Daredevil gran spends her retirement swimming with sharks, jumping out of planes, wing walking and paragliding

Meet Britain’s most daredevil gran – Trish Wagstaff, 85, who has spent her retirement swimming with sharks, jumping out of planes, wing walking and paragliding.

After her retired Army major husband Peter died ten years ago she pledged to spend her time fundraising for local charities and pushing herself to the limit.

But instead of organising bake sales the daring gran-of-two decided to do a hairraising stunt every year and has so far raised more than £150,000 for charity.

She has swum with sharks in an aquarium, wing walked, abseiled, done zip-lining, as well as sky diving and hang-gliding.

Stoical Trish spent much of her life as an ‘Army wife’ and said her daring activities are nothing compared to moving around the world for his job while raising a family.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing paragliding.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing paragliding.

The pensioner from Appleton, Oxfordshire, said: “A lot of my friends and family think I’m absolutely bonkers.

“I started doing it a year after my husband died, but if he had been alive he would have said ‘no you won’t.’

“My son came along and took photos when I was swimming with sharks. I think he was more nervous than I was.

“I think you have got to have confidence in the people running these things. It’s no more dangerous than crossing the road when a car is coming.”

Trish has been helping good causes since she was nine-years-old, when she would pick up older people’s rations during the war so they would not have to queue.

The lifelong charity volunteer said her pragmatic attitude in later life comes from decades spent moving from place to place with the British Army.

She said she would often live in “war zones” with husband Peter, a major in the Scots Regiment, with children Sheena and Keith.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing a wing walk.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing a wing walk.


They lived in Germany, Malta, and Cyprus in 23 different homes.

Trish, who had a hip replacement 15 years ago, said: “When you had a gun pointed at you, you knew the bullets were real.

“I was an army wife, and as an army wife in dangerous places, you knew when danger was real.

“During the war between the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus, they were firing across our children’s primary school.

“It was terrifying. It was completely out of our control. Our children’s lives were in danger.

“We never knew where we were going to go next. It was a bit annoying – you’d get a garden going and then move on.

“These are just trivial things.”

Trish Wagstaff, 85 abseiling.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 abseiling.

Although she enjoyed the occasional roller coaster ride on family holidays, Trish said she was not an adrenaline junkie until nine years ago.

Her first stunt was swimming with sharks Blue Planet Aquarium at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

She has also abseiled 100m down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, Hants in 2010, where she found herself coaching a young couple who were scared.

“If you are going to be a gibbering idiot you shouldn’t be doing it,” she said.

“When I did my abseil there were two young people who took fright and didn’t want to do it.

“I said ‘if an old thing like me can do it, you two can.

“Just think of the pleasure you will have given to little children in a hospice when the sponsorship money buys special treats for dying children.'”

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing paragliding.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing paragliding.

She has whizzed along the longest zipwire in Europe, in Wales three years ago and last year she did a wing walk in Chiltern Air Park at Ipsden, Oxfordshire.

Her most recent stunt saw her perform a catapulted paraglide over the Westbury white horse in Salisbury earlier this month.

She managed to raise £20,680 for Alzheimers UK after spending three hours a day door-knocking around her village.

Trish said: “I don’t mind heights, I enjoy them.

“With the catapulted paraglide you’re attached to someone and then you run up the top of a hill and attach to a thermal wind.

“That’s what lifts the parachute. You’re flying like a bird. The view was absolutely lovely.”

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing a wing walk.

Trish Wagstaff, 85 doing a wing walk.

She has not yet planned her 10th anniversary stunt, which will be next year, but ruled out running a marathon.

“I wouldn’t have the breath, not at nearly 86,” Trish said. “I don’t think I’d be very good.”

“I would encourage pensioners to stop saying ‘I’m old, I can’t do it’ and get up and do something.

“An awful lot of people in their 70s have said to me ‘I can’t do it, I’m far too old.’

“There are plenty of able bodied pensioners who don’t do a thing except for sit in front of the TV and get fatter and fatter and fatter.

“Sadly it goes for all ages – some people just sit at a computer or in front of the box or texting on their mobile phones.”

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