Stephen Tompkinson talks about narrowly escaping serious injury in a balloon accident while filming his new series…

So tell us about the accident…
“We were going along nicely when suddenly the winds became dangerously fast and unpredictable so we had to make a crash landing. It looked like an aircraft coming into land and I thought: ‘This is very fast’.

What happened then?
“Then we hit the ground and I got thrown upside down and I heard Steve, the cameraman, cry out in pain because his spine had compacted on impact. I felt like I’d been hit with an upper cut and I broke two teeth. We got dragged for a thousand feet through this very rocky field and dislodged a boulder. Fortunately, we knocked the boulder clear of the basket, if we’d have chipped it up like a golf shot and it had gone through the basket, it would have taken us all with it and that would have been the end of that adventure.”

Who came off worst?
“Steve the cameraman had to go to hospital. We helicoptered him out immediately and he was released later that day.”

What was your reaction to the crash?
“It was weird. I know that I nearly died but I just didn’t dwell on it because I knew that would be the end of the programme. The pilot Robin was more shaken. Because you know he’d had 30 odd years of experience and never had anything like that happen. It’s only my second year of ballooning and I’ve got the worse flight ever over very quickly, so I took it much more in my stride. I think he feels very responsible as the captain for his passengers and we didn’t like seeing Steve helicoptered off. But, you know the way I looked at it is that he saved our lives. He did the best that he could under incredibly difficult circumstances.”

What were the less hairy highlights of the trip?
“Visiting the vineyards of Australia’s famous Barossa wine region was one. I have been teetotal for five years but it was still a glorious experience though I wasn’t tempted to have a drink for the nerves, as that would have been a different programme!”

What else did you enjoy?
“Well, while we were there we had a game of cricket against the local winemakers. Suddenly there was an Australian bowler with sun cream on his nose who was trying to take my head off with a cricket ball. But, he didn’t and I smacked his bowling all around the ground. I scored 37 runs and I took three wickets, so I had a very good day! It was my own private Ashes and I took the ball home.”

What was it like taking part in the famous Canowindra Balloon Challenge?
“Everyone had heard about the crash and took great delight in making jokes. They’re wonderfully warm and generous people, but if you’re taking them on in any sporting competition they want to humiliate you. They didn’t want us taking any of their prize money back home with us to England and turning up with a film crew isn’t the most subtle way to announce your arrival.”

What do you love so much about ballooning?
“It’s the nearest thing to a magic carpet ride. It’s so gentle and peaceful when the burners are off. It’s like time has stood still and you get this fantastic bird’s eye view. There’s moments of tranquillity that you don’t often find in a very hectic modern way of living. And you get this bizarre feeling that you could just step out and walk on air.”

Stephen Tompkinson’s Australian Balloon Adventure can be seen on August 15 at 7pm on ITV1