|Frost crystals on the walk up to Southstone|
Southstone Rock (pdf of the guide available here for a quid) has a bit of a shitty reputation even amongst local climbers - it is definitely not somewhere you would recommend climbers travel to visit, but it is a geographic oddity - flowstone limestone popping up in an odd place. It has also always been a spooky place as well - deep in dark wood, with strange religious or perhaps even occult paraphernalia left in one of the caves when I first went there some decades back. A place where an older England; of fear and superstition, brutality and ignorance, feels not so far away. The next steep stream system down the valley is called "the Hell Hole" according to the OS map.
|Southstone's main face and the left-hand subsidiary buttress|
Anyway I walked past the cliff yesterday and was surprised to see that tree clearance had taken away much of the 'deep, dark woods' feel, and a lot more light will now be falling on the cliff.
|The main face containing the crag 'classic', Madonna's Groove, HVS 5a|
The rock is still its old swiss-cheese-am-I-really-brave-enough-to-put-my-hand-into-that-deep-pocket?-self that Southstone veterans will appreciate, but at least when some previously unknown-to-science deadly spider bites you, you can fall off and lay there gasping for your last breath in warm sunshine rather than the deep, forest shadows. So that is nice...
|A far left buttress with obvious overhanging bouldering potential|
Years ago I soloed and recorded a bunch of micro routes there, normally climbing up to where I could grab some kind of tree at the top, stick a sling around it and then abseil back down. Re-visiting the cliff now, most of these now look to my contemporary eye as obvious, easy, highball boulder problems. There are also many buttresses that are not particularly high that look to offer huge amounts of bouldering potential.
|The back wall in the 'canyon' - potential short sports routes using natural threads|
So I reckon any adventurous boulderers in the West Midlands, looking for first ascents, could do a lot worse than bring their pads, brushes and some sturdy gardening equipment to Southstone in the spring time.