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  

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.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Winter Season


Lockdown 2 came to an end on 2nd of December 2020. Firstly, we would like to thank all those who respected the climbing suspension on southern sandstone and helped contribute to protecting this finite resource. It has been hard for us all not being able to climb, but looking at the bigger picture we can see why we have had to make the sacrifices we have over the past few weeks. Thank you! 

The climbing suspension status has now (cautiously) changed as the rocks are for the most part still out of condition and climbable rock is scarce. As indoor walls reopen, it is hoped that this will help alleviate the unprecedented demand for outdoor climbing for this time of the year. The BMC have put out the following statement about climbing on Southern Sandstone through the winter months.

"We are temporarily changing the advice in the code of practice regarding climbing in wet or damp conditions for this winter." 

  • Only climb on properly dry rock – this will usually take multiple days of dry weather in a row before a visit, and even then nothing is guaranteed.
  • If you are unsure, leave climbing for another day. It might be frustrating to travel only to find the crag isn’t in condition, but we all need to have the long term sustainability of the crags in mind. Once holds are snapped or damaged, they cannot be replaced.
  • Always follow the guidance in the Sandstone Code of Practice to ensure you have an enjoyable climb and do your bit to protect these amazing but fragile sandstone crags."

We are now also naming this period the Winter Season. Check the COVID-19 page and BMC RAD for any access updates.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Southern Sandstone Climbing Suspension - 10/11/2020

All climbers are now being asked to stop climbing on Southern Sandstone in the south-east of England. The BMC statement is as follows.

"We are appealing to all climbers to stop climbing on Southern Sandstone crags for now, to prevent damage to the crags whilst the rock is damp in the coming months. Significant and irreversible damage has already occurred since Lockdown 2 began due high numbers climbing on damp rock. Damp sandstone is weak sandstone and climbing on it greatly increases the likelihood of permanently damaging the route or problem being climbed. Snapped holds change the climbing forever: they cannot be replaced. Whilst pubic access isn’t changing and walking around the Southern Sandstone outcrops is fine, we are asking all climbers to help us conserve this amazing resource for the future - don’t climb for the time being".

We ask the climbing community to help spread the message and to give support at this time to help preserve the rocks and beloved climbs from being destroyed. This is until indoor walls reopen and the sandstone conditions improve. 

The full BMC article with the reasons why this decision has been made can be found here.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Crag Status Update - Lockdown 2 - 08.11.2020

Due to the current poor conditions it is strongly advised that people avoid climbing on Southern Sandstone outcrops throughout Lockdown 2 to avoid further Damage.

Currently there are only a very small number of climbs which are in condition. These climbs require care in order to ascend them. All other climbs are now damp/wet  and  are unsuitable for climbing at this time.  The extremely fragile southern sandstone crags in particular are even more at risk of damage if wet or damp. Understandably Southern Sandstone  has been the focal point of many south-east and London climbers this year, and increased numbers combined with damp rock has the potential to cause significant damage.

Crag/Rocks - Restricted: Very Limited Number of Climbs in Condition
Campsite - Closed
Toilet Facilities - Open 8am - 5pm
Carpark - Open 8am - 5pm

Crag/Rocks - Restricted: Very Limited Number of Climbs in Condition

BOWLES ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rocks - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rock - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rocks -  No climbing until further notice.

ERIDGE ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - No climbing until further notice.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Lockdown 2 - What You Need to Know - 05.11.2020


England goes into its second lockdown on Thursday 5th of November 2020. As climbing walls close again, outdoor crags come back into focus for many. The BMC has launched its latest statement about how the current restrictions will affect climbing. 

A large number of locations are now closed for Lockdown 2

Please see below and follow. Failure to comply could result in permanent loss of access moving forward.

Below are some sandstone related items to consider if you're planning to head out onto the sandstone over the autumn and winter period.

1.  Avoid Wet and Damp Conditions

BMC - "The extremely fragile southern sandstone crags, in particular, are even more at risk of damage if wet or damp. Understandably this area has been the focal point for a surge of south-east and London climbers this year, and increased numbers combined with damp rock has the potential to cause significant damage. Don’t be tempted to climb on fragile rock types if wet or damp, it is all too easy to accelerate rock erosion and snap small holds. If in doubt, leave it for a day when the rock is dry".

2. Check Access

Check the climbing area pages and the COVID-19 page for the latest access information. Additionally check the BMC RAD, though this may incur some delays as access changes. Note any access agreements and avoid locations which require verbal permission at this time.

3. Remember to Wipe Your Feet and Follow the Code of Practice

If conditions are favourable for outdoor sandstone climbing, remember to wipe your feet so they are 100% clean before touching the rock. Winter ground conditions cause unfavourable elements to stick to your feet. Do not put dirty feet on the rock. Ensure you are efficient with all top-rope setups. The code of practice can be found here.

4. Parking and Overnight Stays

Observe car parking opening and closing times to avoid any issues. No overnight stays away from your home, this includes campervans, tents and cars. See government guidelines.  

5. Keep Up To Date

Check the COVID-19 page for any changes to crag access or parking access.

5. Trying times

These are difficult times for all so help your fellow climber by sticking to the rules and be courteous to those who are taking whatever action is required at this time to protect themselves, and others. 

Climbing suspensions in place on some Southern Sandstone Outcrops (Lockdown 2).

HARRISON'S ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - Restricted: Very Limited Number of Climbs in Condition
Campsite - Closed
Toilet Facilities - Open 8am - 5pm
Carpark - Open 8am - 5pm

STONE FARM ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - Restricted: Very Limited Number of Climbs in Condition

BOWLES ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rocks - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rock - Closed from the 5th November 2020 (Lockdown 2)

Crag/Rocks -  No climbing until further notice.

ERIDGE ROCKS
Crag/Rocks - No climbing until further notice.