Heading northwards from my cosy Wiltshire country cottage for what turned into a wonderful weekend in Cookley, Worcestershire with my fifth cousin twice removed, I made a small detour to Cheddar Gorge. Situated at BS27 3QF on my satnav there's no trouble in finding the Gorge. To my happy surprise I found a parking spot straight away, got out of the car and had a look around. The Information Kiosk was straight across the road from the sign advising me of the parking fee I had just incurred – no wonder there was plenty of parking!
Before I did anything else I had to do what all old men do after an extended drive and I went looking for the Gents'. Positioning of the Gents' in Cheddar George was not, in my opinion, very well thought through. It's right beside some flowing waterfalls! Didn't they consider the effect of the sound of fast flowing water on a little old men with an urgent need? A visit to the toilet was free so that was a positive.
Once the personal comfort issues had been resolved I headed for the ticket stall and paid my £19.95 entry plus the £5 for parking. For that price I can keep coming back to the attractions at the Gorge for a year. Had I been able to come back I could then catch up on anything I missed on this visit, such as the bus tour that wasn't running at the time of year of my visit.
With ticket in hand, my first stop was back up the hill at Gough's Cave. This is the largest of the Gorge's caves and was really impressive. On entry I was issued with a listening device that allowed you to punch in numbers as shown on information panels at various places and listen to the story and history connected with that spot. Gough's Cave is enormous and relatively well lit. It does include a fair few stairs but nothing too difficult.
Gough's Cave's Reflecting Pool, Entrance and Limestone Flow
Unfortunately my phone camera (and its operator) were not up to the challenge of low-light photography and only a very few of my photos have clearly discernible subjects. One thing I was able to record is that they actually do mature cheddar cheese in the caves.
Once back out into the light I wandered down the hill to the Museum of Prehistory. Cheddar Gorge has many significant archaeological discoveries from Britain's pre-historic past. The Museum is not very big but tells an interesting story of how early residents of the Gorge lived and survived during the Ice Age.
After the museum I stopped off in a little shop selling fruit wine and real, cave-matured cheddar cheese to share with my cousin and her family.
Then it was on to Cox's Cave. As you work your way through this cave you get to enjoy a very imaginative sound and light show called 'Dreamhunters'. The show projects images onto the cave walls and the audio tells the story of the development of humankind in the area around the Gorge. Illuminated marks on the floor indicate where to stand for the short audio visuals and then, when it's time to move on, a 'running man' image shows up on the walls and runs off in the direction you have to follow.
Cox's Cave is a real cave! It gets quite narrow and dark in places but the lights always come back on and the 'running man' always lets you know where to go. With the cave being darker and narrower the successful photos are even fewer than Gough's Cave.
Once you have worked your way right through Cox's Cave you end up following the 'running man' out the back door and on to the base of Jacob's Ladder. This was the beginning of the end of my day!
Jacob's Ladder consists of 274 steps up the side of Cheddar Gorge and then 48 more to the top of the Lookout Tower. Fortunately, there are also four sit-down spots on the way up that allow you to take a break. It is a very steep incline to the top of a hill but, having paid my £19.95 for the privilege, I climbed to the very top including the additional climb to the top of the tower. I actually did it.
Until this point I had faithfully followed the trail as set out in the visitors' guide but the next attraction was a 4.5km walk along the cliff top. It was at this point I thought better of trying to kill myself and headed back down the stairs. Going down was fractionally easier than going up.
Once back on the ground I had to walk back up the hill a bit to the Lion Rock Tea Rooms for my afternoon refreshments. After a rest that included a delicious cream tea and some invigorating coffee I staggered back to the Yaris and headed north.
All the breath-taking exercise and fresh air left me totally shattered. However, I came good later in the evening when I was standing in the bar of the Anchor Hotel, Cookley, a favourite drinking hole of Led Zeppelin singer, Robert Plant. I was feeling no pain and singing, 'Stairway to Heaven' (silently to myself) while having nightmares of Jacob's Ladder.
Robert Plant's Pub and Autograph – he knows my name!
Be prepared to spend a full day in the Gorge. It's a place where you need to take breaks but it is a great day out. Also, check when the bus tour is on; I missed it by a few days. The caves are great and very interesting. It's certainly not just a walk through a dark, dank hole in the ground. Both the caves I visited were very interesting and gave a very professional and entertaining display.
You can purchase your tickets online here and save a bit of money. For more information on this fantastic attraction check out the web site and Facebook page. For more personal service give the centre a call on 01934 742343 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org