Huncote Quarry Introduction
OS ref. SP513969 (Sheet 140)
SITUATION and CHARACTER
Without doubt the best climbing area in the Midlands, 50m faces of granite - but with a severe access problem.
Huncote Quarry is an old granite quarry (actually quartz‑diorite) about 5 miles south of Leicester and close to the M1‑M69 junction. The rock looks disappointing at first sight with large broken sections and bramble cornices, but actual contact with the many technical problems is usually a pleasant surprise. An autumn visit could give the bonus of blackberry jam.
Unique to the Midlands, the quarry also has some long `mountaineering' routes. The rock requires care in places, although much of it is sound. The finishes of some of the routes are appalling, although with care they can be negotiated. Pegs could be useful on some of the routes, as natural belays may not be very good. On the routes on the Rack Wall a selection of micro‑wires or R.P.s is necessary.
The quarry faces south and gets a lot of sun. Records show that it was a deep pit in 1878 as was Croft Quarry to the south (opened 1868). It is not known when Huncote Quarry was abandoned but Croft Quarry never has been and has grown to a vast size. Now the active face of Croft Quarry is beginning to eat into the old Huncote Quarry so that, instead of being a pit, it now opens into the wilderness landscape of Croft Quarry. Just how far Croft Quarry will go is not clear but a huge bank of over‑burden (an exciting ride on a mountain bike) has been built to screen Huncote village from the quarry workings. Part of Huncote Quarry is so close to the road that it is difficult to see how the face could be pushed back further. So when some sort of access agreement can be negotiated Huncote Quarry will be the major crag of the Midlands.
The quarry shows a conspicuous set of master‑joints (which were locally known as "slithers") together with another, more closely spaced set oblique to these. The jointing gives a kind of bedded appearance to the rock and gives corners and overhangs. These unusual joints, for igneous rock that is, give the quarry the atmosphere of a natural crag.
APPROACH and ACCESS
Huncote Quarry can be reached from the M1/M69 junction (No.21), or from Leicester, approaching the same junction and picking up the old A46 South (now the B4114) through Narborough towards Coventry. About 1 mile south of the motorway bridge turn right to Huncote. About a quarter of a mile on the other side of the village a tiny car‑park can be discovered on the left at the entrance to a track. However, it is probably better to continue along the road and park at the end of Thurlaston Lane (the first turning on the right). Take the footpath back towards Huncote and various ways in will be discovered. Alternatively go back to the layby and take a path running round the bottom of a huge bank of earth. This leads over a saddle and on to the quarry road from which Huncote Quarry can be seen on the right. A slippery descent into the quarry can be made by following the remains of an old timber tramway down a sort of ridge. Alternatively walk further down the track and descend a giant boulder field which has recently (May 1992) been pushed into the Quarry. Bear in mind that as the active quarry face advances into Huncote Quarry these approach details will change.
The Quarry belongs to ECC Quarries and is almost certainly covered by the Mines and Quarries Act. In the past (1970's) they have obtained court orders to prevent individuals getting access. There was even a lease to a local gun club to use the quarry for practice at weekends and in the evenings (a cunning move). But this was before the active face had broken through. Now the access position is more relaxed but it would obviously be very stupid to try to climb whilst the quarry was working. Summer evenings, Saturday afternoons, Sundays and Bank Holidays would seem to be the best times. By the time this guidebook is published the situation may well have changed (the active face is moving with remarkable speed). The routes are described here for the record and with hope that they will survive for posterity.
I have writing with regard to the above web site and in particular Bardon Hill and Huncote Quarries. Both of these properties are owned by Aggregate Industries and both are active quarries. Unauthorised entry into these sites is not permitted as they are serious Health and Safety issues in using quarry faces for climbing. Not only is there a risk to the climbers but also to our employees who work at the two sites. This is over and above the fact that anyone who enters our sites is doing so without our express permission.
Please can you withdraw immediately any references to the properties.
Ken Vickers revived a childhood memory and `found' the quarry in 1965. Combined with Roger Withers they kicked off with Alleluia Road (VS). This, together with two other routes made it into the Leicester MC `red' guide of 1966. Competition between the LMC and the Bowline upstarts ensured that by 1972 there were some 40 free and mixed routes to go at, Vickers, D. Cooper and M. Warburton all contributing.
The LMC `yellow' guide was published at this point and sparked off another minor explosion, The Rack (E1), Stretcher (HVS), Little Nightmare (E1), The Ramp (E2), Sixteen Tons (HVS), amongst others were freed by locals - Mick Brady, Phil Davies and visiting raiders Wilmott, Strapcans, Harwood and the Hamper brothers, to name but a few. One activist in the 1973 boom, a certain Peak climbing columnist called Browell, had the first of his recurring broken legs whilst soloing The Ramp. Had he broken his wrist instead, Peak climbing history and literature might be a little different!
Interest died until John Moulding freed two superb climbs -Rack Direct (E2) and The Crimp (E3) - in 1979. In 1982 Steve Allen and John Codling attacked the previously virgin Shield Wall, producing Firing Squad (E4), Eton Rifles (E4) and Mexican Standoff (E2), the names being inspired by the pock‑marks made by rifle bullets to be found all over the wall. Rack Wall yielded two mind‑ and body‑stretching eliminates, Intensive Scare and Steel Eye Span, both E4. Trevor Johnson got in on the act and forced Surveyor's Waltz (E2) and Craig Dring put up Sundive (E2) on the far left‑hand wall to bring the quarry to maturity.