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The Bristol Belle balloon celebrates her 50th birthday

The Bristol Belle goes on show on College Green to mark her 50th birthday. Credit: ITV West Country
  • Watch our report on the return of the Bristol Belle - the first modern hot air balloon in Europe:

The Bristol Belle has returned to her home city - a city known as the UK capital of ballooning.

Modern hot air balloons were an American creation but a rather inventive group of seven men decided - over a few beers - that they would make one themselves. That group included Don Cameron, who went on to found his own balloon company and the world famous Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

Don Cameron and friends in 1967 when they came up with the idea of the Bristol Belle. Credit: ITV West Country

I can remember it, we were a little apprehensive because we really knew nothing about it in those days. It was very much exploring. We had the help of a wonderful old wing commander in the RAF who had flown gas balloons so with him we explored the flight of this thing and it all worked out.

It was unique in those days. Being the only balloon in the country, wherever we went it gathered a crowd, certainly.

– Don Cameron, Balloon maker

Today the grand old lady had pride of place in Bristol - tethered on College Green with one of her very modern descendants.

Two pioneers together - the first European modern hot air balloon and the solar balloon. Credit: ITV West Country

The Bristol Belle may be showing her age but she still gathered a crowd in the city today.

With so many amazing balloons taking to the skies these days, we asked Don if he still had a soft spot for the Bristol Belle.

"Absolutely. I find when I look at the colours, looking up at it it brings it all back. The feeling of the early days, the excitement and yes, it is looking a little bit tired and so are the owners."

Tired but still passionate about ballooning in a city which, 50 years on, has taken these creations to its heart.

Don Cameron at the burner with the grand old lady that is the Bristol Belle. Credit: ITV News