Was just getting into climbing when the pandemic hit and had bought the gear for a ropes course.
Now we’re allowed out a bit, can anyone recommend the best places to boulder coming from near MK/Bedford? Don’t mind a bit of a drive.
I had a look through the directory this morning and took a drive out to Clifton Reynes railway bridge. It was okay, but I suppose the directory is a bit out of date as one of the bridge arches was filled in and I had to trespass across some farmland to get to the second bridge. Don’t really want to rely on that to go further afield, especially at the minute!
There's practically nothing round here, to be honest. Either Leicestershire quarries (which aren't that good), the Peak or Southern Sandstone are going to be the only decent options, really. It's only 2 hours up the M1 to the Peak, though it might be best avoiding going this weekend!
Rockfax app is probably not a bad idea.
Also see this thread for where NOT to go:
I'd also avoid the "big ticket" crags like Stanage, Burbage and the Roaches as they'll just be heaving.
I have a vague recollection that there used to be some artificial boulders at emberton country park, no idea if they are still there or indeed accessable at present, railway bridge at slawston (not sure about the spelling) and also a railway bridge/arch at Fen Ditton , I'm going back 25 years or so , so could be mistaken
Emberton Park is open but only on foot at the moment, all vehicular access and parking remains closed.
Don't know about any boulders though!
Maybe they have been dismantled , it was a long time ago when I lived near there !
There's nothing worthwhile without driving at least an hour.
The nearest place that I would recommend is probably Cademan Woods and Broad Hill in Leicestershire. Lots of small granite boulders and buttresses scattered around the woods. There's a link to the pdf guide on the crag page. Some of the boulders in the guide are a bit small and underwhelming but there's some good stuff there too. Use the GPS coordinates in the guide to find things or it is really easy to get lost despite the relatively small area.
In Leicestershire you also have:
Forest Rock which has the best bouldering in the area but you really need to be able to climb at least 7A to get much out of it so not a good place for a beginner.
Beacon Hill Some limited bouldering in a country park. Some people like it there, others complain about weird slippy rock and bad landings. I've never been (make of that what you will).
There's some other bits dotted around Leicestershire, some of which is worth a visit, much of it isn't.
If you drive a bit further, there's a lot more quality and variety in and around the Peak District. Pick up a Peak District bouldering guide and see what takes your fancy.
Be aware that the access situation at many crags is quite fluid at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions. Lots of car parks are still closed. It's worth checking these forums and the crag page on UKC and the BMC's RAD database before visiting to check if there are any issues and make sure you park considerately wherever you go.
Of the stuff much closer to Milton Keynes/Bedford, people climb them out of desperation, not because they are any good.
Clifton Reynes bridges are best avoided. They are loose and dusty and don't expect a friendly welcome if the farmer sees you! The Robin Hood in Clifton Reynes is well worth a visit though if you can find it open. There are various other bridges, statues and other assorted choss around Milton Keynes, Kempston and Northamptonshire that have been climbed but they really aren't worth the effort.
As mentioned further up, Slawston Bridge in Leicestershire is the best bridge. We had an entertaining afternoon climbing on it once on the way back home after getting rained off at another crag. But it is a long way to go to climb at a bridge when a little more driving can take you to some fantastic places.
I've heard there is some rock beyond the main kids play area in Emberton park. I'm not aware of anyone who has ever climbed it and am not sure if it is the artificial boulders mentioned above or something else. There is a couple of artificial boulders at Stanwick lakes but once you've driven that far, you might as well keep going on to somewhere decent.
I work a couple of miles from Stanwick and my parents live within walking distance of Clifton Reynes and Emberton. I have still never bothered climbing at Stanwick or Emberton and haven't climbed at Clifton Reynes for 8 years.
Climbing in the area is extremely limited, so we would drive to the Peak for day trips.
I climbed at Emberton Park probably 15 years ago. It was an artificial wall created from large blocks of rock and concreted in place. It is no longer on the ukc crag list, nor on Emberton Parks website so climbing might not be permitted any more. However scrolling through the photos on google maps for Emberton Park there are photos of the rock. I suspect the rocks are still there and if it’s a short journey it might be worth a visit.
That's why I've been living in the peak for the last 25 years!
I used to climb at Leicestershire regularly when I lived in Leighton Buzzard, there were some good areas worth an afternoon as it was only an hour up the M1 but this was a long time ago now.
As others have said, if you are going to drive 1 hour up the M1, you may as well make it 2 hours and go to the Peak, you will have a much better experience. Southern Sandstone is an acquired taste, I used to climb there more for the social side of it rather than the actual climbing. I'd leave the sandstone until you have some outdoor experience
I climb in Leicestershire a fair bit as I'm local, however although the crags mentioned above i.e. caedman woods, becon hill etc. Are in a lovely setting and there are indeed a handful of good problems, they are definitely in the local esoterica category and I'm not sure are worth the drive from MK, although they are probably the closest climable rocks!
For bouldering the churnet may be as close as the peak? Although the main car park is currently shut so parking is an issue. There is also good limestone bouldering in the south peak, around matlock and pleasley vale a few junctions up the M1 from the Leicestershire stuff although limestone bouldering is not to everyone tastes....
Beware though that Emberton Park is accessible only on foot at the moment, don't drive there, the car park is closed.
Thanks for the input guys, it’s much appreciated. I’ve decided I’m going to do a top rope course to make a trek somewhere a bit more worth it while the walls are closed.
I was going to do this at Southern Sandstone as with the current traffic it’s only and hour and half away, however the comment above says it isn’t the best, is the peak that much better? It’s an extra hours driving.
Southern Sandstone is (a) mostly quite difficult, and (b) has specific guidelines to avoid damaging it with ropes. The Peak is definitely better for a beginner.
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