Blue Peter star Helen Skelton to walk high wire above Battersea Power Station
Helen Skelton, the Blue Peter presenter, is to walk along a high wire between the chimney stacks of Battersea Power Station
After becoming the first woman to kayak the length of the Amazon, some might have thought the Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton had endured her fill of death-defying adventure.
Instead the Cumbrian farmers' daughter has found a more dangerous challenge: a high wire walk across Battersea Power Station in London.
In little more than a week, Skelton will try to cross a 492ft gap between two of the disused power station's chimneys on a wire no wider in diameter than a €1 coin, above a 216ft drop – with no safety net.
She cannot even remember visiting a circus before starting her preparation just three months ago and admits that her training has been "peppered with chaos".
And she has discovered that high wire walking can "scare the living bejaysus out of me."
"I didn't think it through really," the 27-year-old television presenter confessed. "I'm stupid, I know. But the older I get, the more I realise being frightened is not a bad thing."
She has, she said, "never seen the Blue Peter office so frantic", with executives working "day and night" to cut through the red tape which included informing police and local councils, and assuaging traffic officials' anxieties that drivers might crash their cars as they stared at the woman on the high wire.
Calming the nerves of BBC 'health and safety' monitors has been another key task.
The BBC deemed the project so potentially risky that details were still being finalised late last week, with Blue Peter officials summoned before BBC health and safety officers on Friday afternoon to convince them that the walk was safe.
It has now been agreed that, provided the wind is not too strong and rain or ice do not make the galvanised steel wire too slippery, Skelton will walk on February 28.
The only thing protecting her will be a safety harness around her waist, the other end of which is connected to another cable running above her head.
"I'd rather be without a safety harness," she said, "But I couldn't do that to my mum."
Skelton hopes her efforts, to be broadcast on Blue Peter on March 8, will raise thousands of pounds for Comic Relief.
The idea for her latest challenge preceded last year's 2,010-mile Amazon odyssey.
She thought of a high wire walk in 2009 – on the flight home from becoming the second woman ever to complete the 78-mile Namibian Ultra Marathon.
"We chatted about the film Man on Wire (about a wire walk between New York's Twin Towers) I thought 'Wouldn't that be cool?'
"She never felt she had 'done her bit' after her Amazon adventure, the longest solo kayak journey ever completed.
"That would have been a cop-out to the kids who always ask me what I am going to do next.
"If we on Blue Peter can't encourage them to get up and do stuff, then what use are we?"
Skelton started training in November and, after ten hours of lessons, was able to manage a tightrope walk in front of the crowd at Zippos Circus. Then she discovered tightrope and high wire walking require totally different skills.
"With tightrope walking you sort of wobble along. With high wire walking you carry a balancing pole," she added.
She started again in December, in southern France, at the smallholding of Jade Kindar-Martin, the acclaimed American high wire walker, and his stuntwoman wife Karine.
Blue Peter commitments meant Skelton crammed her training into four six-day visits.
"It's been a nightmare. On my first visit, there was really bad snow; the second time, we lost three days to rain, and the last time I got a 24-hour stomach bug."
Her bottom is now bruised black and blue from learning to "meet the wire": fall on to it, so she can stand up again instead of dropping to the side and dangling helpless in her safety harness.
"At its worst," she said, "I was on four Nurofen a day."
Rather than teach everything, Kindar-Martin focused on the skills needed to get Skelton across the power station.
It still meant three full days 'learning to stand' on the starting platform, without stepping on to the wire.
Instead, she stared at the same stretch of steel for hours on end, as Kindar-Martin talked her through perfecting her knees-locked "graceful ballerina" posture and how to cope with holding the 13kg (29lb) balance pole.
"I didn't realise how strong you needed to be. I thought I would be able to slim down. In fact I have been bulking up as much as I did for the kayaking.
"Every day would start at 8am with a one-hour run up and down the hill near the house; then I would do an hour of pilates, stretching and abdominal crunches with Karine, with another hour in the evening after my day on the wire."
By her third visit, sliding her feet across the wire to keep as much of them in contact as possible, she managed to get across Kindar-Martin's 285ft–long wire, braving a section with a115ft drop.
She admitted, however: "The wire wobbled – it sort of bounces. You get that sheer panic. You go cross-eyed staring at the wire two metres ahead of you. You think 'Not one bit of this is pleasant'.
"It scares the living bejaysus out of me sometimes when I am on that wire."
She is trying not to think about the fact that the wire will probably have a 16ft sag at its midpoint.
"Going 'downhill', it's easy to slip. I don't want to get wound up about it."
Kindar-Martin, 37, has spent every spare second talking her through the task ahead, knowing that mental attitude was crucial.
A nervous, trembling walker means a wobbling wire, he said.
"And it's not the kind of thing where you can get in the middle and say you don't feel like going any further."
He insisted, however: "She's got this undefeatable attitude. If all else fails, that steely determination will rescue her."
And this time, Skelton has even more motivation, thanks to a recent visit to a Comic Relief-funded project for street children in Uganda's capital Kampala.
"You saw children in starry pyjamas being tucked in by the older kids to sleep beside a road with drug dealers patrolling it. I have never been so affected by anything."
That, and her faith in the technicians fitting her safety harness, is why her greatest fear is failing.
"I'm not worried about falling to my death, just failing. To fall off would be such a flop."
Donations towards Helen Skelton's fund-raising efforts can be made via www.rednoseday.com/girlonwire