Are your kids climbing the walls? Perfect! I’ve found a place where that is not only encouraged, but you can join in too.
Tucked away on the corner of Foundry & Priory Lanes in Bridport is Rockburn, new bouldering centre which has already got off to a flying start. Open seven days a week, it caters for everyone over the age of 5, and is making a real effort to offer something for everyone.
If you have never heard of bouldering, it’s a kind of low-level rock-climbing, with the emphasis more on technique, problem-solving and exploring your own limits than on just getting as high up as possible. The arena mimics cave walls, with strange angles and inclines, overhangs and even cave roofs (this is all my terminology, by the way, I’m sure there are more technical terms!), with artificial holds dotted all over every face. It’s low-level, so there are no ropes to worry about, and it’s perfect for those with no head for heights.
The holds are different colours, with each colour being a different difficulty, so for example, greens might be big and close together, while reds may be tiny and far apart. This means that there are many different routes and challenges, and with these being changed every two weeks, you should never get bored.
With beginners, family sessions and after-school clubs, children are well provided for, and there is a teen drop-in session on a Friday evening. Schools and youth groups can book in too (we went there with my son’s scout group), but there are also 12+ sessions. The afternoons and evenings tend to be a good mix of adults, with one group of mums apparently enjoying their afternoon sessions so much they’ve arranged to have their kids delivered there for the after-school club so they they don’t have to leave!
Experienced climbers will enjoy the varied routes and challenges (I think they’re called ‘problems’, for those who know), and it’s a great way to hone techniques, keep fitness levels up and meet like-minded climbers.
Although it doesn’t involve heights, there are a few safety guidelines to be aware of, so before just turning up, you need to check the website & fill in the disclaimer, and there is an induction, but once you’re a member, you can climb a lot, and with the constantly changing routes, you shouldn’t run out of inspiration. (Be warned, my son did an hour and his fingers were pretty sore from clinging to the textured holds, so maybe break yourself in gently!)
The Rock cafe is still expanding it’s offer, but they serve a good range of coffees and drinks, and have very reasonable, healthy snacks.
Plans for the future include a gym, expanding the bouldering area and even possibly a see-through cave roof.
I really hope this is a big success – the staff were very helpful and chatty when I spoke to them, but the atmosphere was very relaxed, and I can imagine it’s very welcoming both for experts and beginners, as the bouldering is so absorbing that everyone is focussed on trying to beat the routes, not each other.
For outdoor types in indoor weather, and for days when everyone else is outdoors and it’s quiet inside, I can’t see a bad time to go, which is genius in this country with our ‘interesting’ weather. It seems like a great way to unwind after a day at work, have some time out during a busy day, or hang out as a family, and it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill which doesn’t demand lots of specialist equipment, organising a huge team or rely on the right weather, so I can see lots of people being able to have a go, and I’m sure many will end up hooked. Another win for Bridport!