The Wealden Sandstone Outcrops (Southern Sandstone) comprise some of the most heavily used crags in the UK – ironically on some of the ‘softest’ or most friable rock.
As a result, there has, since the 1970s, been a history of crag maintenance, ranging from repair of historical rope grooves, removal of intrusive vegetation from the crags, reinforcement and repair of footpaths, access negotiations and tree management. At Bowles, much of the work has been done by the Bowles trust whilst at Harrison’s work was generally carried out by the warden and volunteers operating for the Harrison’s Rocks Management Group. Since 2003, a slightly more organised approach has developed in the form of the Sandstone Volunteers’ Group – bringing together a collection of like-minded climbers who have taken on the challenge, carrying out major works at Bull’s Hollow, High Rocks and, currently at Harrison’s. Work has also been carried out at Stone Farm and The High Rocks Annexe.
The work has been carried out by volunteers – climbers who have responded to requests for help with specific conservation projects as well as annual ‘general’ maintenance. Where necessary, we have used professionals from within the climbing community to help with specialist tasks and, on occasion, with financial assistance from the BMC Access and Conservation Trust and the Climber’s Club Colin Kirkus Guidebook fund, employed outside contractors.
There are a large number of companies and individuals who teach climbing on the sandstone outcrops or otherwise gain financially from the crags such as guidebook writers and promoters. (A recent search engine trawl revealed fifteen or so such organisations and there may well be more). In an effort to widen the capture for volunteers to help with the conservation work, the concept of a Charter Mark for companies who enjoy the benefits of the Southern Sandstone outcrops to use on their literature and websites has been suggested. The Charter Mark would be annually awarded to those companies who actively support the SVG and the SDST.The Charter Mark would be awarded annually as a result of conservation work being done by representatives from the organisation wishing to display the Charter Mark.
Access to the Southern Sandstone outcrops has, and, in accordance with the stated aims of the SDST, will remain free of charge – the sole intention of the Charter Mark being to share the load of the conservation work more fairly between individuals and business users,who gain financially from the rocks and the work of the volunteer workforce. Whilst there is no necessity for companies to contribute to the sandstone environment in a way which would award them the Charter Mark, it is hoped that this will be seen as recognition of the company’s commitment to the Sandstone environment upon which they rely – available for potential customers to see.
The Sandstone Charter Mark is being introduced on behalf of the SVG by the Steve Durkin Sandstone Trust.