Southern Sandstone Open Meeting Update

© Emma Harrington
Harrison's Rocks Sign  © Emma Harrington
Harrison's Rocks Sign
© Emma Harrington
Last month saw the first of this year's Southern Sandstone Open Meeting held at Bowles Rocks.

A couple of times a year climbers from across the South East of England get together to discuss all things sandstone. Some of the Sandstone outcrops are owned by the BMC, so they work together to manage any issues.

It gives climbers a chance to have their say on issues such as access, erosion and repairs on crags, bolting, top-roping and many other issues. The people who attend want to maintain the rock and surrounding areas for future generations to use, and the people attending don't grumble to themselves about it, they raise their queries to get things done.

Harrison's Rocks and the future of the campsite and facilities

One of the hot topics was the future lease of Harrisons' Rocks car park, camping and toilet blocks. It will impact a great deal on the access to Harrison's Rocks. Sport England provides funding and their lease expires in November 2014, when the land will return to the Forestry Commission. The Forestry commission does not have the budget to keep up the maintenance of the lower car park or toilet blocks and the BMC are not going to take up the lease because they do not consider it as their priority. Their priority is to look after the rocks and not car parks and toilets as other BMC crags do not have luxuries of these facilities. This is fair enough but not having a car park will impact on access issues and not having a toilet block will also have an impact on the future of the campsite and possibly the cleanliness of the surrounding woodland. Surely the Forestry Commission would have something to say about their surrounding woodland and its cleanliness. After all Harrison's Rocks are not only visited by climbers, they are visited by families, cyclists and dog walkers too.

Woodland Management at Harrison's Rocks  © Emma Harrington
Woodland Management at Harrison's Rocks
© Emma Harrington

High Rocks Climbing  © Emma Harrington
High Rocks Climbing
© Emma Harrington
Talks about the forestry commission diverting money to remodel the upper part of the car park are being considered as there would be less surface maintenance involved.
The continued use of the campsite will depend on the toilet block functioning which is currently closed due to electrical and water supply problems. Basically if the toilet block closes then so will the campsite. Discussions are on-going.

High Rocks

High Rocks is on private land and is also used as a function venue. Imagine it's your wedding day, you are looking and feeling great and dressed to the nines. You take a stroll into the beautiful grounds of High Rocks for your wedding photographs to be taken only to find that there is a sweaty climber climbing in the background of all your photographs! Climbers are reminded to respect when there are wedding parties in the grounds, and that they should avoid setting up ropes behind them when photos are being taken.

High Rocks has seen a minority of climbers refusing to pay the entrance fee when asked. This is private land so this should be respected. Most climbers do pay their fees but there is always the few that spoil it for the rest. In the past High Rocks was in danger of being lost due, largely, to the actions of a minority of climbers who had refused to pay the entrance fee and also people breaking in through a fence (either climbers or non-climbers). Since then the owner raised the entrance price and negotiations were made to keep high rocks open to climbers and increase the opening times.

High Rocks has also seen some bad rope set ups lately, blissfully unaware climbers were not setting their ropes up with the slings hanging over the edge of the crag. They were surprisingly compliant and were happy to re-set their ropes when asked (please see article on southern sandstone erosion). Being assertive and telling them politely without having a go at them seemed to help their co-operation with the issue.

Woodland Management

The Sandstone Volunteering Group have been working hard throughout the winter carrying out work to clear overgrowth, clearing ground after tree felling, repairing footpaths and creating boundaries and access. The next phase of work will continue this winter and volunteers would be needed. It's a chance to get together to socialise with like-minded people, keep fit and get work done so future generations can have access to the beautiful sandstone crags.

High Rocks Entrance  © Emma Harrington
High Rocks Entrance
© Emma Harrington
Harrison's rocks are owned by the BMC and are undergoing a lot of restoration and repair. There are many trees that block out sunlight which is essential to keeping the crag dry. The woodland management plan which is agreed by the Forestry Commission is to reduce the number of trees in phases. Managing the woodland would protect the crag environment, give better views for walkers across the valley, and regenerate the health of the woodland to support more fauna and flora.

  • More information on the Woodland Management Plan can be found in this UKC article

Bolt Testing and Inspections

This is to be done this summer. If you would like to help with the testing, then please get in touch with the Volunteering group.

Here's more information about the Sandstone Volunteering Group

The next open meeting where all sandstone climbers are welcome is Sunday 6th October 2013, 7pm at Bowles Rocks.

For more information on southern sandstone:

16 Jul, 2013
Closure of Harrison's Campsite and Toilet Facilities. For more info see here.
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