Grace started climbing with Geckos as a nine year old. By no means the tallest of her cohort, she rose to the top – literally and figuratively – due to a combination of determination and dauntless enthusiasm. She was always hugely popular with her fellow Geckos and the instructing staff, who were bowled over by her cheerful, positive attitude to both climbing and life in general.
As Grace grew older she generously donated much of her free time coaching youngsters at The Castle. Few of those who encountered her there were surprised when, in 2012, she became a national junior climbing champion.
However, on 17 October 2018, Grace was involved in a catastrophic (non-climbing related) accident. What happened and how she has responded to the life-changing consequences almost beggars belief. In April 2021 Grace told her story to Jane Garvey, as part of a series for Radio 4 called, ‘Life Changing‘. Take a half hour out of your life to listen. Her positivity and her generosity of spirit are astonishing and truly inspirational.
Rachel climbed with Geckos for two intervals: the first as a 9 year old, the second as a teenager. She now works as the Comment and Features Editor of a London newspaper and appears regularly on television discussing the media (and cats). Here is her beautifully written and inspirational account of climbing with us and what she got out of it.
I started rock climbing age six. It was inevitable really – I’d been attempting to climb things (boulders, trees, walls) since I could stand, and as my parents hadn’t been able to stop me, they figured I should probably be taught to do it properly. I never stopped. From the week Geckos was founded (I was one of the original class) until today, rock climbing has been a constant in my life. It has taken me all over from the world – from the slabs of Burbage North in the Peak District, to the sheer faces of the Swiss Alps, to the cliffs of Cat Ba Island in Vietnam.
It’s been over a decade since I was officially a Gecko, but the years I spent training with Richard Baxell and his group of instructors instilled in me the skills and confidence that have enabled me to sling on a belay harness and start scrambling wherever I am in the world. No tree or boulder is safe. People think of rock climbing as a solitary sport, exercise for people who don’t like teams. The opposite is true. In what other sport are you trusting your teammates not just with winning, but with your life? From day one I was taught that belaying was far more important than climbing, and that safety was paramount. From before I could read or write, I was learning about trust, responsibility, and discipline. Those are lessons any parent should want to instil in their child from an early age.
As an adult, rock climbing has never been just about fitness – it’s an exercise in problem solving, in confidence, and in resilience. There is no opponent, just you and the rock and your own assessment of what you can do. Of all the sports I’ve ever tried, it’s the only one which engages my brain as much as my body, and the exhilaration at reaching the top of a rock face that looked utterly insurmountable is an adrenaline rush like no other. There is no feeling like gazing down at the ground from 1,000 feet and knowing that you got up there with just your own two feet and ten fingers. What other workout enables you to see the world from an entirely new perspective?
Garden Conditions of use
The garden is based on the principles of permaculture design. We reuse and recycle materials as much as possible, compost waste, use organic growing techniques and have created habitats to support wildlife and promote biodiversity. The fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in the garden are used in the centre’s café.
Please take some time to wander around; you can find out more about the different areas of our garden by reading the information boards.
Use of the Garden
Please be aware that other people may be using the garden to relax and enjoy some tranquillity.
Please respect the plants, insects and animals.
It is your responsibility to monitor the safety of your group and make sure that they are aware of the hazards.
Please take into consideration
The garden is a working garden; please keep to the paths, do not pick or eat anything, either in the beds or other in areas of the garden.
There are trip hazards, there may be construction materials stored here and occasionally there is work taking place.
Children and animals to be supervised at all times. Dogs, in particular, must be kept on a lead at all times and away from the growing beds. Please don’t allow dogs to foul in our garden- but if it does happen, please pick up and dispose the poo immediately.
There is a bee hive located between the Engine House (Café) and Boiler House (ground level) entrances. Do not disturb the bees.
There is a small pond in the SE corner of the garden- take special care in this area with small children.
Do not climb the trees.
Visitors who haven’t checked in to climb at reception are not permitted to climb in the centre or on the outdoor boulders. Children who are attending a group climbing session are only permitted to climb during the session under their instructor’s supervision.
Do not drink from the taps- some of these are untreated rainwater used for irrigation.
Please dispose of all rubbish and used dishes in the centre. If you have a large amount of recyclable material please ask reception or a duty manager who will be able to provide you with a large bag for the recyclables to go in.
There are a variety of plants in the garden, including some that sting or can make you ill- don’t touch anything you are unsure of.
Staff regularly monitor this area. Please report any incidents, problems or concerns to the Duty Manager.
There are men’s and women’s changing rooms with toilets inside the building (the women’s and an accessible toilet with baby changing facilities are on ground floor, the men’s is on the mezzanine floor).
There are water fountains in the centre.
If there is an incident or you require first aid please go to reception and they will contact the Duty Manager.