It seems like this indoor church abseil has been a long time coming, but was worth the wait.
My older son, Alfie, is due to go on an expedition to Morocco with a group from his school in July. They’ll be gone for 2 weeks during which they’ll do a mixture of community projects and an expedition up Mount Toubkal. To fund the venture, each of the team have to raise £1,750.
Last July, Alfie managed to complete the Welsh 300s mountain challenge, which involves climbing to the top of all of Wales’ 3000ft mountains within 24 hours, to gain sponsorship for the trip. He gained a lot of support for this demanding venture, but was still left with a lot of money to raise. This weekend’s church abseil has been aimed at trying to get that bit closer to his target.
After an early start to get everything set up and ready to go, the first customers arrived as we opened at 10am on Saturday. It was Alfie’s Design Technology teachers that made the first descents, keen to support his efforts after all the time and dedication he has shown in their department.
The morning session was fairly relaxed, with many people taking advantage of the short queue to go round several times. It’s always interesting to see how much more relaxed people are after their first abseil. It’s a matter of finding that initial trust in the rope, but once found, the confidence soon grows surprisingly quickly in many cases.
After a fairly slow morning session, we were surprised to find a queue waiting for us when we returned after a lunch break and things didn’t really slow down at all. I found myself on the go without a breather for the next two and a half hours as a steady stream of thrill seekers made their way up the tower stairs (probably the most dangerous bit of the abseil!). The most encouraging thing was to see everyone getting involved. One lady bought lots of friends and family along just to watch and support, but they all decided to give it a go in the end – brilliant.
I’d offered to run a session just for the church members after the Sunday morning service, but had no idea how many might take the opportunity. Two teenage girls went for it straight away, followed by a lull that made me think that would be it. I was amazed to then find myself with a great spread of ages and sizes coming through, all eager to take advantage of this rare opportunity. However, I wasn’t sure whether to take comments like “I’ve got to die some time, and what better a place” as a indication of faith in God, or a lack of faith in me!
The Scouts had asked me to run a private session for them on the church abseil, and it seemed as though no sooner had I finished the church members, that the Scouts arrived in force. Some possessed that amazing confidence (or ignorance) that come with youth, while others where understandably nervy. But it was great to see the nervy ones come round again for a second go, so that they could enjoy the experience that bit more having built their confidence. The end of the Scouts session then seemed to merge into the public afternoon session, with an amazing variety of people showing up and keeping me busy.
It really was a fantastic weekend, with so many memorable moments:
Anton confidently abseiling down whilst singing ‘Low He Comes With Clouds Descending”
Carter launching himself off the start (the hardest bit) without a second thought, following a very slow and nervous first go
Abbi coming down with her leg in plaster
Nathan shouting “I hope it’s really scary for you Nanny!”
Anne going for it with her skirt hitched up to get in the harness
Seren simply apologising all the way down
Lucy having to have extra weight added to make her heavy enough to pull the rope through the abseil device
Thank you to everyone for your support. I hope you enjoyed the experience. As I sit writing this, the bells are being reinstalled into the church tower, meaning that it’s likely to be another 100 years or so until the opportunity next comes round to abseil down the inside of St Marys church tower. I’m pretty sure it won’t be running it next time!