On Saturday 19th August, passers-by watched in awe as 92-year-old Peter Walker achieved the incredible feat of abseiling down the 170-metre-high Spinnaker Tower, in Portsmouth.
Peter, whose son Jon was chief reporter at the Petersfield Post before his untimely death earlier this year, had previously volunteered at FitzRoy On Track, our day service in Petersfield, for over two years. He decided he would tackle the incredible challenge of abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower to fundraise for FitzRoy as well as honouring Jon’s memory.
Maria Avery works at On Track and says, “Peter is a lovely chap that would come each week and talk to the people we support in the history session. It was varied what he chatted about – sometimes historical, about Petersfield or just general chats. He had a captive audience each time! We still see him quite often when a group go to the church on Thursdays for a coffee morning and he always has time for a chat. To do this abseil is an incredible thing and I am proud to have made his acquaintance.”
Despite the scale of the challenge ahead of him, Peter was quite relaxed and smiling on arrival at the Spinnaker Tower on Saturday morning, with family members and staff from FitzRoy there to support him. David, from FitzRoy’s central support, went along and told us, “Peter was remarkably unfazed throughout – as the photos show, he was smiling before he went up the tower and afterwards. Those of us watching from below had our hearts in our mouths when he was lowered over the edge to begin his descent, only to find that he would need a little additional support, which meant a delay whilst another instructor went up the tower to descend in tandem with him.
“As a result, Peter was waiting for around ten minutes hanging at the side of the tower. You would have thought he would be worried about the delay but not a bit of it; when asked if it was frightening, Peter said ‘oh no, not at all – it was a fantastic view all the way round the harbour from up there’. Most other people I spoke with who were tackling the abseil that day said they had to look at the wall of the tower throughout as it was such a terrifying experience, but not Peter!”
On arriving safely at the foot of the tower, Peter was greeted by loud cheers from his family as well as a number of staff and volunteers from On Track who’d come along to support him. David adds: “Peter had also gained quite a crowd by then of passers-by who had seen him making his descent and simply couldn’t believe his age – they kept asking me if he was really abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower at 92 years old.”
Once out of his harness and away from the landing site, the first thing Peter did was celebrate with a stiff drink, having come suitably prepared with a flask of whisky. A very well-deserved celebration after such an incredible feat!
My main aim of doing this was to raise the profile of FitzRoy. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know their work through volunteering at On Track and it’s the people working at services like that who are the real celebrities.
He added, “My legs gave way when I went over the top of the tower but the wonderful abseil man said, ‘It’s OK, I’ve got you – we’ll go down together’. I had a lovely day – it really didn’t faze me at all and there were so many supporters there.”
Would you like to show your support for this incredible feat? Donate to Peter’s fundraiser.