It began as a modest fund raising attempt. I offered to do a sponsored abseil for the Mayor of Lancaster's charity fund but that turned out to be more easily said than done. When I started asking around about possible sites, safety aspects, insurance etc... it soon became clear that things wouldn't be as straightforward as I had thought. However, I was finally put in touch with the fund raising officer for Derian House, the children's hospice in Chorley. He was in the process of organising a whole day's abseiling event at Williamson Park for his charity and he agreed that I could have a slot to do my one abseil during their day and I would make them a donation in exchange. So far, so good. The event was six months away so I had time to consider publicity and where to look for sponsorship.
A few weeks later I was contacted by the Derian House team who informed me that they had discussed the matter and would be willing to give me an hour slot in their day and, if I could find them, the opportunity for 19 other people to abseil in aid of the Mayor's fund. This was an incredibly generous offer because their funding needs are as great as anyone's and they deserve all the support they can get. To give us an hour of the day represented a very significant gesture on their part and we are extremely grateful to them for this.
Since one of the Mayor's charities is the Morecambe Lifeboat Station I started there looking for volunteers and then I approached the local Police force. Each came up trumps and between them found thirteen volunteers. We made the number up to eighteen by including a council officer, an adventurous friend, the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and myself.
The day dawned, probably the most inclement of the whole winter! There were icy, gale force winds accompanied by snow, sleet and stinging rain, interspersed with brilliant blue skies and bright sunshine. The wind made the day bitingly cold. Not deterred one jot, the Pennine Bowland Mountain Rescue Team, who provided the technical and safety support for the day, went ahead with their preparations. They were brilliant at helping people gear up for the drop, explaining the technicalities and assiduously and frequently checking the safety of the ropes and anchorages. And they were masters at gently coaxing the reluctant and apprehensive participants to go over the edge. Their calm, cheerful and encouraging approach to everyone's attempts made you think that you would put your trust in them at any time.
I've abseiled several times before so I wasn't too bothered about this one but, even so, when it came to climbing over the balustrade from the balcony onto the narrow ledge for the take off I was a little bit disconcerted. It looked a long drop at this stage. Once over the edge, when your weight is taken by the rope and the descending device, there is a tremendous feeling of exhilaration. You are able to control your own rate of descent by locking off or releasing the rope in the "descendeur", so you can whiz down as fast or as slowly as you like. It looked a long way down from the top but I was almost too soon back with my feet firmly on the ground and wishing I could have another go. I do want to say a very big thank you to all of you who sponsored me for the event.
Together with my other sponsors, you have helped me raise almost £500, half of which will go to the RLI Coronary Care Unit Appeal via the Mayor's Charity Fund.
Many, many thanks to you all.