Monday, 20 May 2019

Happy Valley Bolts - UPDATE

It's been over a year since the discovery of a number of bolts which were illegally installed at Happy Valley Rocks. There have been a number of developments since then, which have paved the way for only the bolts on top of the Cheesewring Rock to remain in place.
The following statement has now been circulated: "Bolts have been placed illegally without the agreement of the Tunbridge Wells Common Conservators (TWCC). In consultation with the BMC, the TWCC have accepted that the bolts should remain on the Cheesewring Rock. The bolts are ‘thought’ to be safe but climbers should use the bolts at their own risk. It is suggested that the bolts are linked using a length of rope as a backup".

Monday, 13 May 2019

Southern Sandstone Open Meeting - Sunday 19th May 2019

The next Sandstone Open Meeting will be held on Sunday 19th May 2019 at 7pm in the Bowles Rocks Bar.

These meetings offer a great opportunity to discuss any issues you have regarding southern sandstone climbing. It's a chance to meet members of the Harrison’s Rocks Management Group, Access Reps and other like-minded people. It's a good time to feedback your views and ideas.

Recent maintenance works at BMC owned crags and future plans will be discussed, as well as updates to other areas including some access information updates and items of interest. 

The BMC will provide a buffet.

More information on the previous meetings and past minutes, as well as the full venue address,  can be found here.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Harrison's Rocks - Bolting Project 2019 / 2020 - Stage 1

On the weekend of the 13th and 14th of April, work began concerning the Harrison's Rocks Bolting Project. The aim is to install new sets of bolts on areas of rock where there is inadequate protection currently in place. Additionally, bolts are being placed to help reactivate areas, reduce erosion and to help spread out climbers from the more demanding areas. There will also be a number of older bolts which will be replaced or upgraded.  

We are now installing a new type of bolt which will hopefully help eliminate the minor twisting motion which we see on the very odd occasions. Although twisting motion of bolts in sandstone is tolerable to a small degree, it is unsettling and these have been noted and will be addressed as we go. Currently, there are only a few to look at. 

The new bolts are sunk deep into the rock and have been specially acquired for sandstone. They should be viewed as top-rope anchors more than your traditional bolt which is found on sport cliffs.

So far 14 bolts have been installed making for 7 sets, which have been installed above the following:

1. Mantelpiece  -  Panther's Wall  -  RF Page 189

2. Blue Peter  -  Panther's Wall  -  RF Page 189

3. Blue Murder  -  Slab Area RF Page 191

4. Quarterdome  -  Giant's Staircase  -  RF Page 201

5. Left Edge / Original Route  -  Pig Tail Slabs  -  RF Page 206

6. Big Toe Wall / Greasy Eliminate  -  Pig Tail Slabs  -  RF Page 206

7. Greasy Crack - Pig Tail Slabs  -  RF Page 207 

The Pig Tail Slabs are having new bolts installed to help younger or newer climbers access the rocks and enable other climbs to be able to protect more efficiently for the first time. The wall has been slightly neglected due to the lack of accessible protection over the years.  

The climb 'Blue Murder  -  Slab Area  -  RF Page 191' was in use the day after installation by some keen climbers. Note that the route is somewhat sandy and dusty from the work and takes time to dissipate.

Bolting will continue each month where possible until the scheduled work is completed. Please remember that bolts can only be placed by authorised personnel. Please see our bolts page for more information.

 Excerpt from the Southern Sandstone Climbs Rockfax Guide

"There are many bolts on sandstone and all of them have been placed purely as top-rope anchors at the top of crags. There are no bolts actually on routes and they are never used to protect lead climbing.

