When I told my mother-in-law that G and I were going to abseil down Ripon Cathedral‘s south tower for charity, she just laughed and said, ‘Of course you are!’ I love it that family and friends take our challenges so comfortably in their stride – barely an eyebrow was raised. After all, G and I only have a collective age of 110 (I followed a dynamic lady of 72 up those spiralling stone stairs prior to our descent) and we do have a zest for life.

It started with a banner, viewed on an evening walk. I shared the challenge with my Yorkshire Decibelles choir pals who, like me, consider our cathedral to be a most magnificent place to sing, view and just be. The upshot – five of us signed up and braved the cool weather to raise money to maintain this wonderful building.

Scheduled to descend at noon, ‘human fly’ G and I arrived in good time to cheer on other abseilers and were delighted to see numerous people that we know, as supporters and ‘have-a-goers’, gathered at the base of the South Tower. The age, experience and anxiety of our fellow adventurers varied and it was a fairly silent group of 12 that spiralled up the stone stairs of the tower to the first landing where, behind the facade of the great clock, we were issued our harnesses and given instructions of how to feed our ropes through our gloved hands.

Well, we had been given instruction, our safety helmets and harnesses were checked and in smaller groups, we began a further stone spiral ascent to the top of the tower. Breathless and excited there I was able (from a standing position only once my harness was connected to a safety rope) to take a photograph or two.

Looking down to base and along Kirkgate where we had walked earlier.

Butterflies did rise as the instructor told me to cock my leg over the tower top and to cling on from beyond the safety of the lead-lined roof, to the exterior of the tower, until my ropes were in line and both on the same side….. and then another quick photo and off I went.

Only smiling on the outside!

My descent took a matter of seconds, I loved it! I sat back as told and slipped slowly to earth. It all seemed to go very smoothly, ensuring that I was safely on terra ferma to watch my fellow Decibelles and ‘human fly’ G descend. Nerves were overcome, twists and turns negotiated and fears that G may crash through a stained glass window unnecessary.

Once gathered together again we shared our joy and relief and were, in fact, photographed for the Yorkshire Post and Harrogate Advertiser!

I do respect that for some fund-raisers this was a step too far out of the comfort zone and celebrate that while there are some challenges that I could not contemplate (like potholing or hang gliding), I have had the opportunity to enjoy views of my home city never before embraced!

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Published by Carol

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