after already booking it for the weekend.

While both Anne and Stephen described the trip as a success and enjoyed the sights of East Yorkshire, one of their highlights came at the end of the tip with an unexpected landing.

She said: “It was quite funny as our pilot went to land in one field only for the farmer to come running over shouting he wanted £100 from us to do so, so Dave took the balloon back up and we landed in another one.”

As well as her balloon trip, Anne’s nephews and nieces arranged a surprise party for her at Ripley Castle on Monday.