Abseil-utley fabulous

More than 100 people braved Sunday’s bitter winds and icy snow to scale a 100ft building, raising a total of £20,000 for charity.

Despite fears that the unexpected Arctic conditions of late March could freeze out the event, the fundraising abseil for the Hospice of St Francis went ahead with participants ranging from those aged just 10 to those in their 70s.

1. Dixons retail staff with their 'Abseil-utely mad' certificates.'2. Dixons retail staff in costumes after the abseil.'3. Reporter Victoria Bull at the top of the building.'4. Richard Gwilt, 71, at the start of the abseil.'5. Tracey Osborne in a tiger onesie.'6. Abbie Chidley, who abseiled with her grandmother Margo Duckworth (also pictured).'7. Margo Duckworth, Abbie's grandmother.'8. Madison Winter.'9. Kerys Bettles.'10. Abseilers in the lift to the top of the building.'11. Training with the abseil equipment.'12. Abigail Toms who came to support her grandad Richard Gwilt (also pictured).

1. Dixons retail staff with their 'Abseil-utely mad' certificates.'2. Dixons retail staff in costumes after the abseil.'3. Reporter Victoria Bull at the top of the building.'4. Richard Gwilt, 71, at the start of the abseil.'5. Tracey Osborne in a tiger onesie.'6. Abbie Chidley, who abseiled with her grandmother Margo Duckworth (also pictured).'7. Margo Duckworth, Abbie's grandmother.'8. Madison Winter.'9. Kerys Bettles.'10. Abseilers in the lift to the top of the building.'11. Training with the abseil equipment.'12. Abigail Toms who came to support her grandad Richard Gwilt (also pictured).

Hospice community fundraiser Emma Day, who organised the event, said: “This event has been in the planning since summer last year when we decided to run it again.

“We couldn’t have gambled for the snow in March but everyone has enjoyed the day and it has been very successful. It was weather we could manage, and we raised such a huge amount with people coming from all over to do it, so we didn’t want to postpone it.”

The event took place at the Dixons Retail Plc building in Maylands Avenue, Hemel Hempstead.

Dixons employees Meg Calow of Tring and Richard Elson of Markyate did the abseil as part of a company team, raising £1,300 altogether.

Meg said: “We decided to sign up and it all grew from there, we even got our marketing manager involved for the charity. We aimed for £1,000 and we have gone over that so we are really pleased.”

Richard said: “I was a little bit nervous as I am not too great with heights. It was a little bit daunting but about halfway down I think I conquered my fear.”

For Tracey Osborne, who completed the challenge in a tiger onesie, the event was roaring good fun. She said: “It was nerve-wracking but really exciting. Going over the edge was the scariest thing but once I got near the bottom I was okay. It was well worth doing.

“Having my work colleagues and family cheering me on did help. I raised £345 which is going to be matched by my employer Premier Inn as this is our local charity.”

Many hospice volunteers were on hand to give out certificates, as well as hot drinks and chocolate bars for the brave abseilers, while training and assistance was provided by Devon-based company Rock Centre.

Juliette Rebold-Stead, 12, decided to take the plunge and abseil because her friend’s dad was cared for at the hospice. She said: “It was quite exciting, but scary when you lean over. You feel like you might fall. I have never done it before, and I thought it would be really high and really daunting. I am happy because I reached my target of £60 in sponsorship.”

The very first person to scale the building on the day was 71-year-old Richard Gwilt, a daredevil who is used to tandem skydiving. Richard said: “I don’t live too far from the hospice and I have always wanted to have a go at abseiling, so I saw it as a good chance to earn some money for the charity. I used to work for a mobile telephone network so I’m used to being on rooftops, but going over the edge was quite different.”

Richard, of Northchurch, has raised around £375 so far and his donations are still coming in.

Organiser Emma added: “We have raised our best ever total, it is the biggest abseil we have ever done and it has been over and above our expectations.

“We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part.”