2 years ago the area that runs underneath the entire length of the Castle's café (and lead area) floor was consigned to the history books. Dark, dank and full of water, the old pumping station wells were decommissioned in the mid-20th century, more than 100 years after they were built, and left to fester. Now these 12 metre wells deep in the bowels of the Castle have been given a new lease of life, thanks to the vision of the Castle's CEO, the architects and builders involved.
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One of the goals when developing the unused areas of the Castle is to retain, where possible, the beautiful Victorian architecture. The aim is to respect the building, be sensitive both to its legacy and the environment and to try and not hide all that history behind a mountain of plywood.
2 years, a new comp wall, outside boulder field, Loft bouldering floor, and magnificent oak staircase later, there are now 2, brand spanking shiny new 12m lead walls. Giving you an additional 250m2 of climbing surface area with over 45 new routes and aptly named, Wells 1 and 2.
As you descend a dizzying number of steps the lights spring to life before you. Motion sensors on the lights ensure there is no need for them to be on constantly, wasting energy unnecessarily. And being a long way down, it’s a lot of lights! Likened to a cave where the temperature remains constant throughout the year you can really feel the change once you’re about half way down the stairs, which, in this heat, is somewhat of a relief.
Thankfully, it doesn’t resemble the inside of a cave when you arrive in the Wells, but is a clean, bright and colourful space. The builders have done a great job of picking out the brickwork and ensuring some of the original features such as pipes and metalwork have been restored and are on show. The climbing walls dominate one side of the Well walls. Designed and built by a top national setter and a British climbing team member the walls have an impressive array of angles for such a small space, ranging from slabby through the vertical to overhangs of differing degrees.
The Wells have now been open for a few weeks and have been well received (pun unintended). Work is continuing on Wells 3 and 4, which will be more lead climbing and top roping but this won’t be completed until the customer facilities have had a much needed overhaul, starting with the gents changing rooms this summer.
To date the Castle has expanded its climbing areas to 5 floors, not including the outdoor boulders, and this is set to grow further in the next few years. As one of our regulars quoted recently; "The Castle Climbing Centre - the only climbing centre where trying to find your friends is a viable warm up".
Maybe it’s time to introduce navigation courses as well as climbing so the customers don’t get lost!
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