Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Harrison's Rocks - Winter Conservation Work Weekend 2017


A big thank you to all the volunteers who gave their time and effort last weekend at Harrison's Rocks...



The trees designated as section F of the woodland management plan were cut, opening up the area so more natural light and air can reach the crag. New paths were built, wildlife habits were created, and crags were cleared. Unclimbed Wall area was strimmed and the Wanderfall section had the overgrown top-outs dealt with, paving way for better and drier conditions in that area.

If you are interested in future volunteering, contact the Sandstone Volunteering Group.
 



Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Sandstone Volunteers' Group - Winter Conservation Work - 11th & 12th November 2017





The Sandstone Volunteers’ Group and HRMG would like your help with the planned work at Harrison’s Rocks on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November 2017.

Work will include clearing the arisings from the cuttings, moving trunks to habitat piles or where they are required for revetment work and lining footpaths with brash.

Other work includes cutting back sycamore and birch saplings that have re-grown in areas cut in previous years. Bowsaws, loppers, pruners will all come in handy.

The plan is to meet at Harrison's car park at 9.30am. If you cannot get there that early then head to compartment F shown on the map, which is more commonly known as Unclimbed Wall Area.

Wear warm old clothing that you do not mind getting dirty, waterproof boots, gardening gloves and bring any cutting or digging tools you may have.

If you can attend, please email Graham Adcock (SVG Co-ordinator) on adcock@clara.net

The SVG will also be carrying out some work at Bull’s Hollow and most likely High Rocks.
There may well be other initiatives – watch this space.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Harrison's Camping At Risk

Paying for parking and camping was all part of the deal when the Forestry Commission took over the management of the toilet block, car park and camping at Harrison’s Rocks. A few years back when it was first announced that the toilet block was to be closed and then potentially demolished, there was an uproar from the south-east climbing community. Without the toilet facilities the campsite could not stay open.

The Forestry Commission agreed that the money raised from the parking fees and camping, would go towards the upkeep of the facilities which the climbing community fought so hard to keep.

It has been noticed that some visitors have not been paying for their camping. They may have a valid yearly parking ‘discovery pass’, which allows them to park in the car park, but as soon as they stay overnight, it is deemed as camping, so a camping charge is needed to be paid at the machine.

The upkeep of the camping is important and costly, mainly due to the facilities used by visitors staying over night; water and electricity from the toilet block usage are costly for the Forestry Commission, as well as regular refuse pick-ups from the large bin in the car park. Please take all this into consideration when staying at Harrison’s. With the Forestry Commission’s budget already stretched, all visitors need to pay in order to secure the future of the facilities. If people continue not to pay for camping in 2018 then there is a very strong risk that the campsite and potentialy certain aspects of the facilities, will close.


So easily forgotten, the long discussions regarding the fate of the toilet block and camping. Read the old stories here:

17/04/2015    Facilities are now open at Harrison's (Campsite opening soon)

27/03/2015    Birchden Wood - Harrisons Rocks Facilities Update

29/10/2014    Harrison's Rocks Car Park & Facilities Decision

14/04/2014    Harrison's Rocks Toilets and Campsite Now Open

18/03/2014    Update - Harrison's facilities to open in March 2014

12/12/2013    Submit your idea for Harrison's Facilities

13/11/2013    Latest News - Harrison's Toilet Block to be Refurbished

21/10/2013    Petition for Harrison's Rocks toilet block and campsite

09/07/2013    Closure of Harrison's Campsite and Toilet Facilities

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Isolated Buttress - October 2017 Update

After the removal of the block three years ago (on genuine safety grounds), which previously enabled  climbers from making a short step to and from the Isolated Buttress, and two additional years of monitoring the situation, the HRMG have now entered an extended period of discussions. This is to evaluate all the evidence in detail and to establish an appropriate course of action regarding access and erosion prevention for the buttress. 

A more focused Sandstone Open Meeting was held on 8th October 2017, where views were aired and noted by the HRMG, as well as the acknowledgement of emails sent in, and the south-east
voting poll that was conducted in 2015.
The Isolated Buttress is an important subject matter for the HRMG, and the matter is being taken very seriously in order to ensure the best possible course of action is taken concerning access and conservation for the buttress.  



Thursday, 28 September 2017

Harrison’s Rocks: BMC Debating Bridge Access


If you have been following the long saga regarding a bridge at Harrison's Rocks, then this may be of interest to you. The BMC with help from the HRMG have put together an article debating bridge access to Isolated Buttress at Harrison's Rocks.

