There is a type of rock climbing called bouldering, this is low level rock climbing where you will never be more than 1 or 2 meters from the ground. The challenge of roped rock climbing is still present as you can pick easy boulders to climb or try extremely hard boulders that could take years of dedicated training and practice to reach the top.
Very little equipment is needed for bouldering, all you really need is a pair of trainers and a partner to stand behind you in case you fall off. This is called 'spotting' and is a vital part of bouldering. The 'spotter' should stand behind the climber and make sure the climber lands on their feet if they fall. Unlike roped climbing the climber will always hit the floor if they slip and the spotter should make sure that this impact is as soft as possible.
Reaching the sandstone outcrop is very easy, you can simple catch a train to Eridge train station from London Bridge or drive to Tunbridge Wells on the A21 then head to Crowborough on the A26. The two main sandstone cliffs are called Bowles rocks and Harrisons rocks. Bowles is sign posted from the A26 (type in TN3 9LW into your sat nav). Harrisons and Bowles can be reached from Eridge station by walking in less than 20 mins (type in TN3 9NJ into Google maps to find the nearest house). Once you are there all you need to do is start climbing. There is even a free online bouldering guide that can suggest some boulders for you – follow the links below to find the free climbing guide)
The sandstone cliffs are around 135 million years olds and were made when most of the South East of climbing was underwater. These rocks have a tough outer layer but the inside of the rock is extremely soft – it can be broken by rubbing it in your hands. For this reason it is very important to make sure the outer layer is protected. There are a number of rules that must be applied when bouldering to make sure there is no damage.
1. Clean your feet before you start climbing – this can be done on a old piece of carpet. Climbing with sandy feet will damage the outer layer and must be avoided.
2. Please do not scratch the rock – although people have graffitied the rock in the past, this practice could get you a £ 20 000 fine as the rocks are protected by law.
3. Do not make sure own hands or footholds – cutting your own holds will cause damage and earn you the same fine as above.
4. Leave all plant life alone. There are many rare species on flora on these rocks, plants such as the Tunbridge Wells Filmy Fern are extremely rare and a protected species.
If you start to enjoy rock climbing you can purchase your own climbing shoes and even a crash pad to place under the boulders the make your landings a little softer.
Once you have got the hang of bouldering you may want to even try some roped climbing!