As the culmination of a long-running saga, the southern sandstone outcrop of Harrison's Rocks is now owned by the newly established BMC Land and Property Trust, ensuring access for climbers in perpetuity.
Harrison's Rocks, located near Groombridge on the Kent/Sussex border, has been managed by the BMC on behalf of the Sport England Trust for the past twelve years. As of early September 2009, the transfer of ownership of the rocks and surrounds to the BMC is now complete.
Over 50 years after a group of climbers bought the crag for climbers, ownership is now firmly in the hands of climbers. In 1958 the crag was bought from the Forestry Commission by climbers.
As the BMC wasn't incorporated at the time, the best solution was for the rocks to be owned by the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) and subsequently by the Sports Council Trust. Later, the Rocks were jointly managed by the Sports Council and the BMC's Harrison's Rocks Management Group (HRMG), until management was passed solely to the BMC in 1997.
The opportunity first arose to gain the freehold of the Rocks when Sport England reviewed their operations about five years ago. Following talks with the Forestry Commission and negotiations over the ownership of the campsite and the management of the car park (including toilet block), the transfer of ownership of the rocks themselves is now complete. A Management Agreement is also now in place for the BMC to provide day-to-day management of the car park and campsite.
Bob Moulton, former chair of the HRMG, who has been involved with the HRMG since 1997 and the hand-over of ownership, said: "It's great to see the land being owned by climbers. We owe a debt to the climbers who orginally bought the rocks and we're grateful to the CCPR and Sport England for managing the rocks and for developing the car park area. Over the years Sport England in particular has spent significant sums of money on the rocks and the car park."
The crag, campsite and car park will continue to be managed for the benefit of climbers by the HRMG. The BMC can now look into the process of dedicating the rocks and surrounds as Open Access Land.
A social event will take place to celebrate the transfer of ownership. Watch this space for details.
Funds raised from the Julie Tullis Memorial Campsite, created by the Sandstone Climbing Club in the 1990s, will go towards funding expeditions by women. The newly announced Julie Tullis Memorial Award will be administered by the BMC’s International Committee.
Harrison's Rocks has about 350 routes and is detailed within the Southern Sandstone guidebook. For up-to-date access information see the BMC Regional Access Database.
Find out about other sites owned and managed by the BMC.
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