Bolts on sandstone should not be regarded in the same way as bolts for leading climbing on limestone or other rock types. The softness of the rock means that there are special requirements when placing the bolts and they must not be used for any purpose other than setting up top-ropes. They are not designed for slacklines, zip wires or via ferrata. Excessive force placed on a bolt in the wrong direction may end up with the rock surrounding it failing and exploding in a sandy mess.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Social Media - #southernsandstoneclimbs

As many of you know, Southern Sandstone Climbs is, of course, occupying space on the social media platforms and this is another place to keep in touch with what's happening on Southern Sandstone. We now have a dedicated page which looks like this article which is located here.  Give us a Like or a Follow.  Click below to access our social spaces and use the hashtag #southernsandstoneclimbs for UK Southern Sandstone.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Stage 5 Clearance Work - Birch Tree Wall - Right - Harrison's Rocks

Further work was undertaken on Sunday 17 March 2019 to almost
completely clear the soil from this area which has now dramatically transformed this section of the crag. A decent path has been put in place so it is possible to walk down onto the ledge above Birch Tree Wall. 

This work completes stage five of the clearance and reactivation project in this area. 

Stage One - Wanderfall Area - Left - 12.11.2017
Stage Two - Crucifix Wall - 18.02.2018
Stage Three - Wanderfall Area - Right - 16.02.2019
Stage Four - Birch Tree Wall - Left - 02.03.2019

A lot more soil has been removed and a fair amount of loose soft rock and blocks removed. More work was done in the crack to the right of Birch Tree Wall Variation (Tree Root) of which a large loose block at the top of the gully was removed for safety reasons.  

Some of the soil from the top has been placed under the crag and will quickly settle. 

A lot more overgrowth from the top of the crag has also been removed, creating better access and opening up a larger platform at the top of the crag.

Stage 6 of the project is a proposal for new bolts to be installed which will be placed to deal with a number of the climbs here currently lacking in appropriate climbing top-rope anchors.

The area now needs time for natural weathering and cleaning and as such, it is requested that climbers avoid climbing on Wanderfall Wall and Birch Tree Wall over the next few weeks to allow for the rock to come into condition. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Clearance Work - Birch Tree Wall - Harrison's Rocks

Work was undertaken above Birch Tree Wall (RF p.262) on Saturday 2nd March 2019. This continued on from what was done above Wanderfall on Saturday 16th February 2019 and additionally the work back in the winter of 2017/2018. The work was undertaken by members of the HRMG with the aim of reactivating this area for climbers. 

Again substantial amounts of earth were removed, as well as a complex and intertwined root systems which derived from the original but now long gone birch tree. This took the most amount of time and this was difficult to remove. The work has again revealed the original shelf and brings the climbs on this wall back into a purist climbing state.

Time is now needed for the rock to perform some natural cleaning (which the past week may have helped with) and time to weather. 

Monday, 4 March 2019

Harrison's Car Park - Nightly Closures

In response to antisocial behaviour in the Harrison's Rocks/BirchdenWood car park, it has been deemed necessary to close the car park in the evenings. There are no set hours currently, but an approximate closure time between  dusk (pm) and dawn (am) is now in effect. The campsite is still open and additional emergency access information will be available in the car park shortly.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Tom Chapman - on - Southern Sandstone

(Nicotine Alley- 7A- Photo by @controlclimbing)
Kent local and bouldering enthusiast Tom Chapman took time last year to experience southern sandstone and what it offers. Below is Tom's report of his finding and it makes for a good read.

"So, you’re a rock climber who is unfortunate enough to be based in London or Kent, although both are beautiful places to live, they are not known or widely recognised for their mountainous landscapes. This can make it hard for the busy rock climber to spend any time on real rock, but I have something to share. Southern Sandstone!

We have all heard many times people with bad things to say about the climbing available on the outcrops of southern sandstone, today I am going to debunk that myth and give you the top three crags that are an easy commute from London.

(c) Southern Sandstone Climbs

Bowles Rocks

Bowles Rocks is my number one spot for bouldering and top rope climbing and is easily reachable from London. Taking a train from London Bridge to Eridge station is about 56 minutes and from there it is approximately a one-mile walk from the station to the Rocks.  

