It was while on a cycle ride from London to Paris, that my route took me past High Rocks and onto Royal Tunbridge Wells. I almost fell of the bike at seeing High Rocks, so reminiscent of the gritstone outcrops of the Peak District and places like Armscliff Crag in Yorkshire, where I learnt to climb. I knew Harrisons Rocks were a southern climbing edge but didn’t realise they were part of the same sandstone vein that passes through this area. Back in the office I pulled out my maps looked where Harrisons Rocks was - close to High Rocks! That’s it, I thought next weekend I will walk there and discover the area and do a challenge walk.
So, I set off from Royal Tunbridge Wells and headed to Frant, a lofty place with extensive views. Then on through woodland and past lakes to look down on Bowles Rocks. I remember seeing adverts for this climbing ground and centre in early 1970’s Outdoor magazines. There is now a dry ski slope and several skiers were in action; will bring my short skis next time! I pressed on towards Groombridge but the early January daylight was fading and by sheer chance caught a bus back to Royal Tunbridge Wells, as the light faded. I returned to Groombridge the next day and retraced my steps so that I could explore Penns Rocks. This area was likewise like the Peak District with dales, twinkling streams and rolling sheep filled countryside, but uncharacteristically, Oast House’s!.
A mile later I was approaching Harrisons Rocks which reminded me of Froggatt Edge and the many climbs I had done there. Only a couple of climbers about, top roping easy chimneys. I sat nearby enjoying the solitude with the rock face beside me and the northern boulder opposite. Again time and daylight were a factor and I couldn’t linger too long and pressed onto Groombridge and the stunning moat surrounding Groombridge Place. Three miles later I reached High Rocks and paid my admission fee to wander around these sandstone rocks and pinnacles; some linked my bridges. I walked on and through Freizland Wood (Woodland Trust) past more sandstone rocks as I headed back towards Royal Tunbridge Wells.
The walk and area were a walk down memory lane, for me, and amazed that there is a “southern” Peak District closeby here in East Sussex. Incredibly the route passes close to a Dovedale Farm! I shall come back as I have already walked the Wealdway, not realising what lay just off the route. So if you can’t get to the Peak District this is an admirable alternative and see several places where our early Everest climbers learnt their craft…….Enjoy!