Highgate man climbs Africa’s highest mountain in last-ditch fundraising push for Lauderdale House

A Highgate man has climbed Africa’s highest mountain as part of a last-ditch six-month push to raise money for the restoration of a much-loved historic house.

Sales manager Simon Burgess, of South Grove, reached the peak of the world’s highest free-standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, on Thursday.

His six-day hike up and down the 19,300ft mountain raised money for an £1.8million restoration of Grade II listed Lauderdale House, in Highgate Hill, to secure its future for generations to come.

Mr Burgess, 47, whose partner Nicola Dempsey is the events manager at Lauderdale House, an arts and education centre, said before he went: “I help move chairs around, pour champagne at the weddings and I lead groups on the Spooky Trail every Halloween, so I was naturally drawn into the project.

“I am prepared but if you look at the rate of success, not everyone makes it up to the top, so I am sort of nervous. But I am looking forward to it.”

Mr Burgess was bitten by the bug for scaling great heights last year when he and Ms Dempsey hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

But Ms Dempsey decided to walk groups around Lauderdale House’s spooky trail this Halloween rather than accompany her partner to Africa.

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“I chose Kilimanjaro because of its unique charm and character,” said Mr Burgess. “Not everyone can say you have been to the top of one of the highest mountains.”

In just 18 months, the Lauderdale team has raised £1.3million for the Lauderdale Transformed project to replace the current workshop annexe with a new learning space, build a glass-covered atrium, provide disabled facilities and restore the house’s historic features.

But if staff at the house do not find a further £500,000 in the next six months, they will have to rethink their restoration plans.

Mr Burgess was aiming to raise at least £1,000 by persuading people to sponsor his trek but Lauderdale House director Katherine Ives hoped they could raise even more.

She said: “It is so lovely when someone comes to you instead of you chasing them, so I’m absolutely delighted that Simon [did this]. We are all working so hard because, if we don’t raise £500,000 in the next six months, we have to seriously reconsider what we do. We can’t just keep waiting.”

You can donate by visiting: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=SimonBurgess3&faId=382233&isTeam=false