Bowles is a charity which works with young people and do charge a small fee of £5 to enter but it is well worth it to get your hands on some real rock.
This is a south-facing crag formed of quick-drying medium-soft quartz sandstone, certain parts such as the ever-popular fandango wall dry quicker than others due to the slightly overhanging nature and great exposure to the sun which makes them accessible most of the year round.

Top Boulder problem at Bowles - Nicotine Alley- f7A
A long traverse including some relatively good holds as well as some pretty crimpy rails, before ascending the slopey arete to finish.

Happy Valley
(c) Southern Sandstone Climbs

Happy Valley is the easiest to access from London, just a short train journey from London bridge to Tunbridge Wells (45 mins) followed by a 15-minute walk 
through the common.

This crag is only really accessible in the warmer months due to its location, it gets damp and mossy during the colder months which make it as good as unclimbable. In the warmer months, there are some great highball boulder problems, short boulders and long traverses.

(Inglenook Left- F6B-
Photo by @controlclimbing)
Top Boulder problem at Happy Valley.

Inglenook Left  f6B (but personally I would see that raised to a f6C), it is located in the strange looking sweeps cave area of the crag, at the rear wall where you will find two pockets, from there it's a long reach behind without using the left hand wall or ledge, once you have found the lip finish with a powerful mantle to the top.

Harrison's Rocks
(c) Southern Sandstone Climbs
Harrison's Rocks is another great crag with some good facilities, located close to the village of Groombridge and a short drive from Tunbridge Wells and Eridge stations or hop on the 219 which can get you within walking distance.

Harrison's is the largest crag in the area and has around 400 routes across multiple faces, the most popular probably being the north boulder (pictured below). Harrison's Rocks is owned by the BMC - 'British Mountaineering Council' and managed by HRMG - 'Harrison's Rocks Management Group' so is rarely overgrown thanks to the work carried out by volunteers, however, it is located in a wooded area and can get damp at times.

The Sheriff - f6C - (c) Rockfax 2017

Top Boulder Problem at Harrison's Rocks
The Sheriff- f6C- The Sherriff is a powerful route, taking the nose of the boulder using the crimpy holds with some cheeky beta (I will not disclose), once you reach the top you will find some slopey and sandy holds and use these to make the powerful mantle over the lip. I would perhaps see this problem rise to a f6C+ although some will disagree, it is a pretty powerful climb.

I hope after reading this you are pumped up and ready to make the trip to Kent and East Sussex to see the climbing on offer, I think it's great and you should try it before judging. Just a short trip from London makes it highly appealing for me.
There are more outcrops too, including Toad Rocks, Eridge Green Rocks and High Rocks (which currently has a climbing ban but the BMC are working to resolve the issue)" 

About The Authour
Tom Chapman is a Kent local, bouldering enthusiast and director of Control Climbing Clothing.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Clearance Work - Wanderfall - Harrison's Rocks

On Saturday 16th February 2019, some members of the HRMG voluntarily undertook clearing work around the Crucifix Wall, Wanderfall and Birch Tree Wall areas. 

This work continues on from the work which was started over the winter season 2017 / 2018.

A substantial amount of earth and loose rock was removed from the right side of Wanderfall Wall (RF p260), revealing the original rock shelf, returning the routes to their original climbable state. There has been a deep level of soil and dirt on the upper tiers, going back decades where soil and compost have compacted and taken over, which has now all been removed. Additional clearance work is now required above the crag edge to help create better access for climbers. This will be done by cutting back a lot of overgrown ferns and shrubs.

The soil removed on the upper crag has been placed under the Waterfall Wall to help with ground erosion and over time will compact nicely as it did under Crucifix Wall. Work has also commenced above Birch Tree Wall (RF p262) and will be finished in a few weeks’ time.

The area now needs to weather in order for dirt to clear so please avoid over the next few months if possible.

