Sunday, 10 October 2021

Sandstone Open Meeting - Monday 18th October 2021 (18:30) - Via Zoom



The next open meeting will be on the Monday the 18th of October 2021 (18:30) - Via Zoom. This will be an opportunity to listen to updates, ask questions and contribute to  access, conservation and climbing related items for southern sandstone in general. To sign up, simply click on the link below.

https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMpduyqpj4tHdYy8h4Iz4HqjifsZ5MBjMb5

Overview Report

Introduction 
The format for these meetings is that we aim to limit the meeting to about one hour and we have no agenda. This report is an overview from HRMG/SVG to tell people what has happened since the last meeting. This update, which be read out in summary will followed by about an hour of general discussion when any matter can be raised including any questions raised by the update. Minutes are being taken of this meeting and will be available from the usual websites but they won't be on the agenda for the next meeting.
This meeting is again being held online, primarily because of the higher attendance that we had online. For the record the attendance figures at recent face-to-face meetings varied between 25 in October 2016 and 9 in October 2019; for virtual meetings it was 12 in September 2020 and 16 in May 2021.   
In 2022 we hope to be having the Sandstone Festival organised by Chris Stone, chair of the BMC London and South East Area Meeting, that was planned for 2020 but had to be postponed, which will include an open meeting.  Any thoughts on whether or not we should have a meeting in May and if so what form it should take will be welcome during the general discussion.

General
The historic system used for years was shown to be inadequate following a review and testing. It was discovered that we could not guarantee all the swaged links were as good as we wanted them to be. Added to that was the recommendation that both bolts be equalised to enhance the system currently in place. As such there was no choice but to remove the swaging used to connect the bolt pairs of bolts at Harrison’s, Stone Farm and Bull’s Hollow to improve safety for all users Please see the BMC article here: Changes to Southern Sandstone bolted anchors (thebmc.co.uk) . 
Further to the May Open Meeting most restrictions have now been lifted but some issues remain to be fully resolved. However, parking problems at some of the outcrops have continued and all such advice should continue to be observed. The BMC’s Regional Access Database  (the RAD) and  the Southern Sandstone Climbs website will be updated regularly and it is important that all climbers are aware of and following the advice.

The Sandstone Code of Practice (COP)
At the 11/5/21 meeting the change to the ‘climbing on wet rock’ clause in the COP proposed by HRMG was rejected and instead the meeting agreed that a working group be set up to consider the matter. The working group, consisting of Graham Adcock, Adrian Paisey, Mark Brewster, James Bouchard, Gerry Gilmartin and Paul Norris have considered other options and, for the moment, recommends that the text reverts to the existing (2017) clause, pending a full review of the COP. If this meeting is in agreement with this approach, the review will begin forthwith. There has also been some concern expressed that the BMC does not currently have funds allocated for this but, subject to agreement, costs could be covered locally through the Steve Durkin Sandstone Trust.

Harrison’s Rocks
HRMG’s next meeting is on 25th October
Tree Felling of the next phase of the Woodland Management Plan, below The Niblick  will take place over the winter and a work weekend will follow and notified to all in advance. HRMG will be considering a number of other site jobs that need to be done at its next meeting, including in the St Gothard’s area, some of these jobs may or may not be left until the work weekend following the tree felling. 

Resin/Shellac work: Graham Adcock has been out several times this year. Deep rope grooves have been noted and treated above Deadwood Crack, Slim Finger Crack and also above/left of Birch Crack, where there are recent bolts. The foot traverse on Boulder Bridge Route treate, which appears to be standing up well. There is still much to do 

Anchors: Daimon Beail and Emma Harrington have  installed new pairs of bolts above Rotten Stump Wall, Giants’ Ear and Small Wall, and have added new bolts to the existing pairs above Ejector, Belt and Braces and Unclimbed Wall. 
 
Stone Farm
Daimon and Emma have installed 5 pairs of bolts in the area where the tree stumps were taken down above the Stone Farm Crack area, and also a new pair of bolts above Moss Wall- Left Block at the far end of the Rocks. A repair that needs to be to made to  the revetments below the yew tree is  to be done in the Autumn by a small working party, possibly involving the EGCC.

