The daredevil Northumberland teenager literally climbing the walls of his Alnwick home during lockdown

While he can’t get out into the great outdoors, an Alnwick teenager is climbing the walls during lockdown … literally.

Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 4:00 pm

In fact, for as long as he can remember, 13-year-old Fred Williams, a pupil at Duchess’s Community High School, has been scrambling up rocks, climbing frames, trees… and even bookcases.

For Fred, who started climbing on the Willowburn Bouldering Wall in Alnwick when he was five, a lockdown wasn’t going to stop his passion for scaling different heights and taking on new challenges.

In 2018, Fred was selected to join the GB Climbing National Development Squad and before Covid-19 turned the world upside down, he spent much of his free time travelling to train or compete in his sport with an average week including two or three trips down the A1 to train at Climb Newcastle or Newcastle Climbing Centre.

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Fred Williams nearing the roof of his home.

Since new year, Fred has trained and competed in Leeds, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Swansea and Sheffield and was all set to travel to Austria in June to compete in the Youth Colours Climbing Festival.

Just a few weeks ago, as the weather was starting to improve and the nights were getting longer, he was looking forward to being able to climb outdoors again: after school evenings on the sandstone rocks in Northumberland, weekends away in Yorkshire, Derbyshire or Scotland putting his rock skills to the test and the Easter holidays bouldering in the Forest of Fontainebleau in France.

Speaking about his climbing, Fred said: “I love climbing because every climb is different - it’s not like other sports. You need to work and work at your physical limit, trialling many different techniques until finally one hits the spot and you succeed in topping the problem.

“I enjoy both bouldering (low climbs without ropes) and lead climbing (longer climbs with ropes) and I climb indoors and outside. I love spending a whole day outside climbing on real rock, surrounded by nature, but also love training hard and competing at indoor walls.”

Fred Williams uses drainpipes and window ledges to scale the outside of his home.

Then, in March, the unimaginable happened as restrictions were introduced to try and limit the spread of coronavirus.

All the climbing competitions and training events were cancelled with The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) issuing a statement advising climbers to put their adventures on hold.

Climbers all over the country were left wondering how to keep active and enjoy their sport from home.

Not content with taking a rest for a couple of months, Fred was quick to start looking closer to home for new climbing opportunities.

Fred Williams climbing.

Lucky enough to live in a sandstone cottage, he found lots of great climbs literally on his doorstep.

With help from dad Tony, he set up his outdoor climbing equipment at home and ordered new bolts to create climbing routes on the house.

Fred is now putting new meaning into the saying ‘climbing the walls’ and over the last few weeks has taken on a new challenge - scaling the walls of his house, climbing the front and back of the house, in and out of his bedroom window and up on to the flat roof to do his schoolwork in the sun.

Climbing the house has not only helped Fred keep in shape but it has also given him some much-needed time in the outdoors.

Fred Williams climbing the walls of his Alnwick home.

Nature on our doorstep

Whilst climbing the walls, wildlife loving Fred and his supportive parents Tony and Katherine, a fund-raising consultant who has raised funds for many Northumberland Wildlife Trust projects, are finding they are noticing much more of the nature and wildlife that is on their doorstep.

This includes a pair of kestrels nesting in the large sycamore tree, swallows arriving from their long migration, tree creepers and nuthatches working up and down on the trees, and the occasional oystercatchers flying noisily overhead.

Katherine says: “Fred has found that breaking his day with a climb or a workout is benefiting his mental well-being and his ability to concentrate on schoolwork as well as his physical health.

“Most of all, the long hours spent on the road are a thing of the past: which gives Fred more time for himself and is a win for the planet too.

“Whilst he can’t wait for lockdown to end so he can get back to climbing properly again, he is certainly making the most of the current situation.”

Indoors, Fred has been learning and practising new skills that he will be able to put to use as soon as he can get out to the rocks again, including tying onto a safe anchor point and abseiling down the stairs.

He is now even eyeing up the bannister and windowsills.

Fred, who is also a member of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: “A few weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined not being able to go to a climbing wall or climb outside.

“I also would never have thought that school would be cancelled.

“Covid-19 has brought a huge change to my life but I am really enjoying spending more time at home and working on some new problems and challenges.

“For me, climbing is not just a hobby, it is a way of life.”

But remember… please don’t try this at home folks.

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