Mark Lane

On a mild early January day in 2013 I slide the metallic strap of my 40th anniversary Omega Seamaster on my tanned wrist, pull on the new Sunspel navy t-shirt and kaki Levi jeans…ready for the event ahead. I reach for the Gillette razor and aftershave; it’s not often I visit 16th century castle in the heart of the England so a smooth shave is a must. A splash of Coco Reban for men and Im set to go.

Driving my dark blue Renault Espace MPV (not exactly a Bond car) through the tight winding roads of the Staffordshire countryside in the very centre of Great Britain, this mild winters day blue skies no breeze. My LCD dash readout says 8 degrees Celsius.

rappelling james bond style

I begin my descent…

Around the next bend I know is the first Bond task ahead of me, standing over 200 feet above where I stop and survey is the castle designed by the very same man who designed the Palace of Westminster in the capital of my country and where the government is run from. Alton Castle was founded by Bertram de Verdon and built on a rocky precipice overlooking the River Churnet in the 12th century. It was substantially reconstructed during the 15th century and subsequently was damaged during the Civil War. In 1847 it was significantly reconstructed by the Catholic architect Augustus Pugin as a Gothic country house for the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury.

Alton Castle is a mid to late 12th century stone enclosure fortress, founded by Bertram de Verdon. Standing on a hill overlooking the Churnet Valley, the castle is protected by a precipitous cliff to the north and a curtain wall, with a rock-cut ditch to the south. Substantially reconstructed during the 15th century, a tall rectangular tower with a chamfered plinth and crossloops, flanks the curtain wall. In the ditch are the remains of a postern and an early 13th century twin-towered gatehouse, which still shows its portcullis slot to the west. In 1847 after being slighted during the Civil War, Pugin gave the remains a Gothic reconstruction.

The first task is to rappel down the historic clock tower around 50 feet above the court yard.

As I climb the several flights of ancient stairs I notice the ornate stone carved windows, no wood or PVC here.

The fresh air rushes through as the very low door to the roof opens my lungs, as I look down to the court yard I can see shrine to the Virgin Mary.

I fasten on my harness, which sits very tight around my slight 32inch waist and even tighter on my crotch!

Leaning back on the ledge with only a rope the same thickness of my ring finger as support I take the first steps over the edge, right foot first then left, now my legs at right angle to the wall feet flat to the stone work, a few steps, then bend legs and push off, both feet leave and Im 2 foot away from the stone building and going down like a SAS soldier should, a further two pushes and Im on the groundfantastic.

Ascending the same stairs but turning right not left as before we are faced with another corridor with dormitories either side with very basic bunk beds and wash basins as though Catholic nuns might of lived here still, we climb another stair case which leads to the opposite end of the castle, the side which over looks the valley beneath 200 feet us.

Again I fasten Myself on and place my heels over the edge and lean back, right foot first, then left foot, push against the 400year old stone work and spring backwards and down rope sliding through my hands, an few more pushes and I land on a 45degree roof angle aprox 4 feet long, I reset myself and push off again, another 20 feet I hit the rock face now, all the stone work has gone.

And Im abseiling down the precipice with its green moss growing on it I find my foot hold not as strong as before, the final 30 foot is here and I safe speed at a I land securely on the ground. Wow!