Johnny Carr hand glider

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Johnny Carr: This 75-year-old hang glider is living the high life

Johnny Carr hand glider

Johnny after he broke the British out and return record in 2012

West Sussex-based adventurer Johnny Carr took delivery of his first hang-glider – a curved boom Wasp GB with a 240 square foot sail – in July 1974 and entered his first competition a month later. Five decades and countless national and international trophies later, Johnny is still as passionate as ever about taking to the skies. But, as he approaches his 75th birthday, he has a new obsession brewing…

I grew up in the late fifties and early sixties, and I used to go for cycle rides around the local countryside and think, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could open up the arms of my jacket, face into the wind and just glide down from the top of that hill to the bottom.’

I used to dream of that all the time as a kid, but then I’d think, ‘No, that’s never going to happen.’

Then, in the early seventies, I was watching one of those ‘And finally…’ stories on the News at Ten, and it was this crazy bloke in this new thing called a hang-glider, and he was about to jump off Mount Snowdon.

I said to my wife at the time, ‘If he lives, I’m going to do that,’ as it was exactly how I’d imagined it in my dreams, and from that moment on, my fantasy became a reality.

 

Johnny Carr hand glider

Johnny in action. Photo credit: Katy Cole

I bought a hang glider soon afterwards, and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve been hang-gliding competitively for 50 years, and it’s been the enduring passion of my life.

When I first started, it was like a drug. I just had to get my feet off the ground.

I went to the hill every weekend, and I’d be daydreaming at work, thinking, ‘Tomorrow I can go and fly.’

I was totally obsessed.

I became the British Champion in 1981, the British Open Champion in 1982 and I was runner-up in the world championships in 1979.

I loved the competitive element of it, the fantastic views of the countryside and flying through the clouds.

But the most exciting part is when you pit yourself against the elements because gravity dictates that sooner or later, you will land.

 

Johnny Carr hand glider

Johnny with top British pilots Gordon Rigg and Dave Matthews. Photo credit: Katy Cole

Generally, I fly at about 25 miles per hour, but if I pull the bar in, I can reach 60 miles per hour, and you come across some amazing wildlife thousands of feet in the air.

I love birdwatching, too, so I can identify most species. I’ve come up close and personal with an osprey before, and I met two storks about 3000 feet above Eastbourne once.

I’ll be 75 on my next birthday, but I don’t feel any older than 60, and I’m sure I would have aged quicker without the hang-gliding.

I’ve got one of the conditions the King’s had, an enlarged prostate, but it’s been checked out, and that doesn’t seem to stop me.

For now, I’m carrying on, and my remaining ambition is to finish in the top ten of the nationals within this decade, then I’ll be the first person to have done that in five consecutive decades.

 

The most exciting part is when you pit yourself against the elements, because gravity dictates that sooner or later, you will land.
Johnny Carr

Most of the people I compete against are in their 40s or 50s anyway, and I’m easily the oldest one competing. It’s just been part of my life for so long that I don’t want to give it up.

I don’t want to be old. I can’t bear the thought of it, and I do lots of walking and exercise and eat well, and even though I’ve had a few accidents – I broke my shoulder last August taking off from Devil’s Dyke in Sussex – I can still fly better than most people and land as well as anyone else. Last year I did a 90km flight purely powered by wind and thermals, which is an almost unheard of distance.

My son said to me last year after the accident, ‘Isn’t it about time you knocked it on the head now, Dad?’ Obviously, I’ve thought about it, but I just need to get that top ten goal out of the way, and then maybe I can focus on my other obsession, which is bird watching and wildlife photography and filming.

But that hasn’t happened yet, so for now, I’m just going to keep on flying.

 

Rocky Taylor the world's oldest stuntman

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Rocky Taylor: World’s oldest stuntman says “I’ve just turned 79, but I feel 29.”

Rocky Taylor the world's oldest stuntman

Rocky Taylor the world's oldest stuntman

Rocky Taylor’s big break in the movies came as a 16-year-old judo black belt in 1961 when he taught Cliff Richard how to fight in The Young Ones. Since then, he’s risked life and limb as a stunt performer in dozens of big screen blockbusters, including Titanic, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mission Impossible and ten Bond films. Now a stunt coordinator too, he’s doubled for Sean Connery and Roger Moore and appears in the latest Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise.

I’ve just turned 79, but I still feel 29.

I’m an active man. I play golf, I’ve only just stopped playing football, and I’ve been a stuntman for 63 years now, so I need to look good. I try to keep myself slim, I eat the right food, and I’m off the booze.

It all started for me back in 1961 when I got asked to teach Cliff Richard how to do a fight scene. 

I was a judo black belt, and we spent a couple of days on the mats teaching him how to throw me and other people on the floor and how to throw a punch. After a while, the director said, ‘Rocky, can you play the young man who has the fight with Cliff,’ so I did, and the rest of my career just took off from there. One thing people misunderstand about being a stuntman is that it’s full of danger.

Rocky Taylor with his book Jump Rocky Jump and Jon Auty

Rocky Taylor with his book Jump Rocky Jump and Jon Auty

The job of a stuntman is to make things not dangerous so we can come back and do it again tomorrow.

