Thursday 11 April 2024

Birchden Wood (Harrison's Rocks) Introducing ANPR

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is being introduced to the Birchden Wood car park this year. 

Used by climbers and walkers the car park offers some unique facilities, including toilets and washing up facilities as well as an area for campers. It is also one of the most expensive car parks to run for Forestry England. 

The car park and facilities were taken on by Forestry England over 10 years ago back in March 2014 and significant improvements have been made to the car park, roads and facilities. Without it, climbers and walkers would be in a very different situation regarding access and amenities. 

The parking charges help fund the facilities, though unfortunately there are some reports of people not paying. This new system will help enforce parking fees and theoretically camping as those staying overnight must pay the appropriate fees also.

Through this system, it is hoped that it will support better income for the car park and facilities and help keep them open for all to use.  

Prices can be found on the Forestry England website and those who visit regularly may want to purchase a yearly parking pass (which does not include camping). For more information please Click here.

For updated camping booking Click here.

More information can be found on the Harrison's Rocks page.

Sunday 26 November 2023

Harrison's Rocks Bolting Upgrade Work 2023

After a period of review concerning all aspects of bolting undertaken on Southern Sandstone including bolts used, installation methods, bonding and methods of testing, bolting resumed at Harrison's. 



There was unfortunately some delay in the review process for a number of reasons, but on the 28.08.2023 test bolts were agreed to be installed in a new bolting test bed. On the 09.09.2023 Jon Fullwood of the BMC attended site to test the new bolts to produce a report. The findings of the report showed that the bolting methods used specifically concerning the new bolts placed were fit for purpose. Some bolts were identified as needing to be replaced and were removed on the 23.09.2023. 



An intensive bolting weekend then took place over the
weekend of the 30.09.23 and 01.10.23 where members of the HRMG (Volunteers) installed a total of 22 additional bolts, as well as cement work for those bolts removed. 


Bolts removed on:
  • Wellingtons Nose / Pincenib
  • Tame Variant Corner
  • Corridor Route
  • Crack And Cave
  • Grants Wall
  • Hell Wall

Bolts Installed:

01. Counterfeit - Back Bolt














02. Dark Chimney - Both Bolts















03. Casement Wall - Both Bolts


04. Sagittarius - Back Bolt











05. What Crisis? - Back Bolts
06. Slimfinger Crack - Both Bolts








07. Sossblitz - Back Bolt








08. Wellingtons Nose - Both Bolts


09. Corridor Route  - Both Bolts








10. Big Cave Route 1 - Both Bolts








11. Crack And Cave - Both Bolts
12. Grants Wall - Both Bolts








13. Hell Wall - Both Bolts


Sunday 5 November 2023

Southern Sandstone Grades Update

With the release of the Rockfax Southern Sandstone Climbs guide in 2017, the UK Tech grade in terms of its use by Rockfax and UKC would enter a period of transition from UK Tech to the French grade. The printed guide presented a dual system for this transition and the Rockfax app would present only the French grade. 

It was always envisioned that the next major update would take a further step towards the single use of the French grade, and six years after the release of the printed guide came the Southern Sandstone Climbs 2023 App update. As such and upon its release the UKC logbooks moved to only using the French grade and new route submissions only accepted French grades. 

The French grade has now been widely adopted on southern sandstone along with the Font grade for bouldering. The UK Tech grade now offers nothing more than a wide scope to which any number of grades could be applied, famously 6b which measures anything from French 7a to 8a. The continual use of the UK Tech grade presents many problems including the fact that it was never intended to be used independently and requires adjective grades to function properly.

Southern Sandstone since 1947 had been using an incremented and accumulative Willo Welzenbach grading system which over the years had to expand and adapt to rising standards.  Other countries also used this system which over time mutated in their ways to adapt to rising standards. These mutations became known as the font grade, French grade and the UIAA grade. The UK did not mutate its Welzenbach grade but instead changed its use of it into something entirely new, UK Tech.

In the 1970s the Welzenbach system as used on southern sandstone and for multipitch climbs made its way into single-pitch climbing for a time, though quickly entered a period of restructuring as the grade adopted a new identity to measure the single hardest move whilst working only alongside the British adjective grading system. This in turn meant it was not compatible with other independent accumulative grades found elsewhere around the world and would only work alongside British adjective systems. 

This new identity was not widely realised when it was implemented in 1981 when southern sandstone was aligned with the new perception of the numerical system used elsewhere in the UK, (UK Tech), and the effects on southern sandstone were not seen for another 14 years, when this new measure of grading was eventually put in print and reflected upon. 


