A VICAR will realise a 16-year dream to join the Royal Marines.

The Reverend Mark Allsop already enjoys a reputation as an action-man vicar in his rural parish on the border of Teesside and North Yorkshire.

He rides a motorcycle, has completed a freefall parachute jump for charity, runs five to six miles a day and regularly visits the gym.

Now he has told his flock at St Martin's Church, Kirklevington, that God has called him to the Commandos.

He said: "I wanted to join up, but my wife had our daughter -now 16 years old - and I decided not to, but to stay at home.

"I went into parochial ministry, then I thought I was too old.

"It was only recently when I was praying and re-assessing my life that I thought to look at the services and, in particular, the Royal Navy."

The one-time fitter and psychiatric nurse is priest-in-charge of Kirklevington, near Yarm, Low and High Worsall and the hamlet of Picton.

Reverend Allsop, a clergyman for the past 11 years, will be a chaplain in the Royal Marines.

In stark contrast to the green fields and hedgerows of his parish, the clergyman, who is 42 this year, could give spiritual comfort in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, next year.

First he faces eight months of physical training to be awarded a green beret, competing with young soldiers half his age.

He said he had the support and blessing of the Bishop of Whitby, the Right Reverend Robert Ladds.

He said: "It is a new chapter for me, for this ministry, but God wants me to do it.

"I have a friend who is in the Marine Corps, who I trained with, and he said the age limit had been raised. I went to Portsmouth and had all the interviews. I managed to get through them and was offered a commission."

He said he had talked over his move with his wife, Christine, and daughter, Emily.

He said: "We have been discussing it and talking together. Obviously without their support I could not continue my ministry.

"It has been announced in the parish.

"Everyone is quite emotional, but very supportive."