Every fall, whether it’s from a chair or a hundred-foot building, is dangerous, but you prepare the ground with boxes or airbags so you can get up and walk away. 

The stunt which scared me most was coming down the Cresta Run four times in a car with spikes on the wheels to keep it upright in a film called Monte Carlo or Bust.

That was frightening as the car was going round bends and up in the air and I had no idea where it was going to end up.

Rocky Taylor and Sean Connery

Some of my favourite memories are from the Bond films.

I’ve done about ten altogether with Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig doubling for them in fight scenes and car chases, and I got on with all of them well.

Sean knew my father, who was also a stuntman and actor, but I’d say Daniel Craig is the more realistic Bond.

I love Roger and he liked to do slapstick and have a laugh, but Daniel likes to do it straight down the middle.

Another big star I loved working with was Tom Cruise. I was a train driver with him in the last Mission Impossible movie, and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

He came on the set, and I said, ‘Good morning, Mr Cruise,’ and he said, ‘My name is Tom,’ and I said, ‘Sorry Tom. My name is Rocky.’

And he said, ‘Thanks Rocky,’ and he shook my hand.

For a superstar he was a very warm guy.

Rocky Taylor with Roger Moore on the set of Octopussy

I’m still busy today either stunt performing or coordinating stunts, and people say to me, ‘How on earth are you still this active at your age, Rocky,’ and I just keep myself trim, I go walking, but of course, there have been moments where things haven’t gone right.

I’ve had a few lumps and bumps and bruises, a broken arm, and a broken leg.

A horse came right down on top of me once and broke my leg, and I fractured my spine on Death Wish III.

I fell from a building into some boxes but went through the boxes and hit the ground and broke my pelvis.

I was in the hospital for eight weeks, but I never for one moment thought, ‘OK, Rocky, maybe you should jack this in and become an accountant.

I don’t know anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else, and I still feel the same. 

Rocky Taylor with Steven Spielberg

Rocky Taylor with Steven Spielberg

Stunt work has always been my life, and passing on my experience to the next generation is my priority now. I’ve never seen age as a barrier.

I’m a young 79 because my body and my face look young, and people don’t believe I’m 79.

Most people think I’m about sixty, and of course, there’s a physical fitness aspect to it, but mental attitude is also so important.

I’ll be 80 next year, but I think I’ve got at least another five or six years in me, more coordinating than stunt work now.

I can do car turnovers all day long, but stand-up fight scenes and falling down the stairs, I don’t want to do those anymore.

I’m young at heart, and I’m a young 79, but with a different attitude, I’d be an old 79, so I’ve every intention of just carrying on what I’m doing.

For more information on Rocky, visit www.rockytaylor.com

SweetPea.Malcolm.Walford.

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Malcolm Walford: 90-year-old says “Don’t sit at home, volunteer, get involved.”

SweetPea.Malcolm.Walford.

90 yr old Malcom on Worcestershire’s historic Croome Estate

Worcestershire local Malcolm Walford first started work at Croome two months after Queen Elizabeth II’s June 1953 coronation, and as well as outliving two of the estate’s owners and our late monarch, the effervescent nonagenarian has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to the stunning 18th Century Neo-Palladian mansion and even has his own plot reserved in the estate’s churchyard for when his day finally comes. Which won’t be any time soon if Malcom has his way…

I was born in Wolverhampton on August 14th 1933, and my father was born about two miles away from Croome.

He worked there, as did two of his brothers, and they always said to me, ‘There’s something special about Croome,’ and I’m still here 71 years after I started working here, so they weren’t wrong.

It’s a magical place, and it keeps me young and a lot of people, when they meet me, can’t believe that I’ve passed 90, and to be honest, I don’t feel this old either.

SweetPea.Malcolm.Walford.2

Malcom in his early role as a bricklayer

I’ve always been a busy person, and I started work on the estate in 1953 as a labourer with a stonemason and bricklayer. I got promoted in 1961 to stores controller, which I loved, and since then, I’ve had multiple roles, including company secretary, director, and even managing director.

Now, I’m based at Croome Church, where I’m a historian for Lord and Lady Coventry, and I welcome visitors and talk about the history of the estate, which is now administered by the National Trust, and about my own life, too.

I know a lot of people might reach 70 and want to put their feet up, but not me. I love the estate. It gets me out. It gets me talking to people, and once I get six or seven people around me, that gives me great pleasure. It’s wonderful.

 

Malcolm as the Store Controller

Malcolm as the Store Controller

I’m the last of the workmen who came onto the estate in 1953, and I’ve even written a book about the history of the place. Nobody will ever beat my service going back right to the 1800s. Nobody has ever done 71 years, and I love it even more now I’m getting older.

Both my parents lived until they were 92, so that’s the first anniversary I want to reach, and it’s been a long journey to reach this point.

I used to live in the village where Capability Brown – who designed the gardens – was from, but after I married my wife Mary from RAF Defford, we moved into a tied house on the estate.

