Whilst some may only visit the lower-grade sport climbs at the eastern end, there is much more to this venue.
The routes from Valkyrie Rib to Ben Gunn have been re-bolted (2023) with eco-resin P hangers and double bolted lower offs with the exception of a few previously un-scarred lines left as trad to be led with natural gear. This now makes for a great low grade sport venue with a light smattering of trad lines in between. For those with an investigative outlook, it is an enjoyable place to explore and all the routes on the Garden Wall remain as adventurous trad lines.
The crag is generally north-facing and with some patchy tree cover, so a couple of days of dry weather are needed to provide optimum climbing conditions, in particular to dry up the base area of the crag. Many of the routes accumulate dirt and leaf litter over time and starred routes will only live up to their status if they are in a tidy condition. With the newly-restored sport routes, the area may see more traffic thus maintaining the climbability of this fabulous crag.
The crag was used by an outdoor activity centre throughout the 2000s and has also experienced long term visits by the local caving club. Collectively, this resulted in the addition of many bolts in the four eastern sectors. A bolted Via Ferrata and some supplementary high level staples have also been established on the Western Wall. The outdoor centre moved away in 2010 and an associated dispute resulted in a number of cut staples in both areas which were seriously weakened. These have now all been removed or restored as full sport routes. However there are still some seemingly randomly placed bolts used by the cavers for SRT rigging practice. The caving club continue to visit and if they are on manoeuvres in a particular locality they have preference. In that scenario, climb somewhere else and come back another day.
The Garden Wall left of Collosus Cave remains bolt free. Some routes follow lines of weakness in the rock and/or cross breaks and are adequately protected. Others include some sobering run-outs and also require some shothole gear; these provide an exciting challenge for those with the inclination and give an insight into the world of the 1960s climbers. Pre-inspection and tidy-up on abseil is suggested for lines which see little traffic, as necky climbing is no fun with leaf litter on key holds and ivy incursion on the crux... On those lines, as at any other venue, any in-situ pegs should be considered with circumspection, some of them date back to the 1960s/70s.
Some climbs are lost to vegetation and these are noted as such. The area is a SSSI and ecologists sometimes visit the Garden Wall to inspect the ground level mosses, ferns and lichens. A number of 'no star' climbs may not now be restored, as an offset to continued maintenance of the more worthwhile routes in climbable condition. Any proposals to reclaim routes currently scheduled as unclimbable due to vegetation should be reviewed with the landowner (see approach notes).
The North Face is within The Rock Gardens, the grounds of a private house. The land is under the long term ownership of the Boulton family, who remain very supportive of climbing. This near-unique access agreement for climbers stretches back to the 1960s and must be respected. The Boultons have four conditions for visiting climbers:
1. You must seek permission; by phone call or text to John Boulton on 07771280535 with an absolute minimum of 24 hours notice. If you don't get a reply by text or phone call you do NOT have permission to climb on the North Face (please respect this). Please be specific about numbers of climbers and time of access and who the main contact is for the party. Primarily, John just needs to be aware of who is on their property. There are other land users as well as climbers.
2. You must have third party liability insurance, such as that offered with BMC membership.
3. You should normally park on Rock Lane and walk in from there (see below).
4. This access agreement is currently only for personal climbing. Commercial groups should seek other crags.
Climbers are fortunate to have access to this private land and must be courteous in all dealings with the Boultons and anyone else they meet on the land, including the cavers who are also there by agreement. The gardens are also used by campers and tenants of Rock House; the safety of these third parties is of the utmost importance and the removal of any loose rock must be very carefully managed. Climbers must not jeopardise the access agreement with any sort of antisocial behaviour.
Either: 1. Park on Rock Lane and walk in from there, following the same path as for the South Face climbing area. Using this approach, turn right through a gate at the point where the stone circle comes into view, then go leftwards down a set of steps towards the crags. The small crag near the stone circle is the Far Eastern Buttress.
Or: 2. Only with the prior agreement of the Boultons, you may be able to park at Rock House or in the camping area. From the parking area by the house, the Garden Wall and Western Wall are down a path behind the house. The four eastern area sectors and the camping area are up a track on the left; turn right and cross the small camping ground (now infrequently used).