The Home Of Cheddar Man
The most spectacular of all British gorges is definitely Cheddar Gorge. Voted the second best natural wonder in Britain, it receives over half a million visitors every year.
Cheddar is a bustling little town in Somerset. It`s famous not only for the amazing gorge and caves that are there, but it`s also the original home of the cheese that bears its name!
The town lies a few miles south of Bristol on the southern edge of a range of low rolling hills called the Mendips.
So what is there at Cheddar that attracts all those thousands of visitors?
Well, there`s something for all the family to enjoy, kids and adults alike.The gorge itself is visually stunning!
The best way to admire its grandeur is to walk the road that twists and turns between the cliffs that tower on both sides.
There are two sets of caves open to the public and a small museum that tells you the history of the gorge and everything found there.
A flight of 274 steps (phewww!) called Jacobs Ladder climbs to the rim of the gorge. Well worth it for the fantastic views!
At the foot of the gorge there are plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and typical Somerset Pubs.
Formation of the gorge began over three million years ago. A small river, that ran gently over a rolling plain, started to erode the limestone rocks it flowed over.
Sea level fell and it became easier for the river to flow underground through the porous limestone.
Various Ice Ages and subsequent thaws caused ice and melt water to cut through the edge of the hills to form the Cheddar Gorge and caves.
Smaller gorges in the Mendip Hills were formed in a similar
fashion at Ebbor Gorge, near the delightfully named Wookey Hole, and at Burrington Coombe.>
To this day, the river that made this spectacular creation appears at the foot of the Cheddar gorge having completed its underground journey.
First set of caves found
The first cave complex was discovered in 1837 by George Cox
who was digging out limestone near his
water mill. Although smaller than caves found later, Cox`s cave has many wonderful examples of stalactites
and stalacmites. Some are highly coloured due to iron-oxide in the water that forms them.
Yet more caves discovered!
The second cave complex was found by Richard Cox Gough a retired sea captain and a nephew of George Cox.
This set of caves is considerably larger and has many caverns and sights for its visitors to enjoy.
Adventure caving is great fun for older children and those agile and willing enough to undertake it, it`s described as "hard, dirty but fun." The caves provide a helmet, lamp and a protective boilersuit. Groups are then led by an expert caver through four "undeveloped" chambers, down a twelve foot rope ladder before exiting through the aptly named "April Fool Squeeze." There is a lot of climbing and crawling and you will get dirty.
The greatest discovery in Gough`s cave was made in 1903 when a complete human skeleton was unearthed from a pit just inside the cave entrance. The skeleton was called Cheddar Man and is now on display in the
Natural History Museum in London.
Near the entrance to the caves is the Museum of Prehistory. It contains finds made in the caves and also houses a replica of the skeleton found in 1903.
There is an amusing warning to people wanting to visit this museum. It says - "Parental (or teacher) guidance is recommended
for children. The exhibition is unsuitable for the politically correct or those of a nervous disposition"
Wonderful advertising eh? Even if you weren`t going to go in then you would after reading that, if only to find out what they meant!
The name of Cheddar is famous the world over for its cheese. It is here, at the
foot of the gorge, that you will find the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company shop.
Go in and watch them making the cheese - and taste some too.
Close to the entrance to the Cheddar gorge caves is Jacob`s Ladder. This is a flight of 274 steps that climb up the cliff to a lookout tower at the top.
The tower gives a magnificent 360 degree view of the Mendip Hills, The Somerset Levels and the gorge itself. On a clear day you can see the waters of the Bristol Channel, also the Quantock Hills and Exmoor which is over thirty miles away.
The top of Jacobs Ladder is the starting point for hikes on the hill slopes above the gorge and for a three mile marked clifftop walk that goes up the south side of the gorge, across the road and then down the other side.
On the way you will pass a cliff called The Pinnacles, which, at over 400 feet high, is Britain`s highest inland cliff. If you are lucky you could catch sight of the rare Peregrine Falcons which nest on the face of the cliff.
Cheddar Gorge is a popular site for rock climbing. Access to all climbs is freely granted by The Cheddar
Caves and Gorge Company to current members of the British Mountaineering Council and the Mountaineering Council of
There are a large number of named routes and even the most experienced climbers can find some of them
One route, called "Coronation Street," was first climbed in 1965 by the famous climber/mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington.
Climbing in the gorge is generally only allowed during the winter but there are a number of specific climbs that are open all year round.
The area around Cheddar is also renowned for its cider farms, but be warned! Some of them make a variety of Somerset
cider that won`t be found in any Somerset pub or off-licence. Its strength can be very deceptive!
So if you are visiting the Cheddar gorge and caves is there any thing else in the area to enjoy?
For other interesting Somerset attractions just click here.
Have You Ever Been To Cheddar Gorge? Did You Try The Cider?
Hi, Have you ever been to Cheddar Gorge? Maybe you tried the local cider or went rock climbing. Hope you you did it the right way round! I would love to hear your story. What did you enjoy most - and why.
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