We split up before she died from a brain aneurism in 2003, three months after my lad took his own life at the age of 44, but I still have a daughter and a granddaughter.

I then had a relationship with my secretary Gaynor, who passed away from pancreatic cancer four years ago, but the toughest time was Covid, when Croome closed down, and I was living alone in a flat in nearby Pershore, where I am now, where I had to have a lot of help from nurses to get me through it, but I got through it, I’m back at Croome, and now I’m as full of life as ever.

My association with Croome has been the biggest constant in my life, and its absolutely kept me going I just love being part of the fabric of the place.

 

God knows what they’re going to do when I’m not here anymore, and that’s why I want to keep sharing as much information about the place as I can now while I’m still alive, and I know everyone at Croome is willing me to get all the way to 100, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

I still drive. I’m still alert and I’ve written another 65 stories about Croome, which are going to be archived digitally and shared with future generations, and I just want to keep going.

 

Don’t sit at home. Volunteer. Get involved. I couldn’t survive if I had to stop at home all day. 
Malcolm Watford

I love turning up for work on a Saturday morning but working for five hours leaves me shattered – although I’ll do Wednesday mornings too in the summer – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s tiring, but it’s energising, too, and if there are people out there reading this and wondering how they can make the most of their time, I’d urge them to volunteer for the National Trust. If there’s anything local, volunteer for it because it keeps you going.

Don’t sit at home. Volunteer. Get involved. I couldn’t survive if I had to stop at home all day.

No way. I’d just disappear. I wouldn’t live as long as I want to live.

And I hope to go on for a very long time yet!

 

For more information on volunteering for the National Trust visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/support-us/volunteer

Mary Walkerdene Tennis

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Mary Walkerdine: British tennis player, “I won Wimbledon at 85!”

Mary Walkerdene Tennis

Born in 1939, Westbury-on-Trym-based Mary Walkerdine was obsessed with sport as a schoolgirl and joined her local club, Knowle Tennis Club, in 1956 and has played competitively ever since. She began representing the Great Britain Seniors Team in her 80s and last year won the singles and double British Masters Grass Court Championships at the All-England Club in Wimbledon.

“Right from being a child, I’ve always been keen on sport, but always competitive sport, and I still play three or four times a week.

I joined Knowle Tennis Club in 1956, and I was lucky enough to be able to play competitively straight away; apart from the periods when I had two children, I’ve played competitively ever since.

I’m as keen today as I ever was. Sport has been my life, and it continues to be.

When I was a teenager, I played badminton for Somerset, and a few years ago, I went on a Warner holiday and entered a table tennis tournament and ended up winning that, too.

I think if you’re good at one racquet sport, you’ll probably be good at all of them, but tennis is my first love.

I just love competition, and I genuinely believe it helps keep me young.

Mary Walkerdine Wimbeldon

Mary Walkerdine on court

I’ll be 86 on my next birthday, but I feel about 40, and I’ve never been one of those people who can have a jolly knock-up.

I like to play in matches as there’s something at the end of it, and for the last five or six years, I’ve been playing for the Great Britain Seniors, and it’s been a fabulous experience.

We play in different age groups. It starts at 65, then there are groups for 70-year-olds, 75-year-olds, 80-year-olds and 85 and over, which is my age group, and you’d be amazed how many people of all ages play. I know one lady who is still playing, and she’s 90 years old.

Mary at Wimbledon

Mary at Wimbledon

I entered the seniors’ tournament at Wimbledon last year, which was played on the outside courts, not Centre Court, sadly, and ended up winning the singles and doubles. I can’t wait to get back there this summer to defend those crowns.

I’ve also travelled the world since getting involved. I’ve played tournaments in Florida and Croatia, and later this year, we’ll be competing in Turkey.

Next year, I’ll be travelling all the way to Australia to compete, and I’ve met some tennis professionals along the way, too. Not Andy Murray or Roger Federer yet but I have seen Roger Taylor and Mark Cox at some tournaments.

Friends of mine who are the same age as me but not as competitive don’t know how I do it, but I just love it, and I honestly don’t really feel any physical effects after playing. I did the Bath half marathon a few years ago, and playing just keeps me fit. If you asked me to run around the block I could do it easily, whereas some of the others have probably never done that in their lives, but I think staying active is the key.

Playing tennis keeps me physically fit, but it’s also been wonderful socially as you get to meet so many different sorts of people. One lady in my club was married to the former Liverpool and England footballer Alan A’Court, so without tennis, I’d never have met someone like that.

But not everyone has to be as competitive as me. Most clubs have loads of different levels of ability, so there’s something for everyone, even if you just want to play for fun.

Personally, that’s not for me, though, and if I turned up and wasn’t picked to play competitively, I’d have to find another sport, but I have no plans to give up just yet.

As long as I can still perform at a decent level, I’ll carry on, and my big goal for the year is to retain those two crowns at Wimbledon.

And will I have a celebratory glass of Pimm’s if I win again? Pimm’s is not really my drink, but if I do win, I’ll definitely have a glass of white wine.”

For more information about seniors’ tennis visit Senior Tennis Tournaments, Competitions & News | LTA