Bowles Rocks Climbing
Bowles rocks are owned by Bowles Outdoor Centre who also offer a dry ski slope. Bowles Rocks are steeped in history and offer high-quality sandstone. The rocks sit in an open setting which is a sun trap during the summertime. It is a popular site for climbers which can make it very overcrowded and the centre have an open climbing policy, meaning that people can climb anywhere, however, may be moved on if the area is required by an instructor. The site is family-friendly, has a good atmosphere and has facilities on offer.
Bowles Rocks face south which makes it quick drying and a sun trap in the summer. Depending on the weather, it is possible to climb here all year round. The quality of sandstone is higher than other crags and seems to be harder and less sandy. There are approximately 230 climbs at Bowles which range in difficulty. Height of climbs goes to 10 metres and the grades range 1a to 6c. There are also some great boulder problems. Popular climbs include Fandango (6a), Temptation (6b) and Pegasus (5a). Bowles Rocks offer a number of climbs to improve slab technique including the highly recommended Moving Staircase (6b) and Reclamation Slab Right (3a).
Bowles Rocks was intended as a rock climbing gymnasium by John Walters when he cleared the site in the sixties. Before this Bowles had hardly been used for climbing, despite the high quality sandstone on offer. In 1963 the Bowles Rocks Trust purchased the site and they maintain ownership today.
Bowles Rocks have a varied history, much like other Southern Sandstone sites, there is evidence of people using the site from prehistoric times. It is reported that smugglers used the rocks as a hiding place, the site has also reportedly been used a rubbish tip and as a gipsy camp. During World War II, pigs were housed here and there was a firing range on the site. You can still see bullet holes and the beams from the pigsties in the rock today. Its history is written into the names of climbs such as Range Wall area, Pig’s Ear (5c) and Pig’s Nose (5a).
A Dutchman, John Bowles lived nearby in the 19th century and the rocks lined the carriageway leading to his property.
Bowles Rocks are easily accessible and are approximately 5 miles south of Tunbridge Wells. Bowles can be found on the east side of the A26 about 2 miles north of Crowborough. The turn off to the rocks is near to Eridge station and is a left turn if you are heading towards Crowborough. Just follow signs for Outdoor-Pursuits Centre and Bowles. By train head to Eridge Station, the rocks are a short walk from here. There is a cost for climbing which you will need to pay at the main office, (see notes section for further details.)
There is a car park onsite which is less than 1 minutes walk from the rocks. Cost for parking is included in the price of climbing (see notes section for further details.)
There is a charge for climbing which is £4 per adult (£3 after 5pm) or £2 for children. Prices include the use of the car park and toilet facilities. Seasonal tickets are available for £30 per person and can be bought from the Bowles office. Staff make regular checks to ensure climbers have paid. Those under 18 need parental/guardian supervision and dogs must be kept on a lead.
To preserve the rock the use of chalk, especially on easier routes is discouraged. A number of routes have cut holds and vandalised climbs are climbed using natural features only. It is essential when top roping to use a non-stretch belay sling and to position a karabiner over the edge of the crag in order to minimise damage to the rocks. Bring long static slings as some top rope anchors are set back from the edge. There are bolts in situ above climbs.