Leicestershire Rock

Leicestershire Rock

Beacon Hill and Markfield Quarry

I have recently had the great pleasure of moving from the flatlands of East Anglia to the slightly less flat Leicestershire/Northamptonshire/Rutland border. It’s a beautiful area of rolling hills, wide river valleys and quaint villages affording some wonderful walking which I fully intend to explore extensively. However, more attractive to me is the fact that here we have climbing crags within 40 minutes of our home, a real luxury to a Peterborough boy.

Now then, all this might not be as promising as it sounds as Leicestershire is hardly a Mecca for climbers and word has it that the crags range from esoteric to downright abysmal. That said, I am of the opinion that any rock has got to be better than a climbing wall but we are going to have to find out for ourselves whether or not this holds true. So far our first two trips out have been very successful. So, I give you…

Beacon Hill

To start our exploration of the local crags we made the short drive to Beacon Hill, the second highest point in Leicestershire where we found a delightful country park with curious outcrops of extremely polished ‘Hornstone’ rock. From the car park ‘Summit Crag’ was clearly in view so armed with a rope and rack Lucie and I strode off to sample all it had to offer. Within half an hour we had soloed everything on the crag bar the E3 and HVS which at the time of writing are far beyond our meagre abilities (but watch this space!).

Disregarding the strange looks we were attracting from dog walkers and families out for fresh air we continued on to ‘Beacon Face Right’, which though of similar height is more impressive, resembling the smaller gritstone edges of the peak. We didn’t tarry long for the green rock was less than welcoming but we did solo two routes whilst wondering if it had been worth the effort of lugging all our gear from the car. Outside wall (severe 4a) is a delightful little climb and provided an anxious moment when Lucie fell off at half height, narrowly avoiding broken bones with some nifty boulder hopping. Next we climbed ‘Slippery Slabs’ (VDiff). Lucie’s fall had clearly given her pause for thought as nearing the top she wobbled and a call went out for assistance. However, by the time I reached the top of the crag she was up and laughing again.

We then legged it to ‘Number Three Crag’ which comprises of a striking set of 10 metre pinnacles split by dank little gullies. I quickly soloed Forest Wall (VDiff) before roping up for ‘Starlight’ (Hard Severe 4b) which fell without a fight. Across the way we found ‘Number four Crag’ and soloed ‘Bow’ (VDiff) a climb small in stature but big in quality, a short excursion into jug pulling up overhanging rock. Though we were going well the sky was threatening rain so we decided to finish off on ‘Jack in the Box’ another HS. This one proved to be a steep, fingery beast and we frigged it for over an hour, admitting defeat only after taking a leader fall each.

So, Beacon Hill, a pleasant place for an afternoon of soloing if the Peak is out of reach and time is short. We will be back, if only to settle the score with a recalcitrant Jack in the box.

Markfield Quarry

The weekend after our trip to Beacon Hill I persuaded Lucie to accompany me to Markfield Quarry. I’ve heard a few good things (relatively speaking) and a lot of bad about the place and wasn’t expecting anything other than a manky, tottering pile of choss, furnished with burnt out cars and rusty shopping trolleys, but so desperate was I to climb I was willing to give it a go. Well, there certainly is choss to be found if that is your peculiar bent and the broken cider bottles are testimony to the presence of local chaverinos but there is also a very good little crag of sound rock (Betty’s Slab) to play on and that is where we started.

In order to suss out the place we chose ‘Elderberry Corner’ (VDiff) for our warm up route and though less than impressed with the climb itself the rock (Markfieldite, a type of granite) is excellent compared to the Hornstone of Beacon Hill. After Elderberry Corner I was feeling a little short changed and so plumped for ‘Crown’ (severe*), a climb which takes an uncompromising line straight up the 10 metre face, a delightful route with reachy moves and rockovers on small holds. Betty’s Slab is characterised by a lack of protection and Crown is no exception though I managed to find placements where it mattered most.

Bolstered by our success on Crown we then chose ‘Clearway’ (Severe**) and found it a tough one to crack. The first 5 metres are unprotected and technical (possible 4b/c) requiring thought and finger strength to overcome. The final 5 turned out to be a head game with indifferent placements but eventually I summoned up the nerve to top out and felt a surge of elation bubble up from my toes. A really fine little climb. With things going well and the sun beating down Lucie decided it was time for a solo and picked her way up ‘Go Home’ (Diff) scaring me witless in the process. It certainly didn’t look like a diff to me but on closer acquaintance the holds kept coming to provide a nice airy solo.

Not wanting to do any more of the vdiffs on ‘Betty’s’ we turned our attention to the ‘Grey Slab’ which from below looked completely free of protection so more soloing was in order. First we tackled ‘Gorse Slab’ (VDiff) and then ‘Baby’s Bottom’ (Severe) which certainly lived up to its name. To finish off we both soloed ‘Left Edge’ (VDiff), a nice little route festooned with jugs making a pull through the bulge a joy to behold. It had been a fantastic afternoon and we were both impressed by the quality of the climbing at Markfield. We are sure to return as there is a few more interesting looking lines for us to explore.

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