Climbing Partners Add a Third Bouldering Hub in London

image of city bouldering owners
Serge Semenov (left) and Richard Lawrence (right) recently opened their third gym together, a former garage that now features 6997 square feet of climbing, located in proximity to the Stratford Station. (All images courtesy of City Bouldering, photos by Ben Donaghue.
City Bouldering owners Serge Semenov and Richard Lawrence at the Stratford gym
Serge Semenov (left) and Richard Lawrence (right) recently opened their third gym together in London, a former garage in the Stratford area that now features 6,997 square feet of climbing. (All photos by Ben Donaghue, courtesy of City Bouldering)

City Bouldering Stratford
London, United Kingdom

Specs: City Bouldering Stratford, East London’s newest bouldering gym, opened its doors to UK climbers in late April. Owned and operated by Richard Lawrence and Serge Semenov, City Bouldering is the result of a mutual love of climbing and multi-pitch routes. After sharing a wild adventure in Monsterrat—which included a harrowing first pitch, unexpected rock falls, late night climbing, and finally successful sends—Lawrence said the pair “smiled at each other, knowing we had found a great partner who was equally crazy and loved to push boundaries.”

Elevate Climbing Walls

Lawrence and Semenov found they both wanted to start a new career and identified a shared passion for connecting through travel, nature, and new experiences—a passion that led to the creation of a travel adventure company. “We loved doing it, but we didn’t want to charge people really high amounts of money to do things in nature,” Lawrence shared. So, they eventually decided to close their travel business, turning their attention to starting a bouldering gym instead.

Inside the new City Bouldering Stratford gym
“The building—previously a garage—is big enough for us to create a space which is both social and able to host climbers of all levels, from first timers to those training for big trips,” Lawrence said of the new gym (pictured).

In October 2021, City Bouldering opened its first location in Aldgate, followed by the White City location in April 2022. “The concept for City Bouldering was to create a ‘home base’ for these connections; to spread kindness, meet like-minded people, have fun exercising, and help people be the best version of themselves,” summed up Lawrence. The third location opened in Stratford with a goal of making climbing more accessible in the area and growing the community. According to Lawrence, the new gym is a short walk from “the 7th busiest train station in the country,” in an area that previously didn’t have a commercial climbing gym. Stratford is also near Aldgate and, Lawrence admitted, his home, where he “needed a good center.”

“The process of finding climbing walls in London is more limited by the spaces you can find that are affordable,” Lawrence added. “We can’t pay the standard rent levels other businesses do, as climbing just doesn’t generate that much revenue.” Fortunately, the team found a former garage that could house 4.5-meter walls and still have room for socializing. “Nestled amongst newer buildings, the site brings together the old and the new with its sawtooth roof, typical of the area’s industrial past, mixed with a modern and spacious design inside,” detailed Lawrence.

Climbing at the new Stratford gym
Climbing programming at the Stratford gym includes weekly “Womens+ Social” and “Beginner Social” events, courses for climbers of all ages, and a summer bouldering league held across the three City Bouldering locations.

While the space fit the team’s vision, repurposing it for climbing came with challenges. “The building had asbestos, a leaking roof, an uneven floor, oil from being a car garage,” Lawrence recalled, “so we had to spend huge amounts to get the planning and bring it into line with leisure standards.” After overcoming those challenges and finishing the build out this year, the team opened a 10,000-square-foot facility that features a variety of bouldering terrainwith over 100 bouldering problemsand a 16-foot Kilter Board. The recently opened gym also has a café, plus “loads of chill out space and an area for kids and beginners,” Lawrence said.

Eldorado Climbing

Walls: Dreamwall
Flooring: Core
CRM Software: Rock Gym Pro
Instagram: @CityBoulderingStratford

In Their Words: “Since the opening of the first site in Aldgate, City Bouldering has always looked to drive a sense of community through beginner-friendly socials, events, and contributing to larger philanthropic projects. A third site in Stratford will allow us to grow our community further and put more resources towards our aims of bringing more people to climbing.” – Richard Lawrence, City Bouldering co-founder, co-owner and CEO

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