Bolts are now being proposed to be installed above the routes Wanderfall and Wander at Leisure to ensure the routes are adequately protected and the routes can be better utilised. This will be done by the HRMG hopefully this spring/summer after more clearance work. It is hoped that this will free up some more routes and help spread some of the Unclimbed Wall area traffic further down the crag.

For more information on volunteering please visit our volunteer page.



Friday, 8 February 2019

New Bouldering Wall Opening in Canterbury - Chimera Climbing

Over the past week, Chimera Climbing have been sharing cryptic messages on social media with hints of something new and exciting. Hints such as “Tales from the past, present and future... intrigued?” and “Born and bred in #kent and staying true to our home roots... All will be revealed tomorrow!” 

Chimera finally announced what their plans are today, and sure enough, they are being true to their Kent roots and building a new bouldering wall in Canterbury.

Canterbury is a historic cathedral city, attracting many tourists, with a big student population from nearby Universities such as the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church. Many climbers have to car share to get to the bigger climbing walls, which can be over an hour travelling time one-way.

Chimera prides itself on the motto "Made by Climbers, Run by Climbers, Loved by Climbers". They already boast a popular bouldering centre in Tunbridge Wells, with its close proximity to many of the sandstone crags. This new centre in Canterbury, will certainly be a popular and welcomed addition to Kent.

The opening date is yet to be revealed.

The new bouldering wall location: Unit 1, 22 Maynard Road, Canterbury, CT1 3RH
You can follow Chimera on Facebook for more updates or visit Chimera's website here.

With new bouldering walls popping up over Kent, a roped climbing wall, with leading facilities, is now very much in demand. We still hold out hope for this in the near future.

Monday, 4 February 2019

New Bouldering Wall Opening in Maidstone

Photo: The Climbing Experience
A new dedicated indoor bouldering centre is set to open in Maidstone called The Climbing Experience. They are aiming to open in August, depending on construction time.

18,000 + square foot of bouldering, fun wall, yoga and cafe will be included in the plans for the centre, located at the Powerhub Business Centre in Maidstone, alongside the River Medway.

This is a great addition to Kent, as a modern climbing wall like this has been in demand for years, especially for those living in north Kent.

Maidstone East and Maidstone Barracks train stations are within easy walking distance to the centre, and links to the A229, M20 and M2 for those travelling by car make this location a very accessible and desirable location.

With a travelling time of approximately 50 minutes by car to one of the busiest BMC crags in the UK; Harrison's Rocks - this new bouldering wall will be a welcomed training facility for all, especially on those cold wet days when we can't climb outside.  We are hopeful that this new centre will be an example of a state of the art bouldering facility, for all abilities, from novices to expert, with regular route setting.

Unfortunately they are not planning on having any leading / roped climbing at this stage, but a modern bouldering wall will certainly be welcomed. A state of the art leading wall, which is open to the public throughout the week is now what is desperately required to close the gap in the market, in either Medway, Maidstone or the surrounding areas. Let’s hope a leading wall will appear soon, in time for the 2020 Olympics. This is a very much needed bouldering wall for Kent, so we are not complaining.

The new bouldering wall location: Unit G15 Powerhub Business Centre, St Peter’s Street, Maidstone, Kent ME16 0ST.

You can follow The Climbing Experience Facebook page for more updates as they happen:

Or check out their website:

Photo: The Climbing Experience

Photo: The Climbing Experience

Photo: The Climbing Experience

Friday, 18 January 2019

Tom Gore's - South East Sandstone Round Up 2018 - UKC

Ben Read and Peter Wycislik on the first ascent of Team Weak 7B (C) Tom Gore Col.

Tom is back with his yearly round up of new route and boulder problem news from the past year! It's been a big year for new ascents and Tom's intro explains why.

"Following the publication of the Rockfax guide in autumn 2017, there has been something of a revival in the south-east. Add to that what has been one of the hottest and more importantly for the sandstone, driest, summers since the 1976 heat wave there has been plenty of opportunities to get out and develop these crags further."