Bowles
Bowles opened back to normal in August. Loz Reading reports, “We are aware than many key areas are losing ground height due to erosion, not helped by the fact the site is on a hill. We have just bought materials for stopping and repairing ground erosion under some key areas, the work will be carried out this winter. Loz will at the meeting to expand on this and answer any questions.

Eridge Green
Further to a meeting with the Reserves Manager for the Rocks in May and  a Sussex Wildlife Trust Ecologist colleague at Harrison’s on 4th May for Graham to demonstrate what was involved in the application of resin and show them it had been applied. The we have now heard from the Reserves Manager that the SWT have decided that they is are not against our treatment on the rocks, as long as it is in a very targeted and controlled way. The SWT are now consulting with Natural England (as the site is an SSSI) to ensure they agree with SWT’s assessment and to get all the relevant consents. The SWT want to review their agreement with the BMC and to assess all the climbing walls in relation to our biological survey data to ensure it is still a good fit for their reserve and is not causing any damage to sensitive flora. This might result in expanding the no climb zones. A review of the climbing restrictions is seen as inevitable as the agreement has been in place for 20 years and we will also be raising the possibility of removing the restrictions in certain areas. Meanwhile the BMC’s agreed voluntary suspension of climbing at the Rocks will remain in place but we hope that the overall suspension on climbing can be lifted next Spring.

High Rocks
Some Rhododendron work is needed.

Other Outcrops 
TWCC. They have asked for a small clearance of bramble etc. at Happy Valley, on the section immediately left of the Cheesewring.

The Steve Durkin Sandstone Trust
A meeting of the committee is imminent.

Bob Moulton - 12/10/21 

Friday, 24 September 2021

Changes to Southern Sandstone Bolted Anchors

Important changes to Southern Sandstone bolted anchors and required setups. Please note that all swaging will be removed over the next few days to accommodate the changes.

Rob Dyer of the BMC has published the following:

"Following a review of anchors used on Southern Sandstone, the way we use bolted anchors in the area is changing. The current system of a main bolt (which takes all of the load), secured to a backup bolt with a swaged steel cable has been used on Southern Sandstone for 30 years or more. However, updated expert advice has recommended that this changes to both bolts equalised to a central point, in line with standard practice elsewhere.

It is not possible to equalise the bolts with in situ equipment in a way that is both strong and will not cause damage to the rock so climbers will now need to equalise both bolts as part of their top-rope setup. In the short term, all swaged wire backups will be removed from bolted sandstone anchors as soon as possible. Additional bolts will be placed where needed at Harrison’s and Stone Farm Rocks as part of an ongoing BMC program of renewing and updating bolted anchors.

Visitors should arrive with equipment to allow them to equalise the double bolt anchors to a central point – there are many ways of doing this but the most common and easiest is to use either a sling or rigging rope with screw gates on each bolt. Remember to extend the anchor point sufficiently to prevent your climbing rope from wearing the rock. It’s a good idea to use rope protectors over any rigging to prevent damage to slings/ropes and the rock from normal movement whilst belaying.

Top Photo: one example of how to set up and equalised top rope anchor on two bolts with a sling. Note that here the sling is long enough that the central point hangs over the edge, which is essential to prevent wear from the moving climbing rope. In some cases, you will need to extend the central point to ensure it hangs over the edge of the crag, (as in the photo to the right).

The BMC would like to thank and acknowledge DMM for their assistance with testing."

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/changes-to-southern-sandstone-bolted-anchors

UKC form post here


Monday, 9 August 2021

Bowles Rocks - Opening Times Return to Normal (August 2021)

As of the 1st of August opening times for independent climbers at Bowles Rocks are 8am to duck. As always check their website for latest information. 


Bowles Notes:

We are pleased to be able to open the rocks as normal for August 2021, there are still some restrictions for July. There will be many Bowles groups on site during the weekdays in August, so it is likely the the Easy Gully Area the the Hargreaves Area will be in constant use.

As there are shared toilets, please ensure that you wash your hands regularly and only use the toilets one person at a time.

When open, we close at dusk and climbing/bouldering by torches/lights is not permitted. 

