The boulder: Homerton climbing community forged during lockdown

A Homerton climbing community was created during lockdown, thanks to a boulder in Mabley Green

A Homerton climbing community was created during lockdown, thanks to a boulder in Mabley Green - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

As gyms closed and travel was restricted during Covid lockdowns, a Homerton boulder become the heart of a new community of local climbers. 

The large lump of quarried Cornish granite on Mabley Green was installed in 2008 by sculptor John Frankland. 

It forms half of the artist's work called Boulder, with its sister rock situated in Shoreditch. 

But photographer and Mabley Green climber Benjamin Hughes says the boulder "fell into forgotten space" for years, until "lockdown gave it new life". 

Hackney photographer Benjamin Hughes has put together a photobook capturing the growth of a climbing community

Hackney photographer and climber Benjamin Hughes has put together a photobook capturing the growth of a climbing community in Mabley Green - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

He told the Gazette how he captured the growth of a community during coronavirus lockdowns: "I started visiting when the first lockdown kicked in. I am about a five minute bike ride from [the boulder].

"I hadn’t really done much outdoor climbing and I was looking for somewhere, to get out the house, get a bit of daily exercise and get a bit of relief from home schooling and everything else going on."

While many have returned to climbing gyms and visit the boulder less, the Mabley Green climbing community has stuck together 

While many have returned to climbing gyms and visit the boulder less, the Mabley Green climbing community has stuck together - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

The photographer said he noticed the odd person turning up during the first lockdown in March 2020, but by the second, "a massive community had grown". 

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"It was just nice," he said.  

"A bit of company and helping each other get through the dodgy times we have been living in."

The boulder on Mabley Green is one of two in Hackney

The boulder on Mabley Green is one of two in Hackney - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

Benjamin will be releasing a photobook documenting the boulder and group which formed around it. 

He says since lockdown ended, "a lot of climbing faded off there, people have gone back into gyms, but the nice thing is the community that formed" continues to flourish and grow. 

The Mabley Green climbers keep in touch via a WhatsApp group, planning day trips and camping trips to climbing spots. 

"So its kind of spurred this whole new community which has just carried on," Benjamin added. 

The boulder was created by sculptor John Frankland, who has written a foreword to Benjamin's book

The boulder was created by sculptor John Frankland, who has written a foreword to Benjamin's book - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

The photographer has called his upcoming photobook, Mabley Green: Class of '21. 

He hopes the first-edition run of 100 books will "serve as a form of historical document".

"One of many around the globe that will go on to tell a community's story of dealing with a global pandemic and the stresses it placed on individuals," Benjamin said. 

Mabley Green is located next to Hackney Marshes and near to Olympic Park

Mabley Green is located next to Hackney Marshes and near to Olympic Park - Credit: Benjamin Hughes

He says his book tells the story of "communities growing and people coming together, being drawn together by this thing and helping each other at times when we really needed it."

Find out more at www.benhughesphotography.com/mabley-green-class-of-21