Family friendly activities that offer to keep all generations entertained can be difficult to find.
Over the last four weeks, our family panel have visited Riverside Park in Chester Le Street, Infinite Air extreme trampoline centre in Durham, Cineworld Boldon and The Dunes South Shields, looking for the best family activities across the region.
In our continuing search, this week our generational reviewers went for the action-packed option of the Sunderland Wall.
Based at Pallion, in the old Doxford Ship Works and only a few minutes’ walk from Pallion Metro Station, Sunderland Wall is easy to find and has its own car park.
Although ideally located to get to, it’s not the most picturesque of surroundings and does have a few derelict buildings around it. It is sign-posted, but on our visit it did feel like we were headed slightly into the unknown.
Once inside though, it looks very different. Sunderland Wall is one of the largest indoor climbing centres in the UK with a massive 23 metre high wall at its centre.
The large impressive wall area offers over 140 routes and it can cater for the most experienced of climbers to complete novices. There is additional climbing space opposite the main wall as well as a bright fun bouldering area.
In total the facility has over 900 square metres of climbing and bouldering space and regularly hosts the British Indoor Climbing Championship so it is a very impressive facility to have on our doorstep.
There is a small café selling very cheap drinks and snacks and some old comfy sofas for spectators to chill out and watch the action.
As novices to this activity, we called to pre-book our day and were told that the best activity for the children to join was the Rock Monkey club for 7 – 15 year olds which is £10 per person. Incidentally there is also a Gecko club for children aged 3 – 7 years. Taking place every Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons for two hours and on weekdays too, the club gives children the chance to try out climbing and bouldering and learn about belaying their peers, under the guidance of a trained instructor.
On entry the children were signed in and fitted with harnesses and shoes, if needed, and then taken on to the wall. The session started with a quick warm up and them traversing around the bottom of the wall.
They then moved on to the main wall, taking turns to climb and belay, first a flat wall, then some more tricky walls with overhangs before going on the “monkey” around and have fun in the bouldering area.
The facility was very busy on the day of our visit. While the kids club was taking place, the large wall was continually in use by groups of adults of all ages as well as young families climbing and working together.
If you have an experienced climber in your party it is possible to just call in and use the facility on a casual basis and there is also induction sessions and courses for those wanting to learn how to belay others and get started with climbing.
From my point of view I found the Wall easy to find, I could park straight outside and I could get a cup of tea for less than £2.
At my age I wasn’t interested in having a go at climbing so although you could watch the activity going on, you couldn’t really get involved. For health and safety reasons you couldn’t get close to the kids, even to take pictures or cheer them on so it didn’t feel much like a family activity to me.
There was also a lot of standing around for the kids and not as much climbing as I expected so the group size may have been a bit too big.
I would have liked a nicer spectator area, the sofas were a bit old and but it was ok and the kids seemed to have fun.
I liked the idea of the Rock Monkey’s club, especially for novices like us.
I felt that the instructors knew what they were doing and were encouraging the kids to go higher and try new things.
I think £10 is reasonable for a two hour club which requires so much equipment and instruction, however, I think if you wanted to go on a regular basis, it would be really costly.
My two girls only got to climb three times so there was quite a lot of waiting around, they really enjoyed the bouldering though.
The café was cheap, but isn’t that comfortable and is very cold for mams who are watching. Take a big coat!
Georgia (11) – I really enjoyed climbing on the big wall and I felt brilliant when I got right to the top. The other walls with the overhangs are much harder but I gave them a go. I would have liked more time on the walls and to try different routes but we ran out of time. I’d definitely do it again.
Scarlett (9) – I like trying to climb the big walls and the bit where you come down from the top on the harness like a big swing. My favourite bit was bouldering though. You don’t have any harness and it has a soft floor so you can throw yourself around and hang off the walls.