Former Leicester Tigers rugby player Darren Grewcock reached new heights when he proposed to girlfriend Debbie Bliss on a Virgin hot air balloon flight which launched from the beautiful grounds of Stanford Hall last Monday evening.

You may have seen this story featured today in the Leicester Mercury.

The couple, both aged 49, from Hinckley, Leicestershire met at school when they were just 15. Debbie, an operations manager and personal trainer, and Darren, also a personal trainer, decided to attend a school reunion last year. The twosome were reunited and the rest as they say is history.

Darren and Debbie were even lucky enough to have professional photographer Curtis Jacques from Jacques Photography in Leicestershire on their flight who has kindly shared photos of the event.

Speaking about her sky-high, romantic experience, Debbie said:

“Thinking back, I remember mentioning that I’d like to get engaged on a hot air balloon flight ages ago but didn’t think anything of it when Darren bought the vouchers for Christmas.

“It was such a surreal and quiet experience, I was too busy admiring the view to really think about anything else. As we started the descent Darren said ‘I’ve got an announcement to make’ and asked me to marry him! I said yes and all the passengers clapped and cheered, it was lovely.

“As we floated down to the ground, Pete shouted ‘she said yes’ on his walkie-talkie to crew member Andy who was following the balloon to come and offer everyone a Champagne toast.

“Darren also messaged my mum with loads of thumbs up and she came rushing over with a balloon, flowers, and a card after comically mentioning she wanted to make sure I’d accepted Darren’s proposal before writing on the card!”

The outdoorsy couple had their first date at a festival at Hinckley Rugby Club last year. Debbie loves abseiling and has a need for all things extreme, whereas Darren is a little more anxious when it comes to heights.

“I was really nervous during the launch,” said Darren. “Before I knew it, a few minutes later we were in the sky and it was so surreal up there, I just couldn’t help but take it all in and enjoy it rather than be scared.”

Both Debbie and Darren said their pilot Peter Philpott made the experience even more special with his good sense of humour and friendly, reassuring nature.

“Pete was brilliant,” says Debbie. “He is a really fun person and perfect for the job.”

The couple had already booked a getaway to Mauritius with Virgin Holidays for this September when they both turn 50. After the engagement, they now hope to get married while they’re out there.

Describing her evening to us, Debbie says:

“It was an unbelievable, surreal, and exciting experience that I will never forget.”