A wet and yucky day out to climb at Southern Sandstone

As you will have noticed if you have been following our posts (and you can follow all by clicking ‘follow’ or adding us on Bloglovin’), then you will know that we have been reviewing climbing walls, but we thought it was about time we got out and actually climbed some real rocks.

As a first outing for Her, I thought a nice day out at Kent’s Southern Sandstone would be ideal. We planned our day, bought train tickets and set off.

Little did we know what awaited us…

We woke very early (for us!) up pulled open curtain and revealed  black cloud and torrential rain. Great start!

We started planing this trip when the sun was out and the skies were blue – typical English Summer -.But not to be deterred, we put on our raincoats, put the lead on the dog, shouldered the rucksacks (one full of food!) and set off towards London Bridge, where we had booked two tickets to Tunbridge Wells.We queued up and received the pre-ordered tickets and a receipt for ever ticket, so we had 2x outbound, 2x returns and 4x receipts (overkill or what?).We missed one train by a minute and searched for the next. Why is London Bridge station so confusing and where have they put platforms 4,5,6,7,8 and 9? Never the less we found it!
We sat down and on the train and started the rumble out of the station and watched the rain spray over the windows as we headed out of London.The fast train we had managed to get on, stopped and the inspector started speaking to the platform guard and we got a tannoy announcement.”We are sorry to inform you that this train will be ending its journey at Tonbridge and not Tunbridge Wells as planned.”So rucksacks on, lead on the dog and off we got at Tonbridge, the next train was due four minutes later.We stood on the platform and looked up at the display.

Delayed.Our bus at Tunbridge Wells was due at 11.51 and the train we were told to get on was due at 11.47, no way would we get on it.But a quick question to a guard revealed another train going to Hastings would get us there in time.So we ran across the bridges to the next platform and caught the train the two stops.We got off at TW and it wasn’t raining! YAY!She went to get water in Sainsbury’s while He tried to get activate the tickets -The Kent Metro bus service use electronic tickets, which has free WiFi – yeah right.5 minutes of trying to find the WiFi and nothing. So eventually using the data He managed to activate the ticket

The Metro website tells you that you need a Metro Voyager for the journey we needed to make, being there was two of us we got a Duo ticket. We stepped on the bus and the driver promptly informed us that the ticket we had purchased was only valid for the Crawley/Horsham area, therefore we needed to purchase another ticket. He only took cash so this involved a manic scramble to find a cash point somewhere along the high street, the first cash point was out of service and the only other one was at the top of the hill. Running up that hill with a 20 kilo rucksack whilst the bus was waiting was not fun! Thankfully the driver was nice enough to hang about for us and delay his departure in order to save us an hour for the next bus.So off to Groombridge we went.. We told the driver that we needed to get off at ‘The Surgery’ which is what is stated in the Southern Sandstone Guidebook.Off we got and all that was there was a row of house’s, a farm of Alpaca’s and Lamas and a cow called Bessie (She has a name tag)

As you can probably guess the guide book is wrong, we should have got off the stop previously which is about a half mile back, sooo off we went back the way that we came. From the previous stop you head into the village, through it and out the other side, past The Junction Inn Pub,  over the railway bridge and out the other side. 

You then continue along a country lane, filled with little white cottages all called Birchden something or other, another mile (at least it feels like it) you come to a drive way surrounded by forests. The gravel path leads you to the car park of Harrisons rocks.The facilities here are simple but effective, there are toilets and vending machines and a little campfire set up further down is the campsite it self should you feel the need to camp.But we weren’t here to camp! We were here to climb or in a dogs case find a tennis ball or two. We followed the paths into the woods, and down towards the crag. This was muddy, rainy, boggy, sticky, wet and pretty much any other blergh description. Also at this point may I add, She was FREEEZIIINNNGGGG! So not exactly the best scenario the start a day’s climb.Eventually we made it! The North Boulder aka Hobbits Boulder sat before us, by this stage we needed coffee and lunch before we started. So we sat down on the driest part of the grass for a bit. We had a play about on the bolder to get acclimated and warmed up a little, (It didn’t work) The dog got up the rock’s long before us and put us to shame.

We walked and scrambled about a bit until we found something worth putting a rope on and tried a number of routes of varying grades. We slipped and slided-ded* about a fair bit, we failed some climbs and managed to get up others.

This was all while it was muddy, yucky, slimy and well you get the picture or look at the pictures, you’ll see…

After a lot of dirty climbing we decided to quit before the dark clouds opened up again. We packed up and headed back to the pub for a well deserved pint and to pass the time before the last bus home.

The Junction Inn is a nice place to while away an hour or an evening, it’s very doggie friendly, almost one dog per group and they get lots of biscuits from the staff.
And there is a pretty and friendly barmaid which always helps!

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to saviour the food (next time). We caught the bus and then the train and promptly fell asleep. Only to be woken by another tannoy informing us that the train would not stop at all stations due to a tree on the line. So our planned route home was curtailed.
But by then we were starving and needed nourishment and more alcohol! So we made one final stop, a nearby pub The Rosemary Branch, where we picked food from their menu board and sampled a pale ale or two.
The food was rather expensive and if we weren’t starving and knackered we would have found something else. Plus the portions are pretty small, not really value for money.

So what did we think of Harrison’s Rocks on our big day out?

Her: All in all I’d like to go back, someday. When it is sunny (if that would ever happen!) and climb on dry routes. I like the woodlands and there were bunnies and dogs which adds to the fun of it.
It was my first time outside I have to say it was nicer climbing outdoors because the scenery is so much better (except that one time when Jason Momoa was climbing next to me at The Castle!) I’d always prefer to be outdoors, rather than be indoors and to get back to nature and climb the real thing rather than resin and plywood.
I may not be the best climber (yet) and I did struggle on some of the routes but I still enjoyed the day.

Him: I’ve been here many, many times in the past, but never on the train and walking, it’s a lot more work than just driving and walking from the car park. The day was horrid, so we were lucky to even be able to climb what we did, plus it would have really helped if each step of the journey had gone to plan!Many of the routes were running with water, green and mossy. But we tried – and mostly failed – a number of routes, but it was as I remembered it and as she said it is always nicer to climb outside even if it was wet. I am glad she liked it and look forward to returning with her sometime over the summer, preferably on a day when the sky is blue and not grey.

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