Their purpose, they said, was to celebrate their 30th anniversary, but as the Chatsworth Country Fair got under way, in perfect weather yesterday, the organisers had their own suspicions of what the members of the East Midlands Balloon Club were really about.
Some 50 hot air balloons floated majestically above the Derwent and the country home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with some offering aerial lifts from which visitors could enjoy the view.
“The balloonists like it here,” said the fair’s organiser, Sarah Green. “They enjoy dipping the balloons in the river, flying over the house and peeking into the Duke’s bedroom window.”
The star of the show, which continues through the weekend, was the cookery writer and presenter Mary Berry, who joined the Duchess in climbing aboard one of a squadron of choreographed JCB “dancing diggers” of the sort normally seen on construction sites.
“They loved it,” said Ms Green. “They were so excited when they claimed inside.”
It was Ms Berry’s sixth time at the event, and she also served this year as its president, a role fulfilled in previous years by the Sheffield Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill and the Ilkley-born gardener, Alan Titchmarsh.
“The Duke and Duchess love having Mary to stay,” said Ms Green. “This year she is even having a go at fly fishing.”
Ms Berry is also hosting cookery demonstrations at the fair with Nadiya Hussain, her former contestant on the Great British Bake Off.