top of page

BETTER OFF BLOGGING

This page is for all the updates and interesting stories we've got to tell.

  • Writer's pictureChris

Eager to progress our personal climbing skills, as the UK dipped into a dark winter we headed out to Costa Blanca for a week of climbing in the sun.


Leaving a drizzly early morning in Bristol behind, we took a short flight to Alicante and in a cheap rental car were soon heading down the A-79 to Benidorm. Oioi! Don’t go over thinking. We were situated just 10 minutes north in what seemed to be some sort of gated community.

The Seguridad (security) was a smiley gentleman who responded to our waves as we drove out each day.


As we had nothing in the house we ventured off to local Supermercardo (supermarket) but ended up in the most confusing Mall-like maze of a grocery shop. First greeting aisles laced with sweets, beers and toiletries which then swiftly turned into electronics and a pharmacy section. However the pharmacy section most definitely didn’t have the odours of coconut shampoo but more a fishy smell wafting over from the other counter nearby. However, after this one session in the massive store looking at the vast quantity and quality of vegetables offerings, we felt we knew where most items were and headed back to the Casa to show off how much our nearly two trolleys of food cost us (less than the UK equivalent as it turns out!).


We whipped up a pasta bake to fuel the following day of seeing what the local crags have to offer, as well as sampling some amazing local wine.


Our first day took us to Echo Valley where I (Chris) had been before about 4 years ago and fondly remembered. Some locals also came along with a very young baby, who apparently didn't mind the heat despite us Brits suffering a little!




On the second day we headed over to El Castell de Guadalest, a long term favourite venue for climbers in the area. Here we picked a pretty quiet area of the crag and jumped on some routes. Considering it was November, the weather was absolutely stunning and really a perfect temperature to climb in. Afterwards we went for a well earned pint in the centre of Guadalest, once we'd tackled the steepest road of the trip.



On the following day we went up a local Via Ferrata, Vía Ferrata del Ponoig. This was absolutely stunning and had some serious exposure along the way, slightly intimidating for some first timers but really good fun. The total ascent and descent time was about 4 hours and whilst most of us headed back for a partial rest day, others were back out climbing!





On our final day we went out to another very popular area, Sella, and jumped on a few final routes for the trip. This area was popular with both locals and Spaniards, we made a slight rookie mistake of parking a long way down the road giving ourselves a lengthy walk in. But we made the most of the day and got up a few more routes before high-tailing it to the airport (possibly earning us a speeding ticket along the way... oops!).



Overall we had a fantastic week and had a good range of days out on the crag, dips in the sea, exploring local restaurants, shops and bars. Landing back at a cold and dark Bristol, there was no mistaking the trip had come to a close.


3 views
  • Writer's pictureMatt

The distinctive red limestone on the northern face of Split Rock
The distinctive red limestone on the northern face of Split Rock

The Rock

Getting your head around the geological timescale is baffling but having a grasp of when, as well as how, the rocks we climb on were formed adds a fascinating historical dimension. Though today’s landscape was shaped by ice, rivers and sea within the last two million years (i.e. the very recent past), the rock themselves are far, far older.

Limestone in the caves of Wookey Hole
Limestone in the caves of Wookey Hole

Split Rock Quarry is made of Carboniferous Limestone. This is the same rock that forms the larger part of the Mendip Hills, producing other notable features such as Wookey Hole (just next door), Cheddar Gorge, Burrington Combe and the Avon Gorge. The Mendips have a rich industrial mining history and there are many old sites across the area that are now nature reserves, as well as large active sites still operating. Areas of Carboniferous Limestone can also be found elsewhere in the UK, including much of the south Wales coast and Pembrokeshire (a top destination for climbers).