There is a charge of £5 per adult or £3 for under-16s. If the office is closed and there is no climbing collector please put the money in the ‘honesty’ boxes in the office entrance or by the barrier.  

Season tickets are available to purchase onsite for £50

Sunday, 8 August 2021

A Celebration of Southern Sandstone - An Interview With Daimon Beail

Back in June - Chimera Climbing interviewed Daimon Beail about Southern Sandstone. 

Chimera Climbing - "Daimon Beail kindly gave us some of his time to chat all things sandstone. From last year's 'war zone' to his hopes for this season and what is happening behind the scenes, it is well worth a read." Check out the interview here.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Bowles Opening Times for Independent Climbers - June and July 2021 (COVID)

An update from Bowles on opening times for independent climbers - June and July. As always check their website for latest information and changes. 




Thursday, 10 June 2021

State Of The Art - Southern Sandstone

The May-June 2021 edition of Climber magazine features Daimon Beail's article on Southern Sandstone called "The State of the Art - Southern Sandstone" which is an overview of southern sandstone and the current state of the nation.


Visit climber.co.uk to obtain a copy in print or digital form. 



Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Bob Moulton Received the George Band Award

Photo: Mike Vetterlein
Bob Moulton has received The George Band Award from the BMC. It recognises  people who have played a significant role in the BMC's work over an extended period of time.

Emma Tavers writes in here '2021 BMC Volunteer Award Winners Announced' BMC Article. 

"Bob has dedicated a lifetime of voluntary work to the BMC locally as well as in other areas of the UK. He has shown an exemplary and exceptional voluntary contribution to the BMC’s work and as a Chair of the HRMG, Bob was involved with the BMC’s acquisition of Stone Farm Rocks in 2002.

Bob is, and has been for a very long time, at the core of what happens on all sandstone outcrops, and not just the BMC owned ones. At nearly 80 years old, he’s still as sharp as a button on the emails and very rarely misses a meeting. He is also one of regular attendees to our Sandstone Volunteer workdays and has been for many years.

It’s difficult to summarise all his input, but in summary it involves:

  • Member of the South West Area Committee for about four years in the late 1960s /early 1970s.
  • Chair of the Harrison’s Rocks Management Group (HRMG) from 1997 to 2005.
  • Chaired the BMC Future Policy Review Steering Group between 2003 and 2005.
  • Has been a member of the BMC Land and Property Trust since its formation in 2005.
  • For the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Mountaineering Club, Bob wrote/edited the 1966 and 1978 Devon guidebooks as well as the 1970, 1974 and 1980 Lundy guidebooks and various supplements.
  • Bob was Vice President of the Climbers’ Club 1990-3 "

Bob is still an active member of the HRMG and his contributions have been
transformative for the south east sandstone outcrops and people who climb them. Bob's roots run deep within the sandstone community and this award is a great recognition of his work and very much deserved.

Photo: (c) Mike Vetterlein  

Monday, 7 June 2021

Stone Farm - Bolting Work - 05.06.2021



On the 5th of June 2021 work commenced on the installation of 6 sets of bolts above the Cat Wall area of Stone Farm. Since the removal of the rotten tree stumps above Cat Wall and Pine Buttress on the 15th September 2019 there has been no anchor points for top roping.
 







The area around where the tree stumps had been needed time to dry out and over winter the area sees less use. But then COVID happened and put significant delays to the bolting work for a number of reasons: Being locked down and additionally a major shortage of required PPE. Below are images and notes concerning the bolts.



1. Moss Wall Left Block - Moss Wall - RF Page 452
An unusual set on this often forgotten wall but, most often this is because it is imposable to set up a rope and as such never climbed. Moss Wall Centre was also planned, but it is currently in a bad way due to tree sap erosion. 








 

2. Cat Wall - Cat Wall - RF Page 456
A straightforward install covering climbs like Cat Wall and FooFoo 




























3. Stone Farm Crack - Pine Buttress - RF Page 457
To compliment the removal of one of the rotten tree stumps. 



















 
4. Pine Buttress - Pine Buttress - RF Page 457
To cover all the Pine Buttress climbs on this wall. 





































5. Pine Crack - Pine Buttress - RF Page 457
Situated to the left of the crack but positioned so that the sling drops down into the crack its self. Many happy climbers when this was installed. 





































