As beautiful as the southeast is, it's not known for there rich mountainous views. So, as a climber, you have probably had to make do with indoor climbing walls and plastic holds, which are great but do not compare to being outdoors scaling boulders or cliff faces.
This blog post is going to help you change it up get outside and get on some real rock whether it is tour first time climbing or you are a veteran, by sharing my 2 favourite locations to climb in Kent and East Sussex.
If you are a climber you have probably been told countless times by the guy at the gym not to bother going to the sandstone and instead go to Fontainebleau, great advice in theory as Font offers some of the best bouldering in the world, but it is not a quick journey and you would be looking at making it into a long weekend.
Southern sandstone however is so easily accessible from London and most of Kent. Some crags are only 45 mins from London Bridge station and offer some great boulder and top rope routes, meaning you can have a great day out on the rock and be home in time for tea!
Nicotine Alley - f7A - Photo Credit: @controlclimbing
1. Bowles Rocks
Bowles is probably the most popular of the rock climbing locations in the area largely thanks to its quick drying south facing rock formations containing over 200 routes and the fact it is located a short walk from Eridge station making it accessible in under an hour from London, Bowles is pretty much accessible all year round give or take a few rainy days.
When you get to Bowles you will have stop by their offices and pay a £5 day entrance, this is because Bowles is a charitable organization and all costs go towards maintenance, work with young people and the excellent facilities such as toilets and ample parking.
Once paying your entrance fee you are free to roam up to the rocks, you will be surprised that this is tucked away in the heart of Kent as you are greeted by the large sandstone boulders and cliff faces.
Head to the fandango wall which can be located in any of the southern sandstone guidebooks and check out my top boulder problem below.
Top Boulder problem at Bowles
Nicotine Alley - f7A - A long traverse from relatively good holds into a small crimpy rail and finishing up on the sloping arête. This is located on the Fandango wall which has the best conditions year round.
2. Happy Valley
Happy valley is one of the smaller outcrops closer to Tunbridge Wells which is a 45 minute journey from London Bridge, just a 10 minute walk from the station across the common you will find happy valley nestled in a wooded area.
You may even see some deer during your walk.
Happy Valley is worth a visit but only during the summer months, due to the location being in a heavily wooded area the holds can get damp and overgrown.
Happy Valley is not managed but is maintained by a group of volunteers who look after lots of the outcrops known as southern sandstone. Be sure to check their website and follow the guidelines for responsible climbing at the rocks.
There are lots of great climbs at Happy Valley with lots of highball boulder problems along with shorter traverses.
Inglenook Left - f6B - Photo Credit: @controlclimbing
Top Boulder problem at Happy Valley
Inglenook Left - f6B - this problem is pretty stiff at 6B and I would I’ll probably stretch it to 6C. This problem is found at the sweeps cave area, start by locating the two pockets on the rear wall and reach behind eliminating the left side wall and ledge find the crimpy lip and finish with a powerful mantle to top.
The Sheriff - f6C - Photo Credit: southernsandstoneclimbs.co.uk
3. Harrison's Rocks
Harrison's is a little harder to access by public transport but can still be done, if you are driving it is located in the village of Groomsbridge between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge and offers plenty of climbing, you can also take a train to either Tunbridge Wells or Eridge stations and take the 219 bus which can get you pretty close leaving just a short walk to the crag.
Harrison's is the largest of the cluster of outcrops forming Southern Sandstone boasting around 400 routes including top rope and bouldering, it is owned and managed by the BMC - Bristish Mountaineering Council.
Top Boulder Problem at Harrison's Rocks
The Sheriff - f6C - Located on the North Boulder, The Sheriff is graded at 6C but could perhaps be a 6C+ thanks to the erosion of the top. A powerful route up the obvious nose of the boulder, using the the crimpy handholds and a cheeky heel/toe hook will get you in position to finish this powerful top out on slopes over the lip of the boulder.
I hope after reading this I have got you inspired to take a trip to southern sandstone, it may not be the best climbing in the world or even in the U.K. but it does offer some great climbing and some even under an hour from the city, don’t be swayed by the doubters and make your own mind up.
There are plenty more crags which make up southern sandstone including Toad Rock, Eridge Green Rocks and High Rocks (which currently has a climbing ban but the BMC are working to resolve the issue).