SHEER drops, strong winds and arduous daily treks were just some of the challenges that faced a Carlisle couple as the trekked the Great Wall of China.

But Sandra and Mark Jones battled through the “life-changing journey”, and went on to raise £7,000 for the NSPCC.

A year ago, when Sandra signed up for the eight-day trek along the Great Wall of China, she had never even climbed a fell - and the thought of it terrified her.

But with the support of husband Mark, she battled her fear of heights and went on to complete - and even enjoy - the once in a lifetime challenge.

Sandra, 52, who is the NSPCC’s fundraising manager for Cumbria, was determined to complete the feat in aid of a cause that is so close to her heart.

Speaking on her return from China, she said: “It has been a life-changing journey - not only achieving what we did but overcoming my personal fears.

“The trip was magical, but also tough. The hardest parts were the second and final days. On day two, we trekked for eight hours along an un-renovated part of the wall. It was a narrow stairway with a sheer drop either side. A year ago I was having panic attacks just looking at things like that.

“On the last day, the section we climbed was higher than any mountain in the UK and there were extremely strong winds. Mark took hold of my hand and asked if I wanted to stop but I said ‘no, I’m doing it’. I feel really proud of what we achieved.”

All the money raised by Sandra and Mark will help the NSPCC keep children safe from abuse and neglect in Cumbria.

The charity runs a variety of services from its Carlisle base, including working with young people at risk of, or who have experienced, sexual exploitation.

Sandra said that motivated her to keep going. “Mark and I were very privileged to have had the opportunity to climb the wall and more importantly to raise funds for NSPCC,” she said.

“I want to thank everyone who has supported and sponsored us.”

Not quite ready to relax, the couple are already planning their next fundraising challenge - this time trekking through the Transylvanian Alps.

The five day hike will reach heights of 2,200m - but this time Sandra feels as though she has found a way through her fears, and is ready to take on the world.

Sandra said: “We decided that we would definitely sign up for Transylvania when we were away in China. It was such an amazing experience that we just wanted to have another challenge.

“We have already started our fundraising and training plans.”

To sponsor the couple visit Again funds will go to the NSPCC.