"I have always loved heights. It’s something about laughing at death in the face and the freedom of the skies. So I’ve done a bit of climbing, been to Everest, done some ballooning, parachuting and gliding before. However for 10 years I have wanted to complete a wing walk and in June 2018 my dream came true. To celebrate my 60th birthday and being free from cancer, I booked a flight at an airfield in Breighton, Selby.
The day was rainy, the worst day we’ve had this summer in Northumberland but it was clear in Yorkshire thank goodness. The airfield is a former training ground for world war two pilots and so was the plane a Boeing Stearman PT17 Kadet. It’s older than me! It is well maintained and checked of course. I met some good friends who came to support me and take photos, they still couldn’t believe I was going to do it and looked a bit frightened when they learnt how old the plane was. After watching a training video and learning the emergency hand signals, for… ‘get me down please I have wet my pants’, you point both thumbs downwards and look scared. I watched a few other foolhardy people, mostly women, I have to say, take their flights. Some looked rigid with fear others more relaxed, you could tell from the wailing and frenetic semaphore.
When it was my turn I started to feel a little nervous, it was more about whether I could clamber on top of the biplane with an arthritic hip. It wasn’t so bad. I got a boost from the pilot, up the proverbial, which helped. Nice guy, he even laughed when I shouted ‘Chocks away Ginger,’ for all you Biggle’s fans out there. When the engine started it was so loud I was grateful for my super strength ear plugs and goggles. Apart from those there is no protection from the air as it whips into you. And it was comforting to know that if there was an accident I would definitely be killed, sitting exposed there on the top wing.
Taking off was fun, so smooth I didn’t realise we were in the air until the wind gushed into my ears, nose and mouth. I liked it. I began to sing the theme from the Dambusters and pretended to be Biggles. As we banked and soared I shot down a few public enemies just for fun, but I am not mentioning their names just in case you are a fan. Banking is a bit worrying until you get used to it, it feels like you are going to fall off. It’s a bit like riding a motorcycle round a steep bend; you just gotta roll with it. Although you are securely harnessed to a frame you do feel exposed and there is no walking involved, unlike the name suggests, just a lot of waving and playing the fool on my part.
Keeping your arms in the air was quite tiring, but I tried to put on a good show as requested by the photographers below. We circled the airfield a few times and I got the lay of the land, saw a startled hare and other rustic scenes. I knew the pilot was planning to go into a nose dive towards the ground, I had seem him do it to others before. But it was scary I have to admit, with smoke coming out of the engine and the earth rapidly coming up to meet me. See photos for the stoical stance.
After 10 minutes I was ready to come down, I was so tired from the wind’s 155mph buffeting, it is an effort to keeping your head, arms and body upright. I was a bit wobbly when we landed but went for a good tuck in at the café and laughed about it all. It was an exhilarating experience, the best so far. I am very pleased to have done it and at the same time raise some money for the Lets Get Growing project. I would highly recommend a wing walk it to anyone, except those who are afraid of heights and don’t have a supply of padded knickers to hand."
Charity registration and funding
We are delighted that our charity registration is now officially complete and our charity number is 1172662. Let's Get Growing has always been not-for-profit and, whilst we continue to work hard to generate some of own income, the nature of the beneficiary groups with whom we work means that some charitable funding is needed to enable us to offer our therapeutic services. Some participants attending our gardening therapy days have personal funds or are able to access a personal budget or direct payment to attend and we are working with the Care Commissioners Group to register our service officially. Others not supported by the NHS, especially those experiencing mental health difficulties or with mild learning difficulties can apply to our our bursary fund, as we have a clear policy of welcoming all, irrespective of financial means.
We would like to express our thanks to the Watkin Foundation and Joseph Brough Charitable Trust, managed through the Community Foundation, and to the Henry Bell Trust, R W Mann Trust and Catherine Cookson Trust for generously supporting us to cover some of our current running costs.
The New Year has seen two articles about our work published, one in the Hexham Courant and one double page spread on p149 of the February edition of Living North Magazine.
Our wonderful Sanctuary building is now available for hire by third parties as an alternative workshop space or away day venue - please see photos below. The building has a newly-fitted kitchen, woodburner and the poshest compost loo you have ever come across! It's simple, cosy and the setting is truly idyllic. Cost £50/half day or £100/full day. All proceeds go towards maintaining the building to support our gardening therapy work. For more information on hiring the building or to check dates, do contact us