Scaling Tor tower to see if I have a head for heights
I WASN’T sure if I had a fear of heights, but I soon found
There was no looking back, or down, as I stood at the foot of
Checkmate’s new 72ft structure known as The Tor.
It is being used to train technicians how to climb and maintain
wind turbines and also for the practice of emergency rescues.
A typical scenario would be if someone has a heart attack and is
dangling from a mast, how do you get him down?
Managing director Oliver Auston explained the reasons behind the
name of the £60,000 lattice building, so-called because of its
A tor is a reference to a mountain peak and it is also a nod to
the company’s logo of a knight’s shield, which links to one of the
Knights of the Round Table Sir Tor.
The third reason is more emotive. It is the nickname of Mr
Auston’s fiancee Victoria Hart, who is the business administrator
of Checkmate’s Height and Rescue Training (HART) division.
The tower was launched on the 31-year-old’s birthday, February
14, which her future husband acknowledged is, “ironic for a
business called HART”.
The company, designs and manufactures lifting and safety
equipment at its factory in New Road, Sheerness, so as I made my
way up the tower, I was decked out in a safety harness made
entirely by Sheppey hands.
I also held on to materials supplied by Sheerness-based
Ngineering Solutions, so was putting a lot of faith in
Trading director Andy Stock was up top to greet me and attach my
harness to the rail.
Anyone who goes up the tower will always wear at least two
clips, so that when switching between sections, one of them is
connected at all times.
What I initially thought was my own jelly legs was actually the
platform swaying in the wind.
Mr Stock told me that 80-metre tall wind turbines, almost four
times the height of the Tor, usually swing much more violently from
side to side.
I took a few moments to admire a beautiful, rare glimpse of
Sheppey from above, before being attached to a pulley and gradually
As I touched down safely on the ground, I didn’t know why I had
Checkmate hopes its new project, which started in December 2012,
will provide a boost to Sheppey’s economy.
The firm employs 60 people, including four taken on as a direct
result of the tower.
Mr Auston said: “We are now looking for apprentices, training
technicians and developing relationships with companies.
“There is a growing demand for more support courses and
“This industry is only getting bigger and there are
opportunities for people almost at school leaving age to get in on
“Demand will outstrip our current resources of people, we can
see that in the short term. It is a really exciting time for
The Tor was built to take advantage of a renewable energy
boom in the South East, including wind farms at Thanet, the London
Array, and the Kentish flats.
Managing director Mr Auston, 31, said:
“If you are working in the south of England we would be the first
port of call for training in the renewable sector.
“We are one of the only centres in the
UK that is accepted and approved by Siemens, Renewable UK and GWO
(Global Wind Organisation).”
Anyone who works as a technician on
wind farm needs to be trained by engineering giant Siemens, which
builds many of the turbines.
He added: “We believe it to be the
largest tower of its type, although we are yet to have it
Another arrow to Checkmate’s bow
includes three 10-metre high timber beams, used to train engineers
how to climb telegraph poles.
It also has 38 metres of rat runs
inside its factory and is converting a truck, both of which will be
used to acclimatise people to working in confined spaces.
- Click here for more Sheerness news...
- Click here for more news from across the county...