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Visiting a land down under

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1998-05-16 Times.jpg

  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 1998-05-16
  • Author: Karen Stow Lee
  • Page: Travel, p. 35
  • Language: English

Caves, whether created by nature or by man with his pickaxe, are fascinating and often mysterious. Lee Karen Stow chooses ten of her favourites

Britain is perforated by holes: caves hollowed out millions of years ago, by underground rivers that wore away at a crack, by rainwater that seeped through the soil and carved everything in its path, or by man and his pickaxe in search of minerals. Here are ten of the best.


REACHED through the market town of Cheddar or across the Mendip Hills, the three-mile long Cheddar Gorge is said to be Britain's biggest. Limestone cliffs rise to 140 metres above the road and an underground river, Cheddar Yeo, bubbles up through 18 springs. George Cox's original show cave, Cox Cave, discovered in 1837 when he removed limestone from near his water mill, and the river's source at Gough's Cave are the main attractions.

  • Open daily except Dec 24 and 25 Easter-Sept, 10am-5pm, Oct- Easter 10.30am-4.30pm. Inclusive ticket : adults Pounds 6.90, children (aged 5-15) Pounds 4. Adventure caving trips Pounds 7.50 (01934 742343).

CHISLEHURST CAVES near Bromley, Kent

IN THE past 4,000 years, man has carved more than 20 miles of passageways out of the chalk at Chislehurst. The caves were explored by geologists before they were used to store army munitions during the First World War. A mushroom farm was housed here until the creation of an underground town of 15,000 people sheltering from bombing raids during the Second World War. Jazz and pop concerts were also held in the caves, and John Pertwee met the Mutants in Dr Who here. Supposedly haunted, overnight stays are forbidden.

  • Open every day during school holidays, except Dec 24 and 25 Wed-Sun, 10am-4pm during term-time . Admission: adults Pounds 3 , children Pounds 1.50. A 45-minute tour departs hourly Wed to Sat, or a 90-minute tour departs 2.30pm Suns; adults Pounds 5, children Pounds 2.50 (0181-467 3264).

CLEARWELL CAVES Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

MORE than 30 kilometres of natural caves and covered passageways, Clearwell caves are partially filled with iron ore which has been mined for more than 2,500 years. Still registered as a working mine, Clearwell is one of the few in the world that produce violet ochre, used as paint, traditionally worked by the "free miners" whose right to dig for minerals in the forest was awarded by a 13th-century Royal Charter. Clearwell is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a 14thcentury miner trapped when the roof collapsed - his body was never recovered.

  • Open daily, March 1-Oct 31, 10am-5pm. Admission adults Pounds 3 , children (under 16) Pounds 2 (01594 832535).

DAN-YR-OGOF Upper Swansea Valley, Wales

A NATURAL limestone cave within the Brecon Beacons National Park, Dan-yr-ogof, with its famous row of stalagmites known as the "Nuns", was first explored in 1912 by the Morgan brothers, a local family. Cathedral Cave - the largest single chamber in any British show cave - is the star: the limestone hangs like rippled curtains and stalactites dangle like bell ropes. The Bone Cave was named after more than 42 human skeletons discovered here, some dating back to the Bronze Age.

  • Open daily April 1-Oct31, 10am-3pm. Admission: adults Pounds 6.50 , children (aged 5-16) Pounds 4 (01639 730284).

THE CAVES Nottingham

UNDERNEATH Broad Marsh Shopping Centre is a man-made city of hollows cut into the sandstone. The Pillar Cave dates back to 1250 and houses one of Britain's few remaining underground taneres, where flesh was scrubbed from hides and left to drip dry. The remains of Victorian slum dwellings still have the original stoves slotted into hovels, living rooms that doubled up as bedrooms and bath areas complete with tin baths. During the Second World War, the caves were used as air-raid shelters.

  • Open Mon-Sat, 10am-4.15pm, Sun 11am-4pm; closed Dec 24-26 and Jan 1. Admission, including tour: adults Pounds 2.95, children (aged 5-16) Pounds 1.95, family ticket Pounds 8.50 (0115-924 1424).

