Time to get a foothold on some fun

The Red Spider climbing wall in Fareham     Picture: Paul Alexander
The Red Spider climbing wall in Fareham Picture: Paul Alexander
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Gripping on to a wall with the tips of your fingers and toes and looking for the way up, it takes strength and determination.

But more and more people of all ages are scaling walls as a way to keep fit and try a new hobby.

It is a really good workout and the sense of achievement when you work out the way to the top is great

Graham Ford

With a range of wall climbing available from bouldering, which is performed without a rope, to climbing using a harness, people are keen to give it a go.

Working the legs, arms and stomach muscles, keen climbers recommend it as a great way to improve fitness.

But it does not take huge muscles to get to the top of a wall. It is about balance, technique, strength and problem-solving.

Putting those four skills together is becoming increasingly popular.

In Portsmouth and surrounding areas, new walls are cropping up and climbers are enjoying the range of facilities.

Teenager Jack Browning has been climbing for more than 10 years. The 19-year-old also does free-running and says climbing has helped him develop his co-ordination and balance.

Jack, from Gosport, says: ‘It was at a friend’s party that I first tried climbing. That was at Fort Purbrook and I loved it.

‘Since then, it has become one of my favourite sports. It is about more than just strength. You need good balance and endurance - it has definitely helped with my free-running.

‘I try to go climbing at least twice a week and it is great that more facilities are providing it and seeing how successful it can be.’

Graham Ford, from Fareham, got into climbing two years ago. He loves it so much he has encouraged his son Jacob, 15, to try it too.

The 42-year-old says: ‘We love climbing. It is a really good workout and the sense of achievement when you work out the way to the top is great.’

Jacobs adds: ‘It has definitely made me stronger and I like when I work out the route before my dad does.’

The pair have climbed at different facilities in the area and have recently tried Red Spider Climbing, on the Fort Wallington Industrial Estate.

Officially opened in January, the climbing centre in Fareham offers a different experience for each visitor with its intermediate routes and overhangs at a 40- degree angle.

Like other walls in the area, including sites in Gosport and at Fort Purbrook, Red Spider Climbing encourages people of all ages to try the sport.

Assistant centre manager Sam Ferguson says: ‘We have areas for young kids as well as walls for more experienced climbers.

‘Our ship section is for children aged for to 14 and has slides, small walls and tunnels for them to enjoy. They can climb the sides of the wooden ship and there are jail cells - it is really fun for them.’

Tucked away in one corner of the unit, the children’s section can be watched by parents while they enjoy a cup of tea. Seating is placed above the ship with a balcony so parents can keep an eye on their children.

The entire wall space of the site is covered with different climbing routes – each colour-coded depending on its difficulty. Called a ‘problem’, each route allow visitors to challenge themselves and progress.

Sam adds: ‘We really cater for everyone because of the different problems.

‘The walls are covered in holes which allow the hand and foot holds to be moved. Every two months the place has new, different problems for the climbers.

‘That is really something we pride ourselves on. It sets a challenge for visitors as they only have a certain amount of time to conquer a route before it is changed.

‘It encourages them to complete it and push themselves.’

The design of the walls themselves also tests a climber’s ability.

‘One wall sees people hanging upside down, while another has difficult angles and overhangs for visitors to overcome.

All of them are coated in a textured paint which allows climbers to get a better grip. But with a crash-mat padded floor, anyone who does take a tumble has a soft landing.

Sam says: ‘Most people land on their feet when they fall off.

‘Not having a rope or harness really makes you grip harder – you don’t want to fall.’

Already, Red Spider Climbing has seen hundreds of people through its doors and other facilities have also seen similar success since opening.

Sam adds: ‘I speak to climbers from across the area who love it that more and more facilities are opening.’


Peter Ashley Activity Centre, Fort Purbrook:

Built in the early 1990s, the climbing wall at Fort Purbrook was one of the first of its kind along the south coast.

With set routes from beginner to advanced, the wall caters for different abilities and ages. It also gives keen climbers the chance to progress and set themselves new targets.

It has nearly half -a-million visitors a year and is dedicated to working with young people in the community.

The facility is open from 9am until 9pm Monday to Friday and 9am until 1pm Saturday to Sunday.

For more details, visit the centre on Portsdown Hill Road or call (023) 9232 1223.

Rock Up, Whiteley:

It has been a year of success for Rock Up in Whiteley.

The climbing facility opened in October 2014 and has been very popular with children. The range of walls and soft play section caters for all ages and the facility holds a fitness class for adults in the evening.

Similar to other climbing centres, the difficulty level varies with each wall and can be used by beginners or experienced climbers.

Rock Up, at Whiteley Shopping Centre, off Whiteley Way, is open Monday to Saturday from 9am until 8pm and on Sundays from 9am until 7pm.

For more information, visit the website at rock-up.co.uk or call 01489 232324.

Hi Rock, Hayling Island:

Set up by PC Debbie Surridge of Hayling Island police, Hi Rock has gone from strength to strength since opening in 2011.

The community facility offers a range of climbing experiences from easy routes for beginners to harder walls for experienced climbers.

The indoor centre also has elements suitable for people with visual impairment, limited mobility and learning difficulties.

It is very popular with families and its friendly staff offer a warm welcome.

Hi Rock, at The Hayling College, on Church Road, offers parties, public sessions and the chance to hire a wall.

For detailed opening times, visit the website at hi-rock.co.uk or call 07837 246 391.

St Vincent Leisure Centre, Gosport:

Measuring eight metres high, the climbing wall at St Vincent Leisure Centre is all about endurance.

Located near the college, in Gosport, the wall gives everyone of any ability the chance to get to the top.

And for those who think the high wall is too much, there is also a smaller wall for them to try.

Open five days a week, the facility has two-hour sessions for adults as well as a kids’ climbing club.

Booking is required to use the wall, which is open Tuesdays to Saturday. For times of the different classes and sessions, visit the website stvincent.ac.uk/leisure-community/climbing-walls or call (023) 9258 8311.

Red Spider Climbing is open daily at its site at Unit N, Fort Wallington Industrial Estate, Fareham.

On Mondays it is open from 2pm until 10pm, Tuesday to Friday it is open between 10am and 10pm while on Saturday and Sunday it is open from 10am until 7.30pm.

For more information visit the website at redspiderclimbing.com or call 01329 28 29 23.