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There's not a lot of climbable rock here on the south coast of the UK. The nearest is the Wealden Sandstone Outcrops around Tunbridge Wells or the limestone cliffs of Swanage - some 2 hours away, or if you like chalk, there's the cliffs east of Brighton. Consequently, the vast majority of my climbing is on the sandy stuff and there's a bit about some of the outcrops here. There are also a few articles I've written about particular experiences or climbs that I've enjoyed.

I've been climbing on and off since about 1967 when, as a young Scout, we climbed at Bull's Hollow, a Sandstone Outcrop near Denny Bottom - an area to the east of Rusthall, about 1.5 miles from the centre of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. My Brother Philip and I soon realised this was good craic and set about obtaining a rope - a length of 10mm hawser laid polypropylene - and a sling (made of the same stuff). We also got a Hiatt screwgate Krab - bought from Terry's Festerhaunt in Groombridge (sadly long gone, but Terry and Julie's son Chris Tullis runs Evolution Climbing). We taught ourselves to abseil as well - devising many different methods of threading the rope round ourselves. Some methods were definitely better than others! Later, we were introduced to a 'figure eight' which eliminated rope/body contact but required a sling made up as a sit harness. High Rocks and Happy Valley were not far away, and these were also explored.

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I became far more active, climbing with my caving mates Chris Arnold, Rob and Hamish Gillespie and Dave Harris. During 1982, Chris and I pushed our technical grade from 5b to 6a, notching up a couple of new routes on the way. My first real trip away was to Snowdonia - an area I knew from walking. I went up with Patsy in August 1982 where we met Andy, a friend of hers. We skipped off up Grooved Arete on Tryfan and then went into the Llanberis Pass and Clogwyn y Grochan. My first real leading experience was Brant Direct HVS 5a - a great test piece. I had to learn to place gear pretty smartly. We fiddled about on Nea HS 4a but were beaten by the light. The next day we went up to Dinas Cromlech and I led Cenotaph Corner XS 5b (now E1 5c). College in September 1982 got in the way a bit, involving a move to Brighton, but I continued to climb when I could. The mid 1980's were a bit thin on the ground as Diving took a hold (see the diving page) but by 1992, that had passed and climbing was once again back on the agenda. With Andy Mep, Liz Wells and Dave Otterson, I rediscovered the sandstone and made various trips away to the hills, Snowdonia becoming a definite favourite. Since then, I've been away as often as time allows.

"God's own rock" appears in profusion around the Tunbridge Wells area. There are many outcrops on which the accepted ethic is "Top Roping" or Soloing due to the friable nature of the rock.

Hard Sandstone - The Old Man of Hoy and the Old Man of Stoer - 2009

Not a very likely medium for climbing on. However, there's quite a few routes on the cliffs at Dover, also at Beachy Head and Saltdean. These are mainly climbed using ice gear although there are some traditional routes such as Skeleton Ridge on the Isle of Wight.

Areas climbed on include: The Derbyshire Peak District, Yorkshire, South-East Wales, and the North Wales Coast, and of course Swanage and Portland.
Cheddar Gorge and the Somerset Up and Under.

A particular favourite climb is in Wen Zawn on the cliffs of Anglesey - A Dream of White Horses

Gritstone (Under Construction).
The Derbyshire Peak District.

Snowdonia and My First Lead. Also, read about Left Wall on Dinas Cromlech in the Llanberis Pass.

Cornwall - Sennen Cove.

Outcrop climbing in Normandy's l'Orne valley, France.


Recommended Reading and website links

Evolution Indoor Climbing Wall - Lye Green, near Harrisons Link.

Sarah Cullen's Rock Climbing Courses - www.rockclimbingclasses.co.uk/

Laurence Reading offers Rock Climbing trips away from the south east - his website is here... Link.

The Climbers Club - details about the club, and Tide Tables Link

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) Link

Bowles Rocks Link

Cosiroc - french stuff - very useful for that French trip... Link

Feet First - Rockshoe and walking boot repairs Link

Shoecare - Rockshoe, Walking Boot and Clothing care Link

Sandstone Code of Practice Postcard (.pdf file) Link

Sandstone Code of Practice Poster (.pdf file) Link

The BMC's Southern Sandstone pages - minutes of Sandstone Open, Sandstone Volunteers' Group and HRMG meetings etc. Link

Some other odd URL's.....


http://www.dwmorrison.com/dictionary.htm Glossary of climbing terms

http://www.climbing.com Climbing Magazine (US Publication)

http://www.climbmagazine.com Climb Magazine (UK Publication)

©G.A. 2002-2008. Updated 18th July 2008.

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