Over the years UK Tech in isolation would collapse in on itself and guidebook authors needed to move to alternative grading systems instead of one which had grown its own perception but was not compatible with those growing new ones.  There have been other systems used on southern sandstone to combat this issue of which the UK Tech + systems, and font grades have both been used in the past.
 
The subject concerning the move to the French grade has not been taken lightly and significant research into the grading systems used in the UK has been done and will be published in 2024 to support historical information concerning grading in the UK and specifically southern sandstone. 

One important part of the transition to the French system on southern sandstone is the need to understand what a move entails. A conversion from UK Tech to French grades was not possible so UKC logbooks, opinions and significant research have been undertaken to arrive at the first version of the new grading system. Continued development is now down to consensus grading, to home-in on and tweak where necessary and this is the first time an area has had the opportunity to do this on such a large scale, specifically through ukc logbooks.

It's also worth noting that some climbs through the transition have seen significant re-grades, primarily at the lower end of the grading spectrum and this in some cases is set to continue. 

French grading is more of a course correction in reality, as in 1981 if the French grade was used more widely and the full implications were known regarding UK Tech, Southern sandstone could well have mutated much more into what the French grade is today.

Sunday 15 October 2023

The Southern Sandstone Open Meeting

The Southern Sandstone Open meeting has been going on for approximately 27 years (1996 approximately) and in that time, it has seen packed-out function rooms to virtual no-shows.

 Over the past 10 years, the open meeting has seen two significant attendance items which were the transfer of the car park, camping and toilet block facilities to the forestry commission and the isolated buttress bridge issue. Attendance has slowly been decreasing over time. Back in the mid-1990s when the open meetings started, the internet was in its infancy and people had to obtain their information at area meetings and through magazine updates. 

Today people use the internet for almost everything and in the climbing world this is no different, with dedicated websites and discussion forums for climbing. In 2013 Southern Sandstone got its dedicated website which was a great portal for all information regarding Southern Sandstone and sees over 7000+ hits a month. In addition, information is also distributed on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. UKC provides a platform for new routes, and an open forum for people to discuss almost anything they like (within reason). With the changes in both the demographic of climbers and how information is accessed and distributed and the poor attendance of the annual open meeting, which is now only once a year, there are discussions concerning rethinking things. 

As such an experimental outdoor meet at Harrison's Rocks under Isolated Butters was undertaken on Sunday 1st of October 2023, and saw what some would describe as circumstantial success due to good weather, the numbers of people climbing that day and holding the meeting at a popular climbing point. Over 40 people attended of which numerous topics were discussed and overall was seen as a success. This scenario is reliant on good weather and is often subject to change.  

Thursday 28 September 2023

Harrison's Bolting Work 30.09.2023 to 1.10.2023 - Advance Disruption Notice

Bolting work is continuing this weekend and as a result, some areas will see temporary closures. 

  • Long Layback Area - SSC Rockfax - P194
  • Archer's Wall - SSC Rockfax - P202
  • What Crisis - SSC Rockfax - P204
  • Wellington Block - SSC Rockfax - P228
  • Squat Tower Area - SSC Rockfax - P232
  • The Cave - SSC Rockfax - P252
  • Spider Wall - SSC Rockfax - P254
  • Hell Wall - SSC Rockfax - P265


Any bolts with red tape attached to them should not be used or touched.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Sandstone Open Meeting is scheduled for Sunday 1st October 2023, 4pm, at Harrison's Rocks

The next Sandstone Open Meeting is scheduled for Sunday 1st October at 16:00 and will take place at Harrison’s Rocks by the Isolated Buttress.

The Sandstone Open Meeting is your chance to hear what’s going on and to have your say about anything to do with the local sandstone climbing and or the BMC.



Monday 10 July 2023

Southern Sandstone Open Meeting - Sunday 30th July 2023 (Postponed)

Postponed.....

(UPDATE... Due to weather this meeting has been postponed, posable new dates will be circulated soon)

The next Sandstone Open Meeting 
is scheduled for Sunday 30th July and will take place at Harrison’s Rocks by the Isolated Buttress.

Currently, the plan is for this to take place at 16:00. 

The Sandstone Open Meeting is your chance to hear what’s going on and to have your say about anything to do with the local sandstone climbing and or the BMC.

If you have a particular topic or issue you wish to bring up, please drop it in the forum below so that the issue may be scheduled. 


