The UK’s leading balloon rides provider Virgin Balloon Flights is encouraging Brits to explore their countryside more and to help protect its future with a new campaign.

The company, which flies from locations across the UK, has launched Love Our Landscape to harness the unique nature of ballooning to inspire a greater appreciation of the rural landscape and the people who care for it.

The campaign aims to enrich customers’ experiences with information about woodland, wildlife and farming, whilst raising awareness and funds for charities tackling issues in these areas, such as the Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

All passengers will receive a digital Explorer’s Handbook telling them what they can see below the basket through the seasons and an online map will include local woods, nature reserves and farm shops to visit near launch sites, plus rural projects to get involved with.

The initiative is a response to growing concerns about the disconnection between those in urban areas and the countryside and also Virgin Balloon Flights’ customer research in which 92% said protection of the rural landscape and communities was important to them.

A major Love Our Landscape raffle, featuring prizes from other Virgin companies, will raise funds and a national photography competition will challenge the public to capture the landscape in all its glory.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said:

“Hot air ballooning gives people a unique way to explore the rural British landscape and to truly appreciate its diversity and beauty. Through the Virgin Balloon Flights Love Our Landscape campaign there is a real opportunity to re-connect people with the countryside and support those who look after it for all of our benefit. It’s a really exciting new initiative and a great example of using business as a force for good. I hope customers, staff, partners and the wider public will get involved and show their love.”

Kenneth Karlstrom, Virgin Balloon Flights’ CEO & Chief Pilot, said:

“Ballooning is all about the spectacular views and our woodland and abundant wildlife are a major part of that. Meanwhile, 80% of the UK is farmland and we work with farmers on a daily basis. So, we feel it is up to us to champion the countryside and contribute to the appreciation and protection of the rural landscape and its communities. This is more than a campaign, we are making it part of our purpose and we’re working with some fantastic organisations which are tackling the challenges facing the countryside now and in the future.

“We want to encourage our customers, particularly the many from urban areas, to explore the countryside and to support those who care for it; whether that’s by visiting a nature reserve, buying locally farmed produce or volunteering with a rural project. By promoting the Love Our Landscape message and giving people fun ways to get involved, we also hope to touch the wider public and positively influence lifestyle choices.”

Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscapes for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“Across the UK 47 Wildlife Trusts are working with communities, farmers, businesses and the authorities to restore, recreate and reconnect nature on a huge scale. Rarely do we get the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of these Living Landscapes. The intricate network of habitats and the connections between them are needed for wildlife and people to flourish. The Virgin Balloon Flights Love our Landscape campaign will help everyone who enjoys the wonderful experience of a balloon flight to better understand the landscape below them and, we hope, inspire them to value and take action for nature.”

Victoria Harris, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said:

“We are delighted to be part of the Virgin Balloon Flights Love Our Landscape campaign. The Prince’s Countryside Fund was set up to support the people who take care of our countryside and it is vital that we all appreciate the importance of keeping our rural communities thriving.”

Simone Ashley-Norman, spokesperson for the Woodland Trust, said:

“British woodland draws us in each season rewarding us with rich memories, opportunities to reflect and play, and vital economic resources. This exciting partnership with Virgin Balloon Flights means we can now see these stunning landscapes from a whole new perspective.”

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