The only practical solution is to install a bridge or to leave the situation as it is. Many views for and against building a bridge have been discussed, and the BMC wishes to support the decision of the majority of climbers that actively use Harrison’s Rocks.

Discussions will take place at the Sandstone Open Meeting on Sunday 8th October (6pm located at Bowles Rocks in the upstairs bar) and will help to inform any decisions made by the Harrison's Rocks Management Group (HRMG) and Land Management Group (which has oversight of the HRMG and all other crags owned by the BMC). A summary of major points – both for and against – has been assembled into a report, which is downloadable. Anyone wishing to attend the Sandstone Open Meeting should read this report before attending, so as to be fully informed of the situation.

You can download the arguments for and against building a bridge here.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Southern Sandstone Open Meeting - Sunday 8th October 2017, 6pm

The next Sandstone Open Meeting will take place at the bar at Bowles Rocks from 6pm on Sunday 8th October 2017 with a buffet provided by the BMC. The format of these meetings has changed and they now last an hour (this one may be slightly longer depending on discussions) with an update on what’s going on at the various crags followed by a discussion / Q and A session.

This meeting is particularly important as there will be a discussion about access to the Isolated Buttress at Harrison’s Rocks and all views will be taken into consideration. A decision will be made by the BMC's Harrison's Rocks Management Group (HRMG) throughout the following week. This follows a two 'trial' years since the step-across to the buttress was demolished for safety reasons. If you have a view then please try and attend the meeting.

If however, you cannot attend, the HRMG are still keen to take your view into account, so please submit your thoughts to the HRMG chair – Sarah Cullen - sarah@nuts4climbing.com

The UKC forum post can be found here: 


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

UKC Logbooks Updated


The UKC Logbooks have finally seen their much needed overhaul concerning areas that are featured in the new Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax guidebook. The guide will also be available on the Rockfax App and will sync with your current UKC logbook entries. 

Many of the previously unnamed problems now have names, and alternatively named logbook entries have been transferred to their new homes. 

For new route submissions or additional routes or problem entries, please ensure they are entered using the correct current name or new first ascent name and are not duplicates of current entries. 

For more information about adding new routes and the links to the Sandstone UKC pages, please read our 'New Routes' page.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pre-Order Sale Now Available - Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax Guidebook

The long-awaited Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax guidebook is now available for pre-order at a speical offer price of £24.95 (RRP £34.95). The guidebook is due to be published week commencing 11th September 2017, and pre-order copies will be sent out as soon as stock arrives.

To pre-order your copy go to the Rockfax.com website. 

About the Guidebook


Tucked away in the southeast of England within woodland and valleys, surrounded by rolling hills, and lush green countryside are the beautifully hidden crags known as ‘Southern Sandstone’. On the borders of Kent and Sussex, the sandstone outcrops are within easy reach of London and Brighton and is one of the busiest climbing destinations in the UK!

The book covers 12 different crags and includes selective routes and boulder problems, accompanied using the familiar Rockfax style of big-topos, clear descriptions and inspiring action photographs. It is the first sandstone guide to incorporate the French sport grading system, alongside the traditional UK tech grade.

Harrison’s Rocks (the largest sandstone crag in the southeast) and Stone Farm are both owned and maintained by the BMC and managed by the HRMG (Harrison’s Rocks Management Group). The other crags are owned by either local authorities, wildlife trusts or are on private land and access has been negotiated and granted with various conditions in place. The sandstone presents many unique features – strenuous honeycomb walls, crimpy technical masterpieces, tenuous stretches on rounded breaks, thuggy struggles up cracks, powerful pulls over bulging roofs and some of the most interesting off-width and chimney climbs in the country. Whatever your style, there should be something to suit here.


The sandstone is a much softer close relation to the rock found in Fontainebleau. This delicate rock brings great responsibility to climbers to ensure it is not damaged or eroded. Only top-rope and solo climbing are allowed, since any lead climbing gear would not hold and would damage the rock.

First-time visitors often struggle with the unique and delicate climbing style, and the short and intense nature of the climbs means they pack a lot in. However, once mastered, there is a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be achieved by pushing your grade and tackling some of those iconic testpieces!

