June 1 – A trip to Cheddar Gorge

Goughs Cave and Jacobs Ladder

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Visiting Cheddar Gorge has been on my ‘bucket list’ for a long time. Last year Piratemania was held here but we were unable to go as our exhibition on Burford was on. We drove through the gorge a couple of nights ago which made us even keener. We arrived reasonably early and there were not too many people about despite being half term holiday. I thought we might have to queue for ages but it was only a couple of minutes.

The entry fee is quite steep at £19.95 each but included entry to Gough’s Cave, the museum, to Cox’s Cave for the multimedia show and then Jacob’s Ladder. It included an audio guide and we walked slowly through Gough’s Cave enjoying all the detail. We came here in 1979 when we walked around England and I have always wanted to come back. The formations on the caves are fascinating as is the story of Richard Gough’s excavations in the late nineteenth century. Gough’s cave is the largest of their show caves and is widely considered to be one of the finest in the country. The formation of this cave began over half a million years ago when river water started dissolving the limestone rock. The resulting cathedral-like caverns are decorated with unbelievable rock formations including the soaring chambers of St Paul’s Cathedral and the towering spires of Solomon’s Temple. Our ancestors, the Horse Hunters of Cheddar Gorge, lived in Gough’s Cave 14,700 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Archaeological evidence suggests they may have been cannibals, killing and eating their enemies. Cheddar Man was a hunter-gatherer who lived around 9,000 years ago and is the oldest complete skeleton ever found in Britain. It is thought that his tribe buried him in a special area of the cave to prevent his spirit passing to the land of the ancestors.

The Dreamhunter’s light show in Cox’s Cave was not very good and consisted of a light show onto the rock as you walked through the caves but there did not seem to be any rock formations like in the other cave. When we emerged into the daylight we at the foot of Jacob’s Ladder. There were two guides preparing to take a group up so we joined in. There are 274 steps straight up which I was able to achieve by stopping at the three platforms on the way up. At the top, the guides encouraged us all further up the track to get better views of the gorge. The views were worth seeing and there was a guy from the English equivalent of our Dept. of Conservation who spent a long time telling Mike and I about the geology, history and the farming of the area which made for a very interesting trip. The day was glorious and the views in all directions were excellent. We got to 179m high which I was able to compare my readings on the GPS against the maps that the guide was carrying.

We saw a large bird the size of a magpie and while we were exclaiming about the bird, a lady walking passed explained that it is a Jay. Apparently, you do not see them very often so we were very lucky to see it and get such amazing photos. The colouring on the jay is fantastic and is part of the magpie family. On our return to the top of the steps, we were able to find a geocache which was about 26 m away from its GZ so was a bit of a fluke that Mike managed to find it, by hint only. Still, it was good to get the cache and a real sense of achievement to climb up all those steps. On our return to the car, we were able to complete an earthcache about the Gorge as well.

This really is a spectacular place and so unexpected when you consider the surrounding area.