Plan for climbing wall inside Barnstaple church tower

INNOVATIVE plans are under way to turn the inside of one of North Devon s highest landmarks into the South West s highest climbing wall. As part of a massive refurbishment programme at Barnstaple s Holy Trinity Church, a proposal to install a climbing fac

INNOVATIVE plans are under way to turn the inside of one of North Devon's highest landmarks into the South West's highest climbing wall.

As part of a massive refurbishment programme at Barnstaple's Holy Trinity Church, a proposal to install a climbing facility inside the church is being given serious consideration by church officials who are now seeking approval from the Diocese of Exeter.

Climbing walls have already been opened in disused churches in Bristol and Manchester, but if the plans do get the green light, the church could be the first of its kind to offer a climbing wall to local community groups alongside the soup kitchen, community workshop, gospel choir and other groups who already use the church hall.

The estimated cost for design, installation, insurance, training and kit for the climbing wall is around �25,000.

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"The idea is incredibly innovative; this has never been done before in a church that is still used for worship," said church curate the Rev Andy Dodwell.

"This is why we want to do it properly and have gone to the diocese for advice.

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"We are looking to deliver a facility that will help the church to sustain itself while opening it up to even more members of the community.

"The feedback we have had has so far been very encouraging. Speaking to people in the street, they are happy to donate money to make the church more comfortable and are certainly keen to save the tower.

"But when it comes to raising money to create something completely unique for the local community to use, they are really interested in donating."

Following a massive - and ongoing - "Take on the Tower" fund-raising appeal, efforts to safeguard the future of the church tower are now beginning to be seen from far and wide. The removal of scaffolding from the upper tiers of the local landmark is beginning to unveil a smart new look for the ancient church.

Stonemasons working on the upper aspects of the tower - including the crumbling pinnacles - have spent the last few months updating and repairing the weathered stonework and are slowly descending the tower to complete the estimated �80,000-worth of stone repairs between now and the end of October.

Churchwarden Jerry Kent said that work on the 38metre tower had been "challenging", as experts could only investigate the stonework and interior once scaffolding was in place.

"The cleaning of the stonework has revealed many repairs, but these are now well in hand," he said.

"The repairs will ensure that those areas difficult to reach should not require maintenance for more than 50 years and, when the scaffold is fully removed, the gleaming tower will be something that the people of Barnstaple can be proud of."

Mr Kent said that work inside the church was also progressing well, with the floor now re-laid and wall and roof repairs now under way.

"Decorations, fittings and finishes will follow so that we should be able to meet again in the church in September," said Mr Kent.

"The new space will be much more flexible, with improved access and draught proofing, a level floor for chairs, concealed heating plus a disabled toilet and drinks facilities in the main building. Rewiring and relighting work will start soon and this will also make the space ideal for a wide range of worship and community events."

So far, around �300,000 has been raised for the appeal, including pledged loans from church members and a loan from diocese.

The church committee estimates that it will need to raise another �100,000 to complete the work.

"Contractors, Digby & Roe, and Westcountry Stonemasons, have been superb, bringing craftsmanship to the repair and updating of the church and tower, and are working with us to provide good value for money from the donations," added Mr Kent. "Money is still required to complete the work but many local and national charities have been very generous."

To help, telephone (01271) 344321 or email

Donations can be sent to the church office, marked Tower Fund and made payable to Holy Trinity PCC.

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