Bowles Rocks

Southern Sandstone

User attention

A small minority of badly behaving climbers are risking future public climbing access at this popular crag. The site is run primarily as a charity for young people and antisocial behaviour such as urinating in the bushes and uncontrolled dogs being brought on site is threatening the charity’s ability to provide a safe environment for the young people in their care. They are taking a number of actions, anyone suspected of antisocial activities will be reported to the police and CCTV and number plates will also be handed over. Anyone urinating in bushes will be permanently banned from using Bowles, as will repeated offenders who refuse to control their dogs. If the issue continues, they will be forced to take further action which could include (at its most extreme) banning climbing when they have groups in. As this would mean no climbing for about 90% of the year and only open during a few weeks in winter, this is not an action they would like to take. They hope that a stricter approach and help from the majority of respectful climbers that this action will not be needed so if you’re a Bowles regular please spread the word and call out bad behaviour at the crag. from 23/10/2019

Marked as 'Outdoor Pursuits Centre' on some OS maps, this is the hardest and least sandy sandstone crag in the area - it is also south facing and dries quicking.

Crag information
Climbing Area: London & South East Rock Type: Sandstone
Importance: Regional CRoW Land: No
Ownership: Private No. of Routes: 150
Within National Park: No Year Developed: 1959
Grid Reference: TQ542330

Bowles is owned by the Bowles Rocks Trust (a non-profit making charity) and run as an outdoor education centre providing instructional courses for groups and individuals. Bowles runs rock climbing courses for beginners, improvers and for indoor climbers moving outside. 

A scheme known as ‘Open Climbing’ operates, which means you can climb anywhere not required by the Centre’s instructional courses. It is occasionally necessary to close the rocks completely, but this is extremely rare. Bowles charges for climbing, the present rates being £4 a day, £3 after 5pm, £2 for children and £30 for a season ticket.

At weekends and some evenings someone will come round to collect payment. In office hours please pay in the office. Otherwise put your money in one of the boxes at the far end of the car park or in the office porch. There are vending machines for hot and cold drinks in the Cabin, the small building by the ski slope. Under-18 climbers are only allowed if supervised by a parent, a legal guardian, or a qualified instructor holding authorization from Bowles. Dogs must be kept on a lead, and any mess cleared up.

There are a number of routes with cut holds dating back to the 1960s, and it is hoped that no more of these will appear. Most of the vandalized routes can be climbed on natural features only. The Centre discourages the use of chalk on easy routes and requests it is used sparingly on the harder ones. Contrary to the Sandstone Code of Practice, you may see abseiling in certain areas by groups under Bowles instruction where care is taken to protect the rock. The BMC and Bowles management ask climbers to refrain from this potentially damaging activity. There are belay-bolts above nearly all the climbs, and in a few cases these have wire extensions.

Area information

Follow this link for the definitive Code of Practice for climbing on southern sandstone; https://www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcNews/media/u_content/File/access_conservation/southern_sandstone/ssc05_print.pdf

Weather Information

Guidebook info currently being updated

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