ST CLEMENTS CAVES Hastings, East Sussex

DEEP within the West Hill of Hastings are the dark, winding burrows of St Clements Caves, a smuggler's haunt when 40,000 men traded illicitly along the English coast. A combined ticket allows visitors to wander the crumbled turrets of Hastings Castle - Britain's first Norman castle - and take in the "1066 Story", an audio-visual show about the Battle of Hastings.

  • Open March 28-Sept 27, 10am-5.30pm ( "1066 Story" closes 5pm) Oct-March 11am-4.30pm ( "1066 Story" closes 3.30pm). Combined ticket to smugglers' cave and castle: adults, Pounds 6.25, children (aged 5-15) Pounds 3.80, family ticket Pounds 18.95 ( 01424 422964 ).

TREAK CLIFF CAVERN Castleton, Derbyshire

ONE OF four show caves in the Peak District National Park, Treak Cliff is the only known place in the world where blue john, a rare variety of fluorspar, occurs naturally. Discovered in 1748, blue john became fashionable when King George III commissioned a clock and Queen Charlotte ordered candelabra and scent holders. It is still mined today. Treak Cliff is also known for its Dream Cave where the Stork Stalactite points just 4cm - or 1,000 years - away from a stalagmite.

  • Open daily except Dec 25 (weather permitting). March 1-Oct 31, 9.30am-5.30pm; Nov 1 - Feb 28, 10am-4pm. Tours every 12-15 minutes. Admission: adults Pounds 4.95, children (aged 5-15) Pounds 2.25, family ticket Pounds 13 ( 01433 620571 ) .

WHITE SCAR Ingleton, North Yorkshire

CLAIMING to be Britain's longest show cave, this is a 200,000- year-old Ice Age sculpted cavity which meanders through a mile of passages, waterfalls and streams to the 330ft Battlefield Cavern. In places its ceiling soars to 100ft. Famed for strange formations which include the Devil's Tounge and the Judge's Head (complete with wig), the cave's special feature is undisturbed mud pools.

  • Open from 10am every day (weather permitting closed Dec 25). Last tour 5.30pm. Admission: adults Pounds 5.95 , children (aged 4- 15) Pounds 3.25 (015242 41244).

WEMYSS CAVES East Wemyss, Fife

DECORATED with Pict markings (pre-Celtic people of northern Britain), there are at least eight Wemyss Caves along the shoreline, extending to just beyond Macduff Castle. Jonathan's Cave has drawings of a swan, a dagger and what could be the oldest known sketch in Scotland of a ship. The Doo Cave has 17th-century pigeon boxes carved into the walls. Coastal erosion is a constant threat and some caves are hazardous.

  • For further information, phone 01592 266361.

WOOKEY HOLE Wells, Somerset

CARVED out by the River Axe, the caves of Wookey are pockets in the Mendip Hills. Deep within stands the frozen figure of the Witch of Wookey, who was supposed to have lived here with her dog in the 16th century. According to local legend, she was turned to stone by a monk from Glastonbury Abbey who sprinkled her with holy water while she was cooking a child. A tunnel has now been blasted to allow the public access to areas previously seen only by divers.

  • Open daily except Dec 17-25, summer 10am-5pm, winter 10.30am- 4.30pm. Admission : adults Pounds 6.70 . children (aged 4-16) Pounds 3.60 (01749 672243).

Caption: Cheddar Gorge, three miles long, contains numerous caves, limestone cliffs which rise to 140 metres above the road and an underground river, Cheddar Yeo, which bubbles up through 18 springs. In 1996, 256,000 people visited the Gorge

Spelling correction: Jon Pertwee

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  • APA 6th ed.: Lee, Karen Stow (1998-05-16). Visiting a land down under. The Times p. Travel, p. 35.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lee, Karen Stow. "Visiting a land down under." The Times [add city] 1998-05-16, Travel, p. 35. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lee, Karen Stow. "Visiting a land down under." The Times, edition, sec., 1998-05-16
  • Turabian: Lee, Karen Stow. "Visiting a land down under." The Times, 1998-05-16, section, Travel, p. 35 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Visiting a land down under | url= | work=The Times | pages=Travel, p. 35 | date=1998-05-16 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Visiting a land down under | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>