Downham Market firm hopes to scale new heights

Colin Hawes was not planning on starting a new business when he retired and became a Scout leader 10 years ago.

But a lottery-funded project for his Downham Market Scouts has seen him scale new heights with a climbing wall enterprise, Highline Extreme, which has secured orders from as far afield as Australia.

To keep up with demand Mr Hawes, who was working in a barn at the end of his garden for six years, has been given a �90,000 European grant to open a new 500sqm purpose-built workshop in St John's Business Estate in Downham Market. It was officially opened last week by MEP Richard Howitt, who helped him secure the grant. Mr Hawes now employs four people, and hopes to expand and employ more.

Mr Hawes sold his car parts business when he retired at 44 to become a Scout leader.

After building a climbing wall for the Scouts he took it to a test engineer who suggested he should show it to someone who might be interested.

Although the 54-year-old was not planning to sell, he went out of interest and offered �20,000 to build one.

The business now builds skate parks, free running courses, bouldering walls and children's traversing walls and has a turnover of around �500,000. Mr Hawes has completed orders in India and Australia.

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He said: 'I did not want a business, I had retired. I was going to be a full- time Scout leader, but the business opportunity arose.

'I am hoping to develop the business. It's a business where one can either stop or expand,' he added.

'I am not aware of anyone in the world who makes a climbing wall like ours. Mine was designed much more to be a training machine for climbers. It's extremely versatile.'