6. The Face - Pine Buttress - RF Page 457
Covers the climb 'The Face' and also supports The Ramp to a point.





Monday, 31 May 2021

Harrison's Rocks - Bolting 30.05.2021

On the 30th of May 2021 further bolting work took place to remove a number of bolts with issues such as ones which have become loose or need attention as well as installing new sets also.






1. Ejector - Eyelet Wall - RF Page 180
The rear bolt which was eroding was cut, removed and replaced. This is one of the few bolts which gets slightly submerged due to foliage braking down over time due to its location.  



2. Rotten Stump Wall - Rotten Stump Wall - RF Page 185
New Bolts to protect routes on this side off the wall. Some clearing work was required to help bring life back to some of these climbs. Work is still required to the left of this route to help open things up fully to enable cleaner top-outs.  


3. Directors/Giant's Ear - Pig Tail Slabs - RF Page 207
A new set of bolts on the lower wall to help protect the climbs below which previously was only protectable from the very top and caused ropes to cut the lower lip when set up. This completes the bolting of Pig Tail Slab, making this area a more appealing and assessable climbing area for all as well as helping reduce erosion. 



4. Small Wall - Circle Area - RF Page 213
A much needed addition to the Circle Area now protecting climbs Small Wall and Long Stretch. 










 

5. Belts and Braces - Wellington Boot - RF Page 231
The rear bolt was removed due to twisting which was causing the rock around it to destabilise. New bolt was installed and angled to protect the climbs Wellington Boot and Kicks also . 


6. Unclimbed Wall - Unclimbed Wall - RF Page 266
The rear bolt was removed on this popular line and replaced due to twisting.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Sandstone Open Meeting - 11th May 2021 - Via Zoom

The next sandstone open meeting will be on the 11th of May 2021 at 19:00 via Zoom

You can now register here

Below is the update that will then be followed by an open forum discussion.


Overview Report


Introduction 

The format for these meetings is that we aim to limit the meeting to about one hour and we have no agenda. Instead, we have a 10-minute overview from HRMG/SVG to tell people what has happened since the last meeting. This is followed by about an hour of general discussion when any matter can be raised. Minutes are being taken of this meeting and will be available from the usual websites but they won't be on the agenda for the next meeting.

This meeting is being held online, because of Covid-19. However, in 2022 we hope to be having the Sandstone Festival organised by Chris Stone that was planned for 2020 but had to be postponed, which will include an open meeting.  Any thoughts on the future of these meetings will be welcome during the general discussion.

Please save any questions or comments on this for the general discussion part of the meeting. This is particularly important today as it's a long report! 


Covid-19

Further to the 1/9/20 Open Meeting when the problems caused by the relaxation of lockdown last summer, which were discussed at the meeting, similar problems have continued and some issues still remain to be fully resolved.


General

The restrictions introduced last summer autumn have in the main been observed and little further damage to the rocks has been reported and there were few incidents of bad practice and overcrowding  that occurred during the summer months. However parking problems at some of the outcrops have continued and in some cases there are access details to be resolved. The BMC’s Regional Access Database  (the RAD) and  the Southern Sandstone Climbs website will be updated regularly and it is important that all climbers are aware of and following the advice.


The Sandstone Code of Practice

As a result of the damage caused by climbing on wet rock last summer,  HRMG are proposing that the wording in the Code for wet rock be changed from:

 ‘Sandstone is softer when wet  and climbers must exercise caution by avoiding sharp or fragile holds and ensuring good footwork. if it is wet, why not embrace the opportunity to explore the wonderful cracks on chimneys on offers.'

to: ‘Avoid climbing on wet rock, it can cause irreversible damage.’ 

It is planned to reprint the Code of Practice to include this change.  Suggestions and comments are welcome as if agreed these could be included.


Harrison’s Rocks 

Harrison’s Rocks Management Group’s next meeting is on 18th May’

Access to the Isolated Buttress. As reported at last meeting. the Planning Application for the bridge was rejected by Wealden District Council, HRMG and the BMC’s Land Management Group are still considering what action to take next. 

