It was a beautiful, hot day in May when I decided to head towards Cheddar Gorge – the third stop on my alphabet tour. As it turns out, I arrived at Cheddar from the Gorge end, meaning I drove through it to get to the car parks and tourist stops. It was really quite scary, like driving into the centre of the earth. The cliffs either side started getting higher and higher, until eventually they blocked out the sun. Spooky.
I soon came out the other side though, and stopped off to buy my ticket. The man behind the counter of one of the many information/shop places was so amazingly helpful, he explained the entire set up to me in great detail – it pretty much took ten minutes. I’m not surprised, though, it’s really rather complicated.
You start at the bottom of the hill, get a bus right through the village to the top of the Gorge, the bus turns and it drops you halfway down. You then meander down the hill, visiting the other various attractions on offer until you find your car again. It actually doesn’t sound that complicated now I’ve written it down.
So, I got on the bus, and the tour was good. I learnt that half the Gorge is owned by National Trust and the other half is owned by Lord Bath of Longleat fame. There were lots of rock climbers along the way, and loads and loads of cyclists. Proper cyclists, in all the racing gear and everything. It looked like hard work. Much easier work was the appearance of several groups of Hells Angels type motorbike people. I don’t see Cheddar Gorge as particularly rock and roll, but it seemed to appeal to them.
After the bus, it was time to visit the first cave. Now, you may remember I blogged about my underground experience before, so I was a bit nervous before stepping foot in the cave. However, it was paved, and at no point were you expected to climb. The only dangers seemed to be the slippery floor (from the underground river) and some low hanging formations (watch your head).
It’s not easy to take pictures in the complete dark, but it was very beautiful, in a kind of grungy, underground way. After the cave, I popped across the road to the museum, where they illustrated what life would have been like millions of years ago. In fact, a lady was dressed up in the full gear, in an outside hut, and she beckoned us inside to demonstrated some of her tools. A needle made out of antler, and some shoes made out of squirrel fur. She made me touch the squirrel fur. I didn’t like it.
While she was dressing up some Japanese tourists in full fur gear for photographs (they were crazy, it was boiling hot already, no need for fur!) I moved on to the next cave. This one was a bit weird. The formations had various coloured lights in and some classical music was playing. Nice and spiritual, I suppose. Then there was something called The Crystal Quest, which was based on the Lord of the Rings and had talking statues and sound effects and stuff. I didn’t particularly like that either, although the worst part was definitely the cloaked person that held open a curtain for me to walk through. Was that a real person? Was it their job just to stand all day in the dark, pullling open and shut a curtain? Had they been watching me stare at the crazy dragon statue?
Finally, it was time to face Jacob’s Ladder. At the bottom, friendly people say: “It’s a great viewpoint, you can see for miles and miles. Oh, and there’s a three mile walk if you want to.” The bit they don’t mention is the 284 steps it takes to get up there. Who’s going to feel like a three mile walk after that? There were nice views, but by that time I was hot and bothered so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. I was grateful that it was the last stop before I returned to my car.
In summary, Cheddar Gorge was ace. I think it peaked with the gorge itself, so it’s unfortunate that is the first thing on the agenda, but the caves are fun, and the steps are… there. It was a good day.