Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Have you a head for heights?

HERE at Carlisle Mencap we're really hoping that our fundraising takes off this year - literally.

In fact, let's hope the sky's the limit and and that we'll all be jumping for joy as the sponsorship money starts to wing its way into our head office and that our fundraisers will be full of bounce and enthusiasm. And that, I promise you, is the end of the pun fest!

We hope lots of people will do the London Marathons, the Total Warriors and the sponsored walks and cycles for us in 2019 as they have done in the past. But we have two special challenges lined up for those people with a head for heights.

The first challenge to have a definite date and venue fixed up is the Sponsored Bungee Jump, all set to take place on Sunday June 16 at Creighton Rugby Club, Carlisle.

So what does it involve? Well, the jumps - from a crane - vary from a height of 40 to 45 metres (that's 131ft to 147ft in old money) and each jump lasts about four minutes. Extreme Sensations, who operate the whole caboodle, have been organising these for the past 27 years with a 100 per cent safety record.

And who can do it? You must be at least 14, and 14, 15 and 16 year-olds must have a parent/guardian with them on the day. Those aged 65 and over must have a doctor's certificate but people as old as 89 have done a jump! There are no height or weight restrictions but pregnant women, people with breathing problems - ie asthmatics - people with back problems and those who smell strongly of drink - so lay off the brandies for Dutch courage! - will NOT be allowed to jump.

Feel free to do it in fancy dress, but be check carefully and please do not carry anything in your pockets. We don't an innocent bystander being clonked on the head by a free-falling mobile phone!

The bungee jumps will be the centre point of a day of family entertainment and fun at the rugby club so it promises to be a fantastic day out. And the more people who come forward to do a bungee jump, sponsored by family, friends and work colleagues, and setting up a JustGiving page as well if they like, the better it will be for Carlisle Mencap's coffers!

Don't fancy a bungee jump? Then how does a skydive grab you? And you will be grabbed, because the dives will be tandem ones as you team up with an experienced parachutist.

We haven't decided on a date yet for this challenge but it will take place from Flookburgh Airfield in the south of Cumbria under the expert instructions of Skydive Northwest. They do jumps from February to early November so we have quite a window of opportunity, although jumps only take place at weekends.

We hope to get at least 10 people - Carlisle Mencap members and the public - taking a leap of faith. The jumps are from 15,000ft and cost £230 per person. But if 10 or more do the tandem dives together on the same day, then Skydive Northwest knock £10 per person off the cost.

Those who do the jumps will be following in the footsteps (er, should that be slipstream?) of Imogen Dodd who, in 2016 when aged 16, did a tandem skydive for Carlisle Mencap - as a birthday treat! 

And I am using daredevil Imogen - who also did a sponsored abseil down the city's Civic Centre for Carlisle Mencap in 2014 - as my inspiration. 

Because of family illness, I won't be able to do my planned five-day trek along the Cumbrian Way from our Hart Street centre in Ulverston to our Grace Little Centre facility in north Carlisle in May as I'd planned.

So instead, I plan to be one of those jumping out thousands of feet above the beautiful Cumbria landscape - and I'm hoping some of my Carlisle Mencap colleagues will join me. 
Because I'm not afraid of falling from a great height - and that is despite the fact back in the mid-1980s I had the dubious distinction of being in a hot air balloon crash - I kid you not!

During my days as a sports reporter on the Oxford Mail I was invited to do a balloon flight. Taking off one Saturday afternoon from the centre of the Oxford Cheetahs speedway stadium, all went very well alongside experienced aeronaut (that's a balloon pilot, don't you know!) Roland until, after we'd just flown over a large wood at a height of about 400ft, he turned to me and said quietly: "Phil, do you smoke?".

At that point in my life I did. "Yes," I replied, "why? would you like a cigarette?" He replied: "Er no - I just wondered if you had a lighter so I could reignite the pilot light."
I cautiously looked up, and saw the great balloon envelope starting to fold in on itself. The pilot light had indeed gone out, due to a surge of air rising from the edge of the wood, and there was no flame coming from the huge bunsen burner type-thingy in the middle of our basket. And we were starting to lose height - rapidly.

Anyway, as we hurtled towards a railway line and a small reservoir alongside the track, we started to throw out used gas canisters and other equipment. About 100ft from terra firma, Roland managed to get the pilot light going again. We gained just enough height to clear the railway line and reservoir before making a very bumpy crash landing in a nearby cow field. We were dragged along for about 400 yards as Jerseys and Friesians scattered to all four corners of the said field, before we finally came to rest on our side in a ditch. 

"You okay?" asked Roland, as he crawled out from the overturned basket. "Never better," I replied, as I wiped a cowpat from my chest and lifted a gas canister off my legs. But remarkably, neither of us was hurt, bar a few scratches. And I have to say I would definitely do a balloon flight again - but perhaps with a slightly less bumpy and smelly landing next time. Because it was a great experience.

And I hope anyone reading this blog, who also fancies having a great experience while doing something for a very worthwhile cause, will seriously consider coming forward to do a sponsored bungee jump or a tandem skydive. Or both!

If you do, contact me at Carlisle Mencap on 01228 674393 or 07341 865382 or by email at phil.taylor@carlislemencap.co.uk 

For more details about Extreme Sensations' bungee jumps and Skydive Northwest parachute jumps, follow the links below:


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