Anne Linington (nee King)
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Anne Linington (nee King) - Rhowniar, Wales, 1970

Your favourite moment? Toughest challenge? A special memory?When the rope holds

Dangling at the end of the rope, half-way up a rock-face, I was shaken by my fall, but confident in the knowledge that I was secure. The rope, fastened to the cliff above, and held by my invisible instructor, had held fast. There was no longer anything to fear because I had proof of its dependability.

Months earlier, I had applied for, and been granted, one of four scholarships funded annually by a local benefactor. I was now committed to four weeks of canoing, rock-climbing, orienteering, and assault courses at an Outward Bound Activity Centre on the West Wales coast. I knew little of the challenges ahead of me.

Aged seventeen, we travelled by train, negotiating several changes, until we arrived at Rhowniar Outward Bound Centre, near Towyn. The previous few weeks had involved hurried preparations, putting together the kit I would need; several pairs of trousers, cotton and woollen socks which had been knitted for me in royal blue, bright green and red; Perhaps I figured that my socks would be spotted were I to get lost. I remember with horror how the colours ran on their first wash. I also had a brand new pair of climbing boots, and applying surgical spirit to my feet to harden them up, per instructions. To this day, the smells of surgical spirit and paraffin instantly remind me of sore feet and camping stoves.

We were shown our dormitory accommodation, being allocated to different ones from our friends, to gain maximum benefit from the experience. Many of the bunks had been taken by those who had arrived first, and I was surprised by the number of police cadets from places like Liverpool. This quiet schoolgirl from Devon, who had recently become a Christian and wanted to read her Bible, had been thrown in at the deep end.

One of our greatest challenges was the assault course high in the trees, where a jump of a few inches, many feet off the ground was scary, but exhilarating, when achieved. Canoing began with being capsized and taught the emergency technique of breathing the air in the space within the upturned boat. My fear of being under water, and an earlier perforated ear-drum came to the fore.

I was keen on geography, so I particularly enjoyed the orienteering using a compass to plot a route and reach a planned destination. This was a group activity with each of us taking turns to lead, and an assessment given of our leadership skills. Other challenges involved a three-day hike, carrying all our camping equipment, covering some forty miles. The achievement of climbing a summit and
discovering the most spectacular view made the effort worthwhile.

For some reason other than the good-looking instructor, I relished the challenge of rock-climbing and abseiling. Sometimes these were rocky outcrops, sometimes coastal cliffs, but the most scary was a cliff, down which we had abseiled, only to discover a cave at the base which was unseen from above. No doubt part of the challenge was our response to unforeseen difficulties.

The day on which I received a new level of confidence involved a fall on one such climb; We were ascending a cliff, using ropes and carabiners, and had been taught to move only one limb at a time so that we always had three points of contact with the rock. Somehow I slipped; whether I overstretched, or simply missed my footing I do not know, but after a sharp jar, where the rope took the strain under my ribs, I found myself dangling unceremoniously at the end. It was a momentary realization that the rope had held, and I was safe because it was firmly anchored to the cliff above, and maintained by my unseen instructor.

Taking a few moments to find new holds for my hands and feet, and with lots of reassurance, I began my assent again. But now everything was different; despite being shaken by the fall, the change in mentality was noticeable; my worst fear had been faced and the rope held fast. I climbed with renewed confidence, and much greater enjoyment in the knowledge that if the worst happened, I might be bruised, but I would be alive.

I really appreciated the lesson that I learned that day, and have sometimes used it as an illustration of faith. Firmly anchored to that which is above and unseen, even if we fall, we are kept safe.