Sandstone is basically just compressed sand with a thin weather-hardened outer layer. Once the outer layer is worn through, the sand underneath will erode rapidly if rubbed or left untreated. Holds often collapse through overuse, particularly where excessive brushing has taken place. There is, therefore, some simple and important rules to be followed known as the Southern Sandstone Code of Practice. Unlike any other climbing area in the UK, the specific requirements regarding access, gear, top-rope set-up and climbing technique on Southern Sandstone are vital in helping preserve the rock for present and future generations of climbers.

Rockfax is the first sandstone guide to incorporate the French sport grading system. Grades have always been a contentious issue on sandstone. For years, the standard method has been to give each route a single UK technical grade, which aims to give an indication of the hardest move on a route. This works to an extent, but can give a false impression of how difficult a climb actually is overall - a route with one UK6a move has the same grade as one with six UK6a moves without a rest, yet one is obviously harder than the other. Another problem is that historically the UK technical grade has become very limited at the top end with a huge variation in difficulty within some of the top UK 6a, 6b and 6c grade bands. This stands out where UK technical grade 6b spans French sport grades from 7a to 8a!

This guide has been a passionate and time-consuming project spanning the past five years. The aim has been to produce a book worthy of promoting Southern Sandstone's unique climbs and the great sandstone environment while stressing the special conservation requirements. Much work has been undertaken to help modernise and move sandstone climbing forward in a new and positive direction particularly with regard to grading and an emphasis on protecting the rock.

The general climbing culture is friendly and laid back, with many indulging in weekend picnics while top-roping and boulderring classics at the various crags. If you are looking for hard climbing, this is also the place to be, with some first ascent projects yet to be claimed!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Views Needed - Access to Isolated Buttress

The next Sandstone open meeting will be on Sunday 8th October 2017, 6pm at Bowles Rocks.

Access to the Isolated Buttress will be discussed and a decision will be made following the meeting.  The HRMG / BMC would like your views, both for and against a bridge.

Please try and attend the meeting in person so views can be discussed fully. If you are unable to attend, please email the Harrison's Rocks Management Group Chair - sarah@nuts4climbing.com

In addition, if you see any bad practice on Isolated Buttress, please can you also report it to Sarah and provide a date and time, preferably with some photo or video evidence. Bad practice  consists of lowering off from the top, instead of walking off after completing a climb. Also bad rope set-ups and use of toothbrushes or boulder brushes. Continue to promote good practice, like always. 

Many of you will be aware of the history of the dilemma of the Isolated Buttress, but for those of you who need an update of the past three years, you can read the past news stories HERE.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Harrison's Hardest Route - Pollet Virtus


(c) Rhys Whitehouse
Rhys Whitehouse has made the first ascent of the hardest route at Harrison's Rocks. The route named 'Pollet Virtus' is located on the Isolated Buttress at Harrison's Rocks and is graded at French 8a+ / UK 7a.  This rivals other hard sandstone routes at other crags such as Chimaera and Judamondo (if climbed to the very top) which are also graded at the same grade.

The route starts up 'South West Corner' to a stance below the roof, the route then trends outwards into a vague groove. It finishes up the left side of the big roof after some strenuous long reaches, small crimps, knee wrenching moves and an awesome cut loose.

Rhys describes the route as being "a truly wicked little number in an awesome position and well worth getting on for anyone looking for a hard sandstone tick!"

It's worth noting that the first ascent was done on a shunt which is unusual for a first ascent of this nature. We look forward to all those strong climbers out there giving it a go and offering their opinions on the grade.


Monday, 3 July 2017

New Revised Sandstone Code of Practice

The BMC and HRMG have just launched a newly revised version of the Sandstone Code of Practice, it also incorporates the new Sandstone Bouldering Sense. Given the soft nature of the southern sandstone rock, rules are in place to protect it for all to enjoy.

The new Code of Practice has a modern style with photo illustrations and includes clear colour photography illustrating how to set up ropes on sandstone and the do's and don'ts of climbing practice, including the ban on boulder brushes and toothbrushes.

The PDF version can be downloaded from either the BMC website or our Code of Practice page. Most local climbing walls in the area will have them in printed booklet form also.

Feel free to hand them out or share with anyone who you think will benefit from reading it.







Friday, 16 June 2017

Southern Sandstone Climbs - Rockfax Guidebook

Over the past month Rockfax has announced in various forms the new Southern Sandstone Climbs guidebook which will cover the
popular sandstone climbing found in the southeast of England.

The more eagle eyed of you may have noticed the introduction of french grades as well as UK tech grades siting along side it. Guides are slowly leaning away from the traditional UK technical grading system in various forms, but this Rockfax guide will be the first to use the french grade in its entirety with UK technical grades siting along side to help people make the move to start working with french grades.

