Fund-raising church warden heading to Antarctica with help from Gazelle Travel

Samantha Heslop from Gazelle Travel, Anne Harvey and Gordon Lawrence from Gazelle Travel

A volunteer church warden, who helped raise £40,000, is fulfilling a lifelong dream by spending the New Year in Antarctica.

A former nurse and mayor of Peterlee, Anne Harvey – who is 56 and 4ft 11” tall – has become a familiar figure on her daily walk to St Mary Magdalene Church in Belmont.

She has been wearing a hoodie printed with the words Antarctica 01 01 16 which has prompted conversations with passers-by and sometimes donations to the fund – which has just reached its target – to repair the church’s roof.

“I believe our church is important, not necessarily for people who always come to worship, but for people who are in need. It is important to have the building structure safe and sound. The church is a beacon of hope and I never want to see any churches crumble. I want to see them maintained to be a light people when they need it,” she said.

Her 19-day trip to the most southern tip of the globe follows other expeditions to the Arctic, Middle East, Indian Ocean and Canada.

“You speak to different people and there are lots of different religions out there. I have met some wonderful friends, for example wonderful Bedouin friends in the desert. They’re Muslims and they’re lovely and you can speak of God. I always say we worship one God, but different flavours,” she said.

Her goal is both to travel to as many places as possible and spread God’s word: “From being young I was told by my parents ‘don’t cross the line’ but as I grew older I wanted to cross that imaginary line – and one of the big remaining ones is the Antarctic Circle.”

Throughout her 10 years of travels Anne has been supported by Gazelle Travel of Durham City and as a gesture of thanks she is having her picture taken in the Antarctic in front of a Gazelle Travel banner.

“Gazelle Travel has been a tremendous help, guiding me and getting me the best deals. You never think things are possible until you go down there to speak to them. The team is wonderful. You get that personal touch,” she said.

Gazelle Travel’s director Nick Coulthard said: “Anne is one in a million with a heart of gold. When she comes into our office you’re always expecting her to want to go somewhere very special – and she never disappoints.”

Anne plans to travel to Russia and African and – when she is older – wants to achieve one other lifetime ambition.

“When I get old I want to go to Austria. I can stand on the steps of the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg and sing the song from the Sound of Music,” she said.