Alternatively. Bring it up under AOB.

The meeting will be chaired by Adrian Paisey (HRMG Chair) and Tim Daniells (BMC Land and Property Trust).

Thursday 25 May 2023

Rockfax Digital App Sandstone Update V2.0

The first Rockfax book to southern sandstone was published in 2017 and covers all the best routes and problems on the outcrops of Kent and Sussex.  

Rockfax has just released a big update to Southern Sandstone on Rockfax Digital which includes lots of new routes and significantly more bouldering, to create perhaps the most comprehensive guide to climbable rock for the area. There are many updates and refinements, which also includes the latest access information as of May 2023. 

Climbing Southern Sandstone rock is a delicate art and it is the duty of each climber to check access information using the BMC RAD. Access information has been included in the app via clicking on both information icons but can always change, so never assume.

Some key access items are: 

High Rocks: - 2020 Access update which requires pre booking before entrance and no bouldering.

Eridge Green:- 2022 Access update which has new restrictions as well as new areas opened. Eridge south which is still under review is currently banned but is included in the app. Check access information before attempting any climbs and ensure that you don't use chalk or substitutes.

Click on both information icons to see access information and also check the RAD

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Summer Season


Summer Season conditions tend to be applied between:

1st April and the 31st October. 

  • On average there are longer hours of daylight and more favourable weather conditions meaning the rock is more likely to be in condition. 
  • Some areas which do not see as much daylight can still be prone to damp conditions. 
  • Ensure to follow the Code of Practice at all times to help protect southern sandstone for yourself and others to enjoy!

Sunday 30 October 2022

Winter Returns



Winter Season conditions tend to be applied between:

1st November and the 31st March.

Conditions in the winter season tend to mean that much of the rock is out of condition. Damp and often saturated in parts. Dry and climbable rock is often limited and restricted to certain more open areas. As such the following advice should be adhered to. 
  • 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."

Monday 25 July 2022

Eridge Rocks Climbing Access Agreement 2022


Some climbing restrictions at Eridge Rocks have now been lifted with a new climbing access agreement between The Sussex Wildlife Trust and the BMC now in place. Additionally, repairs to damaged rock caused by climbers/boulders in 2020 have now been completed. Eridge Rocks should only be visited by experienced sandstone climbers who can climb in biological sensitive climbing environments and are able to undertake advanced levels of delicate climbing techniques, rock protection methodology and have a full awareness of the climbing restrictions and the Southern Sandstone Code of Practice. Anyone not able to follow the Code of Practice and the special Eridge agreement plan, should not climb a Eridge Rocks.

Permitted and restricted areas shown in current printed guidebooks no longer apply, though there
is a significant Rockfax App update due in the autumn depicting up to date climbing information for the area. To assist further with permitted and restricted climbing areas, new wooden posts (See image below) have been installed to help identify these areas.



Use of chalk or other substitutes is prohibited on all climbs/boulder problems. 


New 2022 Climbing and Bouldering Agreement:

As well as adhering to the Sandstone Code of Practice; especially no brushing with boulder brushes & toothbrushes, remembering to clean your shoes before climbing and as well as the new rule of no chalk or substitutes, please observe the following:

Climbing/bouldering is only currently permitted in the following areas and between and including the following. 

Permitted Area 1 - Close to You to Thin Layback
Permitted Area 2 - Mosquito to More Cake for Me, 
Permitted Area 3 - Yew Crack to Fandango 
Permitted Area 4 - Optical Racer to Portcullis inclusive. 

Climbing/bouldering outside these areas is forbidden. 

Discussions are still taking place as to the area between the car park and the A26 and for the time being this area will remain closed for climbing/bouldering.

Additional

It’s important to note that climbing/bouldering by organised groups is still not permitted. 
Greenery of any kind is not to be removed, which includes any vegetation, ferns, or moss.  Clearance work can only be undertaken by The Sussex Wildlife Trust. Eridge Rocks remains a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and we are fortunate enough to have access to the area to climb.

Future Access Updates

In addition to the discussions taking place regarding access to the areas between the car park
and the A26, the areas where climbing/bouldering is allowed will be reviewed by The Sussex Wildlife Trust in consultation with the British Mountaineering Council every six years. This coincides with the SWT’s bryophyte surveys. The BMC will work with climbers and SWT to ensure guidelines are adhered to and the SWT reserve the right to close climbing on site or on particular climbs if guidelines are not being followed causing damage to the reserve. Under SWT supervision, the BMC are permitted to carry out shellac rock treatment to repair any damage to the rock surface caused by climbing on designated climbing routes. 

