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.