IT ISN’T every day you see the local vicar abseil down the church tower. But that’s what happened in Hatherleigh, when the Rev Leigh Winsbury opened a day’s fundraiser at the parish church of St John the Baptist.

The vicar, whose wife and son took part too, is in fact afraid of heights and confessed to being pretty scared as he climbed over the parapet at the top of the tower.

A sizeable crowd waited below with bated breath, as their vicar, suitably clad in a hardhat and harness and attached to climbing ropes, leant backwards, feet on the piece of wood which provided a temporary platform high above the churchyard.

He then made the way cautiously down the face of the church tower, step by step. When he reached the bottom, the relief was written all over his face.

Next down on the ropes was Peter Morgan, who the Rev Leigh said was at least as scared as him if not more so. ‘We were in the pub together last night, thinking can we go through with it.’

When Peter arrived at the bottom, his friend the vicar gave him a great big bear hug. Peter said: ‘I was absolutely terrified but I have done it and I am glad that I have done it. It is for a great cause, so I am so pleased I have done it’, he said, adding: ‘I have never been so scared in my life, looking down.’

More insouciant was vicar’s wife Lynn, who bounced down unconcernedly, as if the 70ft side of the church was just a garden wall. ‘She’s totally fearless,’ said her husband. A total of 70 people took part in the day last Saturday, aged from 14 to over 70s, all of them raising funds to go towards the £400,0000 appeal to carry out major repair to the church tower and install a disabled toilet in the church.

They were in the capable hands of the team from Encompass Training, from Merton – Alastair Rice, Andy Hills and Trevor Oats – who provided their time for free for the fundraiser.

Rev Leigh said: ‘The idea came about because we were in the pub and had had a couple of beers and I said that what we should do to raise money for the church was abseil down the tower.

‘Originally I was going to do it on my own, then Andy Hills from Encompass said why don’t we throw it open to the community and see who wants to do it? We made a little promotional video on Facebook and everyone who wanted to do it put themselves forward – and we filled 70 places.’ The money raised by each individual taking part will go towards the £400,000 currently being run at the parish chruch to restore the tower as well as put a new disabled toilets and a new kitchen within the church. See