This is another delicate time in the history for climbing at Eridge Rocks and it is vital that climbers avoid behaviour that will lead to an all-out ban. Anyone encountering climbers or boulderers not following these new restrictions are encouraged speak to them directly and inform them of the new restrictions. 

It is incredibly important that the climbing community demonstrates its commitment to the new agreement to help keep Eridge Rocks open and with possible access to further areas at the crag. Check Southern Sandstone Climbs and the BMC RAD for updates.

Recognition 

Recognition should be given to all those involved both in and around this new access agreement. Graham Adcock, Tim Daniells, James Parsons, Bob Moulton, Ben Read, Rob Dyer, Robin Mazinke, Simon Barden, Adrian Paisey, Tim Skinner and Daimon Beail.  

Video

Ensure to watch the fantastic information video which includes additional and hi-lighted information. The video was produced by Jay Eddie  and written and presented by Ben Read. Many thanks to them both! 

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Southern Sandstone Open Meeting - 12.06.2022 (Chimera)


The next Southern Sandstone Open Meeting will be an ‘in-person’ meeting held at the Chimera Climbing Wall on Sunday 12th June 2022 at 18:15.

This is an opportunity to air your views in person, contribute ideas and meet fellow climbers who are passionate about Southern Sandstone Climbing. 

There will be further reports about climbing at Eridge and a round-up of all the outcrops.


Chimera is located at:

Chimera Climbing Wall
3 North Farm Road
High Brooms Industrial Estate
Tunbridge Wells
TN2 3DR

Google Map Link

Thursday 5 May 2022

Eridge Rocks Update - May 2022



The owners, Sussex Wildlife Trust, have given permission to apply a limited amount of surface-hardening treatment to holds that were damaged in Summer 2020. 

When this has been completed, it is hoped that the BMC will be in a position to lift the voluntary restriction on climbing at Eridge Rocks this summer. 

The BMC and SWT have reviewed the agreement resulting in some changes to the areas where climbing is permitted and where it is prohibited in line with the changing pattern of where protected ferns, lichens, mosses and liverworts are growing on the rocks. 

SWT has also introduced a No chalk or substitutes policy for all climbs on the site. 

Details will be announced before the voluntary restriction is lifted together giving further information.

Until that time, climbing is still prohibited. 

Your continued support is greatly appreciated!

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Harrison's Rocks Bolting Upgrade Work 2022 - Stage 3

Work continued on 03.04.2022 where further bolts were removed and clearance and repair work undertaken. 

The following routes had bolts installed to replace some of those removed on the 27.03.2022. 

Installs on 03.04.2022
  1. Birch Tree Crack   - Both Bolts 
  2. Senarra                 - Both Bolts
  3. Baskerville            - Back Bolt
  4. Elementary           - Back Bolt

Please note that routes with single bolts which are taped off will require alternative methods for setting up top ropes. If a setup method is not available then please treat the climb as temporarily closed.  
The BMC is now undertaking further assessments of bolts that may require replacement or relocation, and as such, some further climbs may need alternative methods for setting up if bolts have been removed or only taped single bolts are in place. 

Work to replace some further bolts removed is currently on hold until additional work is undertaken. 

Sossblitz will remain closed. Please avoid utilising other bolts to rig this line. 

Monday 28 March 2022

Harrison's Rocks Bolting Upgrade Work 2022 - Stage 2




Work continued on 27.03.2022 where further bolts were removed and clearance and repair work undertaken. 

The following routes have had bolts removed and will require alternative methods for setting up top ropes. If a setup method is not available then please treat the climb as temporarily closed. Single bolts for climbs have been taped off to prevent climbers from setting up only from one bolt. 

Removals on 27.03.2022
  1. Big Cave Route 1  - Both Bolts
  2. Birch Tree Crack   - Both Bolts 
  3. Senarra                 - Both Bolts
  4. Baskerville            - Back Bolt
  5. Elementary           - Back Bolt

This completes the removal of now 17 bolts. In the next few weeks (weather permitting) bolting work will commence of which some areas will be closed when this work is taking place.

Additional repair work is taking place to repair the area of rock around the old back bolt of Sossblitz which collapsed due to an underlying fracture that was uncovered when the bolt was tested and removed. It is believed that water had been getting in under the concrete for many years and cased a cavity under the rock. The climb will be closed until repair work is completed which is being done in stages.