Harrison’s toilet block and campsite closed

Posted by Rob Dyer on 12/07/2013
The Harrison's toilet block and lower car park

The toilet block and campsite at the Harrison’s Rocks car park is currently closed because the building is unsafe.

During the winter, water leaked directly onto the fuse boxes in the toilet block causing serious damage and making the building unsafe for use. The campsite relies on these facilities and so it is also closed – please do not use the campsite as serious sanitation problems are likely as a result. Alternative nearby campsites are available with the nearest being Manor Court campsite, near Tunbridge Wells.

Before going into detail on the current situation and future of the car park, campsite and toilet block, it’s useful to give some background to the slightly complicated ownership and lease situation which relates to this car park area. Whilst the BMC owns the crag itself and land immediately around it, it does not own the car park, campsite or toilet block. This area is owned by the Forestry Commission (FC) and is currently leased to Sport England until November 2014. Sport England (SE) has a management contract with the BMC to look after the car park area and day to day management is looked after by Soft Rock Ltd. The BMC currently receives funding from SE for this, and in turn pays Soft Rock. However after November 2014, no further funding is available, and the BMC does not have the means or capacity to run a car park, campsite and toilet block itself, so the lease will revert to the FC. This was the case before the water damage occurred to the toilet block.

The BMC has met with the FC and SE several times over the last year or so, in order to discuss what will happen to the car park area once the current lease finishes. SE have confirmed that they are unable to continue to fund running the site as it does not meet the objectives of their organisation. The FC do not have a nearby team that could easily look after the site, and given recent budget cut backs are unable to contract the work out or regularly commit staff time to look after the site from a distance. The FC have investigated the possibility of pay to park schemes but this would not generate enough revenue to cover costs. They have therefore advised us that once the lease expires, they plan to demolish the toilet block, remove the campsite, close the lower part of the car park (due to erosion problems on the ramp leading from the upper to lower car park) and re-landscape the upper car park to maximise the number of car that can be parked there. This should maintain the current number of car spaces available in both areas of the existing car park through better design.

SE obtained quotes for repairing the toilet block, however the cost of this was too high to be justified for a building that will be demolished in 18 months’ time. This obviously has the unfortunate knock on effect that the campsite is unusable for the remaining 18 months of the lease. However the BMC thinks that a far better use of the money SE have set aside for repairs, would be to use it in re-landscaping the upper car park to provide as many spaces as possible, rather than invested in a resource that only has an 18 month lifespan. SE and the FC have agreed to this approach and currently specialists are working on plans for the redesigned car park.

Clearly, the loss of the campsite and toilet block is a real shame for the climbing community and other users of the Rocks, however, taking a pragmatic approach to the information we have been presented with, this seems like the best option. Ultimately, the main concern is that access to the crag itself is still possible and without the car park this would be considerably harder. So the car park is the bottom line, and whilst the campsite and toilet block are fantastic, useful features, they themselves don’t provide access to the crag. In an ideal world all three would remain but given the budget constraints of the two other organisations involved and the fact that the BMC doesn’t have the capacity to manage and maintain a car park, toilet block and campsite, making sure that the car park is as good as it can be is the prime concern.

Please don’t be tempted to use the campsite – without the toilet block available and with large numbers of people within a small area, the area around the car park could quickly develop into a serious problem for sanitation.



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Anonymous User
12/07/2013
I think that most climbers will simply go in the bushes around (with or mostly without a spade) if the toilet block is removed. What else can you do when you are miles from anywhere and desperate? Someone is not being realistic here, and Harrisons does get awfully crowded on a nice day.
Anonymous User
12/07/2013
The toilets at Harrisons have not been in use since at least May (when I first saw the sign).
Anonymous User
12/07/2013
Such a shame, a great little place to camp, and a fab climbing area!
Maybe they could look at supplying an alternative if it's cheaper?
Anonymous User
19/07/2013
Such a shame. Such a great campsite and such a waste of a useful facility. Come on climbers let's try and get something sorted...
Anonymous User
19/07/2013
The state of the place currently is terrible. Car park overgrown and littered, loads of excrement lying around people continue to camp at week-ends- hundreds of dog walkers every day. If the campsite is closed why are so many campers there still? Why is there so much litter lying around if the warden is still on payroll?
I notice on http://www.southernsandstoneclimbs.co.uk/ we have a new warden. Is this correct?
Anonymous User
21/07/2013
I'd like to suggest a couple of compost-type toilets. Basically a deep hole in the ground, secure cover/seat and a screen for privacy (can be open air overhead!). I've used these types of loo in australia and canada and they have the advantage of being more eco. I assume that this would not cost an excessive amount and would enable people to continue to use the site for the remaining two summers left on the lease. The campsite is very special to many people, and a simple solution to toilets could protect the area around the rocks from becoming an open sewer.
Anonymous User
23/07/2013
To the user that commented that climbers will simply go in the bushes around and the lack of realism that entails...

* I don't know of many other crags that have a toilet
* Are you incapable of going to the toilet before you leave the house?
* Do you think it's acceptable to cause sanitation issues?

Please, if you can't behave normally, please try to keep some semblance of civilisation. This isn't Bas Cuvier.
Anonymous User
27/07/2013
Well people will camp anyway! When I climb at Harrison's I always need a wee after the drive, a bush will do just fine. For a number 2, do it at home or on the way home, if your bivy or in car just walk to a pub.
And......TAKE YOUR RUBBISH HOME WITH YOU!
I for one am grateful there ever was a toilet block in the first place, as for the carpark it's fine how it is the pot holes are no worse than any of the roads on the way up there!!
Anonymous User
02/09/2013
Could there not be a yearly membership for climbers and car sticker system to help raise funds to keep the toilets and campsite open as it is mostly us climbers that use them. A pay and display machine at the top and bottom car park could raise funds from doggie walkers and day visitors.
People travel along way to get to Harrisons to climb,my journey is normally hitting the hour mark, then a whole day on the crag and an hour home. Sorry but even I have to go at some point during the day. Lets try to keep our facilities!
Anonymous User
19/02/2014
what a REAL shame this is and always will be part of our history of growing up, why cant a trust fund be set up for donations so all us people who love climbing and camping here can see it continue to the next generation :(
Anonymous User
27/03/2014
I have been using Harrisons rocks for over 30 years and have spent many a night sleeping out there.
The last 10 years i have seen a huge increase in the places use with the increased use i accept things had to change.

It is a desperate shame as Harrisons has been a sanctuary for myself and many other for a very long time.

I also concede in resent years the facility's have been abused a bit by "casual" campers and in many ways the closer of the toilet block will probably slow this down.

However the biggest shame for me is the closure of the Julie Tullis camp site this really has IMHO great significance to the climbing community and a bit of a loss for us all.

Harrisons does get crazy busy these days and previous poster is right its all going in the bushes now and with "groups" increasing year by year this will quite quickly become more of a problem.

Maybe the company's that bring groups to the area need to pay a little more towards the up keep of the fascilitys ?

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