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The Arc FAQs
Here are the answers to your frequently asked questions about The Arc, our new climbing centre in Chippenham.
How do I join?
You don’t need to pay a membership or joining fee to climb at TCA. Just complete a registration form for the type of climbing you would like to do – you can do this online before you visit or at reception – you then buy a pass or punchcard (for single visits) online or just pay-per-visit at reception. Our staff will help talk you through all of the options. See prices.
If you opt for a pre-paid pass or regular monthly (EFT) billing, this will give you access to every TCA centre. Just make sure you have completed forms that cover bouldering, roped climbing, etc if you are changing centres.
Can you teach me to climb?
Yes. We offer fun taster sessions for youth or adults as well as adult beginners courses. Kids can sign up to our regular classes.
You can go bouldering without doing a course. It’s easier than you think. We have lots of low level traverses.
Do I need to book to climb and how long is a session?
No. You can book courses but you do not need to book a normal climbing session. Unless you are in a course, there is no set period, so the earlier you arrive, the longer you can climb.
Is The Arc accessible?
The centre is accessible. There is a lift located in the North Block. This provides access to the upstairs areas in both the North and South blocks which includes some bouldering and a meeting space known as The Loft. There is disabled parking, accessible toilets and step-free access to the centre and cafe decking. Find out about Access at all TCA centres.
I have never climbed? What do I need to start?
You can start bouldering without completing a course. You simply complete forms online or at reception. The forms include this safety video. To boulder, you only require climbing shoes. More about bouldering.
If you are new to it (even if you have bouldered), you must complete a course to start roped climbing. We have a number of tasters and beginners’ courses. To start roped climbing, you will need shoes, a harness and a belay device. More about roped climbing.
You can hire shoes, belay devices and harnesses at our centres (see prices). You may wish to use chalk to keep your hands dry. This can be purchased online or in the centre.
Who built The Arc and how was it funded?
The new climbing centre and skatepark was funded by Chippenham Borough Lands Charity together with a £100,000 grant towards the climbing centre from Sport England and £200,000 towards the skatepark from Wiltshire Council. CBLC has investments that generate a budget for them to use for the benefit of Chippenham’s inhabitants. Read more about the history of the charity.
Do I have to have my own kit?
No, you can hire the essential equipment from The Arc (see prices). We recommend hiring first to get a feel for fit before buying. Staff in centres will be able to help advise you on required gear. We have a shop in The Mothership, in Bristol, where we offer bespoke shoe fittings. You can some kit from The Arc reception or buy gear from our online shop to click + collect at The Arc.
How much does it cost to climb?
See complete breakdown of prices.
If you plan to come regularly, for most people the cheapest option will be regular monthly (EFT) billing. TCA has one of the least expensive climbing wall pass prices in the UK. You get an additional discount for your first month – see New Member Pass. TCA passes allow unlimited entry at all centres and access to our gym in The Mothership (Bristol) and The Prop Store (Glasgow). You must complete the relevant forms to access different styles of climbing.
What are the opening times for The Arc?
See The Arc homepage for opening times.
When is the skatepark open?
Due to planning agreements, the skatepark will not be open before 8am, after 8pm or after dark (which will be much earlier at certain times of year). Most often this will be 9 or 9.30am-sunset. If the centre’s opening times vary, for any reason, this will affect access to the skatepark. The skatepark is owned by CBLC and built by CANVAS. It is a free unsupervised facility. Users skate there at their own risk.
Can I pre-buy visits without buying a month pass?
Yes. You can buy punch cards in multiples of 5 or 10. These are valid for bouldering and roped climbing and can be used at any TCA centre. You can also buy passes online. Monthly billing (EFT) allows for uninterrupted climbing access which you can cancel anytime.
What type of climbing does The Arc offer?
We have bouldering, roped climbing and auto belays, including some roped lines outside overlooking the skatepark.
What length of rope do I require?
Our longest lines are 14-15m therefore you must climb with a rope of at least 30m. Please check your rope length before climbing. Always tie a knot at the dead end of your rope if you are unsure.
Is there an age limit to climb or skate?
You can climb at TCA from any age as long as under 16s are being supervised by an appropriately registered adult (over 18) when bouldering – or under 18s are supervised when roped climbing. Our upstairs bouldering area in the South Block has family-friendly problems. There will be some restrictions on access to downstairs bouldering in the North Block for the over 8s.
There is no age limit in operation in the skatepark as this is an unsupervised facility. Users skate here at their own risk.
How high are the routes?
The roped lines are varied heights, but the tallest one is 15m.
I've never climbed but the kids would love to give it a go, can we just turn up?
