Rain is forecast, lots of it. So we’ve tried to tactically dodge the worst of the weather with a jaunt to Cheddar Gorge and Gough’s cave. Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s largest gorge at 3 miles long at 137 metres deep, as well as being home to Cheddar Cheese, is also home to Britain’s oldest complete skeleton at over 9000 years old.
That’s exactly how old our knees feel as we decided to start our day with a walk to the top of Cheddar Gorge for some views. Starting at the foot of Jacob’s Ladder, it’s not the staircase to heaven that Jacob had in the Old Testament, it’s an exhausting journey through hell for us as we ascend up the 274 steps that start the cliff top walk. There’s a further 49 steps for the Lookout Tower and Sam immediately chickens out. I’ve paid for it, I might as well climb it.
That rain we are trying to dodge is there in the distance, and even at the lowest part of the cliff top walk, we have a superb view of Glastonbury Tor and around. The path is muddy, each step becomes a slog in the mud as we make our way up the path that has more false summits than a peace conference but we do get some fine views. Even the wild goats join us as they graze at the top of the cliffs as I teeter on the edge for a view to a kill. Which is probably what Sam had in mind as I made the mistake of telling her I’d upped the life insurance. A near vertical tumble down the cliff face is not top of my agenda even if I do want to admire the limestone and slate geology on the way down the gorge to the main road at the bottom. Instead we opt to go back down the steps and into the caves.
I love a good cave, we have many in the Peak District near us, so we head into the large show caves that Cheddar Gorge offers. Gough’s Cave is 115 metres deep with large show caverns showing a variety of chambers, rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, scooped and shaped by swirls of water cutting into the limestone rock. Today, Gough’s Cave is lit up to show us the beautifully sculptured formations shaped by the slow movement of water through the limestone rock.
Gough’s Cave became the final resting place of Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton at 9000 years old. Evidence suggests he may not have had much to say on the subject as he died a violent death and was buried alone when communal burial was common. When Cheddar Man was around, Britain was still a physical part of Europe albeit with a chiller climate than today as it was the last ice age. The caves are a constant 11 degrees all year round and cheddar cheese is still matured inside the caves.
The last cave is Cox’s Cave, which has been turned into an experience called Dreamhunters with audio and video projected directly onto the caves walls showing the life of early man. Its OK for kids but its 30 minutes of your life that could be best explored elsewhere in Cheddar Gorge.