We get the low-down from Mike, the Castle’s Wall Development Manager, about the latest news from The Forge and the extensive renovations around the Castle in 2020.
How did The Forge come about?
At the start of March 2020, we had a massive development project ready to go. Shovels in the ground ready! We had committed a lot of our finances in getting ready to start building with planning permission granted for a new building within our same complex. In the new space, we were aiming for around 50 new lines of roped climbing including two 10m speed climbing lanes and lots of extra steep Leading. As the pandemic hit we knew the business would be going through some really tough times and sadly the hundreds of hours of design would have to be put on ice for a while. This delay of course has had a knock-on effect for what we are planning to do in the rest of the centre including; new changing, extra bouldering, new roped climbing to name just a few.
When it became clear we wouldn’t be able to go ahead with those plans, we decided to change track. Not to be deterred though we have committed to making that space in its existing condition as good as possible for climbing.
Therefore we are very pleased to be bringing you ‘The Forge”. A dedicated training venue. Probably London’s best climbing training facility. Probably! It has a 6 meter wide 45-degree overhanging board, a 7 meter wide 20-degree overhanging circuits board, more fingerboards, and a pull-up station!
This new area will be open in just a couple of weeks and it's the first time we have built a proper “circuits” board to get a serious pump on. It will be perfect for building up that hard to earn endurance.
How else has the pandemic affected other plans for developing the Castle?
Firstly the pandemic has meant that we have had to re-focus on making the building as safe and hygienic as we can. However, as we went into lockdown (the first time!) we had a couple of projects up our sleeves and ready to set into motion when the time was right. Re-furbishing any section of the Castle’s walls is a big logistical task as we need to make sure that anything we do during the build has the smallest disturbance on the day-to-day running of the centre. To be honest it’s a nightmare logistically.
As Covid-19 struck and the centre closed we knew we could use the opportunity to replace the ageing arch feature in the main lead area. I wanted to maintain the charm of the old section of wall whilst cleaning up the lines for more consistent routes and making a better overall selection of angles.
Not knowing for how long we would be closed we also got on straight onto re-painting what was the Yellow & Green lead wall. The refurbishment gives a lighter, brighter look and a much better-textured finish for climbing and longevity.
With the Covid-19 closure dragging on over the summer we pushed ahead with another job in that area which was to re-model the central bouldering feature in the Loft. We loved the previous feature but it had had its day. Now we have a big, open 35-degree overhanging section which is proving very popular. We also gave this area a fresh look with a new paint job whilst we had the rollers out.
At the Castle, we are always keeping an eye on the latest industry trends and design, from the appearance to the behind the scenes technology and advances in cutting edge wall design. As an older climbing centre (in its 25th year) it's hugely important that we keep up with the latest look and feel whilst maintaining our character and adjusting to climbers expectations. It's a difficult balance to keep our history, which we're very proud of, and not end up looking dated We are totally committed to reinvesting large sums of money into our facilities though and we hope you guys see the benefits of that.
Climbing walls are certainly not exempt from making hard decisions during this pandemic. I’m so pleased to say we can continue to grow and we are doing everything we can to offer the best possible climbing facilities in these strange times. I hope you enjoy them and we look forward to getting back on track with ALL of our plans in the future.