You can, to boulder! Adults can watch a short safety video, answer some simple questions then register to be able to boulder. A registered adult (over 18) can supervise up to 2 children at a time in the bouldering areas. We have a family-friendly bouldering area upstairs suitable for all ages and a bouldering area downstairs suitable for over 8s. Please be aware that the downstairs area has time restrictions for under 8s and the upstairs area has a capacity cap to keep everyone safe. To use the roped area or auto-belays you would need to complete an appropriate beginners course or auto belay induction. Taster sessions include auto belay inductions.
My kids are really keen to give climbing a go. Can I bring them and only supervise as I wouldn't want to climb myself?
We’d encourage everyone to give it a go but can also allow non-climbing adults (over 18) to closely supervise up to 2 children in the bouldering areas at no charge to the adult. Non-climbing adults can watch a short safety video, answer some simple questions then register to supervise up to 2 children at a time. We have a bouldering area upstairs suitable for all ages and a bouldering area downstairs suitable for over 8s. Please be aware that the downstairs area has time restrictions for under 8s and the upstairs area has a capacity cap to keep everyone safe. For the kids to use the roped area or auto belays you would either need to book a Taster or Beginners’ Courses or sign them up to our regular youth classes.
Is there be a gym?
No, but we do have a stretching area with hanging bars, fingerboards and a few weights. If you buy a TCA pass this gives you unlimited access to the gym in The Mothership, in Bristol (and The Prop Store in Glasgow).
Can I drop my kids off so they can climb on their own?
Yes, if they are booked into our youth classes for supervised sessions with climbing instructors.
Otherwise, over 16s may boulder unaccompanied, but under 16s must be supervised by a registered adult (over 18). Under 18s who wish to rope climb must be supervised by a registered rope climber (over 18). Supervising adults, can supervise up to 2 climbers at a time.
Do I need to pay to get into the skatepark?
No. Access to the skatepark is free.
Do I need to pay to get into the play park?
No. Access to the play park is free.
Can I visit the cafe if I am not climbing?
Yes. The cafe is open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as lots of great coffee and cake options.
Can I bring my dog?
Support dogs such as guide dogs and registered emotional support animals are welcome – as long as they can be kept under control. Other dogs are not allowed in the buildings and skatepark, but they are more than welcome on the cafe decking, which includes some covered areas. There is a dog bowl on the decking and dog biscuits available.
Is there a car park or bike park?
We are situated in the Westmead playing fields, only half a mile from Chippenham Railway Station. We encourage visitors to arrive via public transport, bike or on foot where possible. There is paid parking outside the centre at the end of Westmead Lane. Find out more about parking at The Arc. There is ample bike parking. If arriving by car, save time before you visit by downloading the RingGo app. Some networks have bad reception, but you can pop into the centre to jump onto wifi.
When rope climbing, can I use any belay device?
You can, although TCA recommends an assisted braking device such as a Petzl Grigri or Black Diamond ATC Pilot. TCA believes that when used correctly, assisted braking devices provide an additional layer of security over traditional friction only devices. While we allow our customers to make their own decision as to which belay device they use, we strongly encourage the use of assisted braking devices.
Is there a shower?
Yes. We have a wheelchair accessible shower.
What's a "problem"?
Climbing has lots of different terms that you will learn once you start climbing. A problem is how a single climb is described in bouldering. Begin at the starting hold(s) indicated by red bolts and climb to the final hold which you should “match” (i.e. touch with both hands). A route is the name for a single climb whilst rope climbing, simply moving from bottom to top. All problems and routes are colour coded. See in centre signage for grades.
Will you have colour-coded climbing circuits like Bristol?
No. Individual grades are marked at the start of each climb.
Will you have classes for kids with special educational needs and disabilities?
Not specifically. At TCA we try first to include SEND children in our regular classes. Inclusion and not separation is our preference where possible. This involves a conversation with coaches. When this is not suitable we can discuss the needs of individuals and schedule a bespoke class or one-to-one session(s). If you are interested in attending a scheduled class or if you would like a bespoke lesson, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Our instructors have experience working with many disabilities, but may still need to complete some training in order to deliver sessions for the widest possible disabilities. This is something we are commited to improving. So please come and chat.
When can we climb on the outside wall?
When the centre is open and the weather is deemed safe enough. Ask staff.
Do I need a climbing partner?
You can auto belay and boulder on your own.
Do you offer birthday parties?
Yes. Find out more about birthdays at The Arc online or ask staff for details.
Can you teach me to skate?
TCA can’t, but if you would like to learn to skate our friend and pro-skater Sox (who you might have seen at the Arc Jam) offers lessons via his website Skateboard Lessons Bristol. He operates out of varied locations across Bristol, Bath and South Wales. Visit Burts Boards Chippenham if you need gear.