The list of new additions to southern sandstone has been rather extensive this year, with 47 being recorded on UKC. All you need to know about new route recording can be found over on our new routes page.

So check out Tom's excellent report over on UKC now!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Now For Something Totally Boring but Important - Cleaning

Just before Christmas, we sneaked out a new page all about cleaning (the button to this page is on the right). It's one of those subjects that will always get peoples backs up, but we all love sandstone and we all want it to be around as long as possible. So yes, it's a boring subject, but help spread the word and help prolong the life of those routes and problems and clean appropriately and responsibly.

The code of practice has lots of info on how to protect the rock and the Rockfax guide gives further information and illustrations on how to do this

Sandstone has a bouldering and toothbrush ban in place to help reduce the issue of holds being worn away by repetitive and abrasive brushing.

Repetitive brushing with harsh brushes will wear away the outer layer of sandstone, revealing even more sand underneath, therefore making it even harder to climb! So if you want to climb better and also help preserve the rock, then don't use harsh boulder brushes.

The only form of brushing permitted is that to remove general debris and loose sand.

This is best done by using an extra long very soft bristle hand brush, such as those used to clean cars. Flicking holds with an old towel or rag is another option.

The build-up of chalk is a problem so we ask boulderers to use more eco-friendly alternatives such as Eco Balls to help elevate the issue of chalk build-up and the need for cleaning.

When out on sandstone it is almost inevitable that toothbrushes will come with you and will most probably be attached to your chalk bag. We all fall victim to this and it's certainly not the end of the world. If you remember, it's best to place it back in your bag and out of sight, as undoubtedly you may get the small brush ban rule pointed out to you by passers-by.

One item that cannot be mistakenly brought with you is a bouldering brush extension pole. This item is too large to accidentally come with you and will most probably identify intentions of using it to clean the sandstone, in an inappropriate and damaging manner.

In addition, make sure you clean your climbing shoes before getting on the rock. If you don't you will just fail! Loose sand on your shoes makes you lose your grip and slip, and in addition, this can have an impact on the rock and wear away the rock.

Do spread the word and help keep sandstone around for all of us to enjoy for years to come!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Isolated Buttress - The Full LMG Report

The BMC posted a news story on the 20 December 2018 concerning the Land Management Group's report regarding access to the Isolated Buttress at Harrison's Rocks.

As many of you know, there was an additional meeting in October 2018 of which the LMG (Land Management Group) undertook a site visit to view the Isolated Buttress and attended a special open meeting with the sandstone community. The LMG met with the climbing public to discuss the issue at hand and hear any extra arguments regarding the bridge installation decision made by the Harrison's Rocks Management Group (HRMG). They took into consideration any potentially overlooked solutions, so they could form a final decision on the matter.

After hearing and taking into account all views, the LMG spent time considering all suggestions and came to the conclusion to endorse the decision made by the HRMG back in December 2017, to build a bridge.

A comprehensive report is now available to download which shows the detail behind the final decision.

Photo: © Daimon Beail

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The BMC Harrison's Rocks Work Weekend - 2018

The BMC work-days in November were supported by over 20 volunteers across two days in total, and the weather was drier than forecast which was a result all round!

Bob Moulton, long-standing and dedicated Harrisons Rocks Management Group member, reported:  "A lot of brashing was done and logs carried up to and below the rocks, revetments were reinforced at the top of the area that had been cut."

Bob also noted that "the old revetments that had been put in as recently as 2012 are still in reasonable condition but buried in sand, which shows that this work done back in 2012 was doing a good job."

Additionally "work was also done below the Bow Window area to block off an unofficial path and to rebuild some of the steps in that area. The drain-offs below St Gotthard and The Vice areas were dug out again."

"A team of strimmers were hard at work on the lower path and Tim Skinner (HRMG) has now planted a number of saplings all along the lower slopes."

The HRMG (BMC) wishes to thank all those who turned up on this BMC work-day, as well as those who have supported the event in other ways.