The huge increase in climbers at Eridge Rocks since lockdown lifted has resulted in rapid wear to the fragile sandstone the makes up the crag. Unfortunately, this has now reached a tipping point where a temporary restriction is needed to give the crag a chance to recover before irreparable damage is caused. Read on to find out more about why this restriction is needed…
The closure of indoor climbing walls during the Covid-19 crisis has meant that many indoor climbers have been tempted onto outdoor crags to get their climbing fix. Whilst has been a positive step in many ways, giving lots of climbers their first outdoor experience, the increased numbers of visitors at crags around the country has presented challenges too.
The Southern Sandstone crags, which provide the closest climbable rock to London and the South East of England have been particularly popular, with a huge increase in climber visits since lockdown eased in May. Whilst all Southern Sandstone is fragile and increased numbers have put pressure on this delicate resource across the area, Eridge Rocks has suffered in particular.
Eridge’s sandstone is especially soft, and the vastly increased numbers, working problems and repeatedly using the same holds has resulted in alarming accelerated wear and damage to holds on parts of the crag. Following discussion amongst local climbers and BMC volunteers, the difficult decision has been taken to temporarily restrict climbing access to the whole crag to allow time for the rock to stabilise.
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Sandstone forms a harder weathered crust with very poorly bonded sandy rock underneath. Unfortunately, the recent increase in traffic has resulted in the hard crust being broken through, leaving even softer sandy rock exposed which is then rapidly eroding away. If left alone, the sandstone weathering will form a harder crust again but for now, we need to give the crag a break and prevent more damage to this cherished and finite resource.
We hope to be able to speed up the process of stabilising the holds with hold repair methods used on other sandstone crags, but given the rare botany and SSSI status of the site, this needs approval by the landowner, Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), and Natural England. Please bear with us while discussions are ongoing, and help demonstrate to SWT that climbers are responsible users by climbing elsewhere for the time being – future access to this crag depends on our individual actions and responsible behaviour now.
The restriction will be constantly reviewed and we hope to lift it as soon as the damaged holds can be stabilised. Any updates to the restriction will be posted the BMC’s RAD pages for Eridge Rocks and on site signage as soon as the situation changes. This is also a timely reminder for anyone climbing on any southern sandstone crags to always follow the Southern Sandstone Code of Practice and do your bit to care for this fantastic but fragile rock.
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More FAQs about the BMC and Covid-19
🌳 Can I start climbing / hillwalking? Yes, but be cautious in your actions, respectful of local communities and vigilant in avoiding transmitting the virus. Read our latest advice for July here and for the general return to climbing here
🌳 What's the situation in Wales? Read the full October update here
😷 When and how will the walls reopen? In England it's July 25th Read the ABC's advice for walls and watch their live update here
✈️ Can I now travel abroad again? Get the latest answers to going abroad with travel restrictions now easing
🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Yes - we officially reopened at the start of July!
🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? The latest club huts update and all you need to know
📜 Will the BMC keep running smoothly? Read more or watch our weekly live updates from our CEO
🚗 What have the BMC access team been doing during this time? Read on
As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.
If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join
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