Limestone is a member of the calcium carbonate family that also includes chalk, dolomite and marble. It’s a sedimentary rock formed from the remains of billions of tiny shells and skeletons of microscopic animals. Limestone is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite and was formed in Britain between 363 and 325 million years ago. To give some context, the earths continents were still part of one large landmass (Pangea) and the dinosaurs were still a few tens of millions of years away! During this time many of the planets coal-beds were also forming, leading to this era being called the "Carboniferous" period (Latin for "coal-bearing") and hence the term "Carboniferous Limestone" today.


Limestone can vary massively in its appearance around the world, but is commonly white to grey in colour. Limestone that is unusually rich in organic matter can be almost black in colour, while traces of iron or manganese can give limestone an off-white to yellow to red colour. These traces are likely what has produced the stunning deep red rock on the northern wall at Split Rock.


Despite varying in its appearance, limestone is a favourite type of rock for many climbers. Neat and effective footwork helps enormously on limestone, with the handholds and footholds often being small but very reliable. These small crimpy-features can lead to a lot of pressure on the hands and fingers which makes some routes very punishing. But fear not! We have a selection of beginner routes at Split Rock that can get you a taste of outdoor climbing without pushing too hard.

Beginner friendly outdoor climbing!

History of Split Rock

The main quarrying area at Split Rock (known as Underwood Quarry) was opened during the First World War by the Wells Stone Company, who leased the land from Lord Brougham and Vaux.


In 1919 the 12 acre site and plant was sub-leased by the Somerset County Council to support their road building and maintenance activities, paying a royalty to Wells Stone for the rock extracted. Over the next century the quarry was a busy site as the council expanded its presence in the area, opening a railway siding to the Cheddar Valley railway and producing over 300,000 tons of limestone. By the 1950s a precast concrete plant was opened on the site to provide work for when conditions were too wet to work on the quarry face. By the 1970s the quarry was producing a quarter of a million tons per year.


The main quarry face

The site was also the home to the councils Central Repair Depot, which was responsible for the repair of the councils fleet of vehicles. Initially this was steam rollers and steam wagons, but by 1950 the fleet included 371 highways vehicles, 249 fire brigade vehicles, 75 school meals vans and 70 ambulances. After the quarry closed, Thales UK operated a radar signature measurement range for the evaluation of radar signatures of large targets. The range was described as 200 metres wide and 50 metres deep and offered very low external electrical noise interference levels.


Limestone has numerous uses: as a building material, an essential component of concrete (Portland cement), as aggregate for the base of roads, as white pigment or filler in products such as toothpaste or paints, as a chemical feedstock for the production of lime, as a soil conditioner, and as a popular decorative addition to rock gardens. Many local buildings and buildings in the wider area utilised limestone in their construction.


Sources





32 views
  • Writer's pictureMatt

As I'm writing this I'm looking out at a cold and rainy October day, summer is definitely becoming a distant memory. So what have we been up to?


It has certainly been hectic and a rollercoaster of a year. Back in April, the ever-changing COVID regulations threatened to impact all aspects of our business. However, it has been possible to run (almost) as normal and we have had many customers out over summer who've really enjoyed getting outdoors.

 

Our main focus has been on our climbing sessions, which we've run at Split Rock Quarry. We've had a whole range of customers up the wall, aged from under 10 to over 60! Safe to say our policy of "Smiles Guaranteed" is still in place and doing well. We've already started adding available dates for next year so come take a look if you want to get involved.


We've also launched our second experience this summer, our Get Lost Navigation sessions. Our first session was a huge success and we're very excited to get more people involved with this. If you enjoy escape-room type experiences or want to brush up on your outdoor skills in a fun way then check out our available dates!


Finally, we finished off the season with a totally unexpected opportunity, working with a film crew to produce a TV segment! We had the chance to meet the inspiring Carmela and got her down our 40ft abseil for the Who Cares Wins awards on Channel 4. With a little help from her celebrity idol Lilly Aspell she absolutely smashed it! This was a pleasure to be a part of and kept us smiling for long afterwards.


Safe to say it has been a busy and exciting season for us, we are now busy making plans for next year to be even better. Hope to see you then!




27 views
1
2
bottom of page