PHILLIPPA Collins never expected her grandmother to abseil down a church tower when she suggested she do something exciting for her 80th birthday.

But yesterday the 23-year-old from Cricklade joined her aunt, Christina Foote, and her grandmother, Helen Hopkins, as they scaled down from the ceiling of the 70ft tower at St Sampson’s Church.

Phillippa told her grandmother, who has four daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, that she needed to do something exciting for her special birthday.

But after turning down suggestions to do a parachute jump and airwalking, Phillippa never thought Helen would actually take on an abseil.

Phillippa, 23, said: “I said she should so something exciting for her birthday and that I would support her, but I didn’t think she would actully do it.

“But a couple of weeks later I went round to hers and she had filled in all the paperwork to take part.”

Although Phillippa was glad to be back on firm ground, Helen, who runs the Upper Chelworth Farm B&B and has had both her knees replaced, enjoyed the experience.

She said: “I was a bit nervous about it but I enjoyed it. It was exhilarating and I would do it again. It was also good to raise a bit of money for a good cause.”

Around 40 people abseiled, raising thousands of pounds to support projects around the world at the beginning of Christian Aid Week.

Among those also taking part was the Bishop of Swindon, Lee Rayfield, who wanted to raise awareness of the charity’s work.

He said: “You have to use your upper body strength to lower yourself down until you feel the support catch you, and luckily I have that strength.

“If you didn’t or you couldn’t reach you would have to literally let yourself drop into space, and I have a lot of admiration for those who had to do that.

“I did it to raise awareness of Christian Aid, who work on helping those countries who have been destroyed and the communities that have been decimated through violence.”

The event was part of Cricklade’s Big Day Out, and as well as the abseil visitors could enjoy a barbecue, parachuting teddies, a chocolate fountain and plenty of table top sales with all proceeds going towards the charity.

Robin Passingham, who helped to organise the event, was delighted with the turnout.

She said: “I think it’s been a brilliant day. I think there have been around 150 to 200 people come along ,as well as the jumpers.

“I’ve been a supporter of Christian Aid since it was set up in 1957. It’s a way of making sure we are doing our Christian duty.”

For more information about Christian Aid visit