Tree Felling of the next phase of the Woodland Management Plan, below the area from the Isolated Buttress and Hell Wall, took place in January. Due to lockdown restrictions we have been unable to run the usual BMC event to clear up after this but in fact the amount of work that needs to be done is considerably less than in previous years but there are a number of site jobs that need to be done under current regulations by volunteer teams in groups of 6 – HRMG will be considering this at their meeting. However, 21 young trees, including Rowan, various Cherry, Hornbeam and Rowan, have already been planted below the Rocks in late March in individual areas where the bracken had been cleared and these will be monitored to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by bracken. There are now only three areas left to be cut as part of the 13-year Woodland Management Plan. 

Resin/Shellac work: Graham Adcock, assisted by  Cess Dolding and Bryan Stevens continues to do this work at the Rocks. Eight full days were carried out last year and two days to date this year. Significant wear/damage on the bottom of climbs in the Rift area from bouldering with at least two chipped/improved holds identified. Many climbs along the length of the crag have been inspected and treated, including Niblick, Elementary, Bow Window, Isolated Buttress Climb and Boulder Bridge Route. There remains much to be done. Alternative treatments are under consideration for larger areas. 

Anchors. There has no progress recently as due to COVID but work on this will restart soon.

Access from Forge Farm: there has been an exchange of letters between the BMC and the owners of the bridleway, and although a reply to the BMC’s latest letter is still awaited from the owners, progress is being made in that the owners have stated that they do not want to restrict access by foot and the BMC have confirmed that it is not asking for vehicular access. Meanwhile, we asking climbers to please avoid parking in Forge Road.


Stone Farm

The work programme approved by Natural England was fully completed during the 2-year period specified as part of their agreement, although due to lockdown not as much resin work was undertaken in the second year as had been hoped for but this work will continue.

A burnt-out motorbike was discovered at the foot of the Rocks and early September; after contact with the various authorities, this was moved up to the bridleway by Michael Phelan and members of the East Grinstead CC, and then removed by a salvage company. In March fly-tipped material including asbestos in the parking area was reported, and a result of phone calls by Michael Phelan this was removed.

It is hoped that it will be possible to put in two sets of bolts above the Stone Farm Crack area in the near future. 


Bowles

Loz Reading reports: ‘Bowles has done for minor resin work over the last year and is currently making plans for bringing the ground level back up in popular areas such as Fandango. Any thoughts and advice on this would be appreciated. Currently the access to Bowles is restricted. Our school bookings require a closed site due to Covid so (at the time of writing this email), we are only open when we don’t have school groups in. We update of website of the dates of when we are open.’ One of  Bowles’s neighbours is applying for a alcohol license and currently has a temporary license which is causing them issues with people coming onto the Bowles site. This could lead to fencing in whole site and tighter access restrictions than at present.


Eridge Green

A site meeting was held in October with the new Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserves Manager to discuss the extensive damage was done to the Rocks last summer. He agreed to look into to our request for us to apply surface-hardening treatment only on the worn holds despite the SWT’s known concerns of the effect that it could have on the growth of mosses and lichens on the rock. The SWT officer has expressed an interest in looking at the work that has been done at Harrison’s and now that this work has restarted this year we hope that this can be arranged in the near future. We hope to arrange a site meeting at Harrison’s to show SWT the use of resin in early May and then to discuss the matter further. Meanwhile the BMC’s agreed voluntary suspension of climbing at the Rocks will remain in place. 


High Rocks

Limited climbing is now permitted at High Rocks. However, to avoid further problems it is important that all climbers should be aware of and follow the advice now on the BMC RAD or Southern Sandstone Climbs. 


Under Rockes

Due to problems with parking and to complaints made this by the owner of the private land over which the approach is made, it was decided to suspend climbing until 12/4/21. We now understand that three land owners own the approach path and the rocks themselves. Contact has been made with the owners of the initial approach path and following these discussions the current strong advice is: do not park your car on the land in front of or opposite Twitts Ghyll and not within 200m of the house. There is room for a few cars 350m south of Twitts Ghyll at the junction with Dennis Lane. If this is full, please park elsewhere and walk in or consider climbing elsewhere. The situation is very sensitive Full details, which may be updated further, are on the BMC RAD and Southern Sandstone Climbs. 