The French grade now help tackle the growing issue concerning  working with grades in the upper grading spectrum. This also helps climbers new to the sport and the area understand the difficulties of the routes, especially if migrating from climbing walls and help solve the age old problem of  confusing the UK tech grade with the French grade.

Bouldering has now moved to the font system which has been adopted heavily in the area and now throughout the UK.

As highlighted in the Rockfax and UKC announcements, this book will cover all the main routes and boulder problems on 12 different crags using the familiar Rockfax style of big photo-topos accompanied by clear descriptions and inspiring action photographs. It has been put together by local climber Daimon Beail who also compiles the deep water soloing section of the Mallorca Rockfax guidebook.

There are many new routes appearing here for the first time and additionally areas which are appearing in topographical form. There will be an expanded introduction to help deliver the much needed information to new and current climbers concerning best climbing practices. This has been done through photographic illustrations as well as in-depth explanations for those wanting to know more.

It is due to be published in September and things are on schedule at the moment. The book is set to be around 500 pages and will be accompanied by an app version published at the same time.


For further information see:

Rockfax and UKC



Monday, 15 May 2017

Sandstone Open Meeting - Sunday 21st May 2017

The next Sandstone Open Meeting is on Sunday 21st May, 6pm - 7pm in the bar at Bowles Rocks.

The aim is to have a short meeting to answer any questions about the local sandstone and to discuss anything you want to raise with other local climbers.

The meeting is open to anyone who would like to contribute in some way and raise questions, ideas and suggestions or to simply listen to get up-to-date on the latest news and developments.

There will be no formal agenda but updates on the following items will be discussed:

  • Launch of the new Code of Practice  (BMC)
  • The new Rockfax Southern Sandstone guidebook (author present to discuss the new book)
  •  Sandstone Volunteering Group work update
  • Crag updates

Location:

Bowles Rocks 
Sandhill Lane
Eridge Green
Tunbridge Wells
TN3 9LQ

(Located in the upstairs bar and buffet provided by the BMC)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

New Routes


(C) Tom Gore
With the launch of the new routes page last month and the road map concerning reporting and submitting new routes and problems online, we have had a number of people contact us, in particular, Tom Gore, who as always is proactive and a great documenter. Not only adding all the relevant information into UKC but also recording his ascents via video and posting them to YouTube, which is very handy for everyone.

Tom and his brother Nick have been out putting up two new outstanding problems both at Bowles and Eridge Rocks and their new additions, along with others, can be seen on the New Routes Page and many others will be in the new Rockfax guide this summer.


For more information about adding new routes, please visit the New Routes page here.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Southern Sandstone Crag Update - April 2017

Happy Valley


There has been a clean up of the overgrown areas and the outcrops at Happy Valley and the leaning tree above Cheesewing Buttress  has also been cut down. Probably unknown to the Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators, the leaning tree was used to attach the belay for top-roping, but now it's no longer there, so top ropes cannot be set up. Some of the HRMG are looking into whether   bolts can be placed in the top of the block so climbing can take place on this buttress.

Top of the Cheesewing Buttress where hopefully bolts can be placed




The Tunbridge Wells Commons Conservators Warden Update:
"The work at Happy Valley is now almost complete, just a bit of tickling round the edges still to do. I must say that the contractors have done a wonderful job and the area has been transformed. Far more of the rock outcrop has been re-exposed than I had expected and the removal of the fallen trees from the Cheesewring Rock has let much more light into the area. It obviously looks a little raw at the moment but it will soon start to soften."


   

Bowles Rocks

Bowles New Climbing Area
The Bowles team have been hard at work clearing away soil and excavating the area at the very far right of the crag. Routes do exist here but with the recent work, these have been enhanced. Bolts are planed to be installed and work is almost finished. Six or seven new climbs have been added by the keen Bowles team and will also be included in the new Rockfax guide coming this summer. Until work is completed, please avoid this area.



Storm Damage and Trees

The fallen tree above St.Gotthards Boulders.
Storm Doris back in February ripped up a few things and in particular the large tree at the top of  St.Gotthards Tunnel at Harrison's Rocks. Eridge has also seen trees come down above the rocks in a few places. A massive tree has fallen above Stem Son Buttress (although this may have happened prior) which really could do with being removed. In addition the Sussex Wildlife Trust has removed a large chunk of the tree that was opposite Sandstorm Buttress which is worth a look.