Other Outcrops where climbing was suspended up to 12/1/21, excluding Eridge – see above.

These include High Rocks Annexe, Bulls Hollow and the outcrops on the land owned by the Tunbridge Wells Conservators, Bassett’s Farm; all climbers be aware of and follow the advice now on  the BMC RAD and Southern Sandstone Climbs.      

Friday, 2 April 2021

Access Updates

Crags With Access Restrictions At Present

Crag/Rocks Open most weekends from the 3rd April 2021

Crag/Rocks - No climbing until further notice.


Check the RAD or COVID Page for the latest access information.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Charges for climbing at Harrison's Rocks - Summer 2021



Harrison’s Rocks will shortly be added to the list of outdoor crags in the south east
which will be charging its visitors who wish to climb at the rocks. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, BMC revenues have suffered and recovery funding has been looked at on a number of fronts, including charging to access BMC owned crags. 

Once funding stabilises proposals have been made for the installation and maintenance of wooden walkways and steps to help protect the ground, as well as implementing a full time warden. Funds will also be used for the ongoing costs of maintenance.

Work has already begun on building the reception area (pictured above), where daily tickets will be able to be purchased before heading to the rocks. Tickets will also be checked and and will be obtained at the rocks also. 

One welcomed addition will be that climbers will now have to sign a code of practice agreement which states they will adhere to the rules and be liable for any damage they cause if 'deliberately' not following them. 

Towels, carpets, rope protectors, super soft sandstone brushes and Eco Balls will also be on sale from the office until 'phase 2' is completed. 

Phase 2 expected in 2025 is a Forestry England Birchden wood visitor centre located where the toilet block is currently. Provisions for climbers, walkers and campers will be made available in a small purpose built eco friendly facility to the side of the building. The new building (architectural visualisation pictured) is for those seeking information on the area, refreshments and to make payments for rock climbing and camping. There will also be a small cafĂ© and shop. The shop will also be selling climbing items mentioned above as well as additional sandstone specific equipment. 

Phase 1 charging is not expected to come into effect until late summer 2021 and primarily for day climbers only. BMC discount for members will be available. 

For full details on the plans and proposed pricing, see the full BMC article here.

(April Fools News Item)

Sunday, 28 March 2021

29th March 2021 - Important Information

Cleaning feet before climbing is essential
The BMC have now published their take on the guidelines which come into effect on the 29th March 2021. 
The section on individuals is as follows.
  • All forms of outdoor sport and physical activity (including climbing and walking) have been allowed since 8th March and this continues to be the case from 29th March.
  • Groups of up to 6 individuals from different households or an unlimited number of people from two households can meet outdoors.
  • No social mixing is allowed indoors, other than for specific listed exceptions.
  • The ‘Stay at Home’ order will be lifted and although the overall message is to ‘stay local’, no legally defined acceptable travel distance within England has been set at this stage.
  • However, travel within England must be limited to day trips, as overnight stays are not permitted at this stage.
  • There are still restrictions on sharing transport in England, but at the time of writing the government guidance has not been updated.
The easter bank holiday weekend could well be extremley busy, so consider how apropriate your destination is for a visit and check all access arrangements.

Crag access and conditions are changing all the time so please ensure to check the BMC RAD or the COVID-19 page for up-to-date information. 

As always it is essential that all rope setups are done correctly, tooth brushes and bolder brushes stay at home and feet are cleaned with a towel or mat (winners use both) before stepping onto the rocks.


Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Update: Harrison's car park temporary closure - 22/23rd March 2021


Birchen Wood / Harrison's Rocks car park, which is owned by Forestry England,  will be closed on 22nd and 23rd March 2021 for maintenance work. 

The rocks will remain open to local visitors on foot and bicycle. As there is a lack of other appropriate parking, please avoid parking on the verges close to the rocks entrance, as this causes access issues on the narrow country lanes.

You can find up to date access information on the BMC Regional Access Database (RAD). 




Sunday, 10 January 2021

2020 South East Round Up


The annual 'South East Round Up' from Tom Gore is now live on UKC.  Click here for the article.