I am embarrassed to admit that I have only recently found out about Cheddar Gorge in the neighbouring County of Somerset even though I have been living in the South of England for over 25 years . Recently Brian and I have been making an effort to discover more about our own backyard on short trips over a weekend either in our motorbike or car and choosing to stay in a camp-site. The original plan was to go by motorbike and to stay in a tent but since the weather forecast was for few showers over the weekend we opted for travelling by car instead. June in England can still be a bit chilly in the evenings and the idea of glamping was more appealing, particularly since the previous weekend in Devon under canvas was a fresh 4 degrees C. We arrived at the adults only camp-site and were delighted with our little pod, made of pine wood cladding, it looked lovely against the trees in a quiet corner. We stepped inside to find a sofa bed, cupboards, a kettle and even a small flat screen TV.
The camp-site was perfectly positioned only a short walk from the town of Cheddar and all its lovely restaurants and amenities but most importantly the main attractions that we come here to see such as the Gorge and Caves. The weather was not great but we were well prepared with rain proof clothing and walking boots.
We woke up very early on Saturday morning and our camp-site neighbours were still asleep, so we stayed in our pod until we heard people moving about and Brian got our little camping stove out and started cooking our breakfast, soon the lovely smells of a cooked breakfast got me out of bed and I sat in our pod front porch for a lovely cup of tea and a bacon roll looking out to the camping field.
After breakfast we decided to start our day of explorations. We followed the signs to the Gorge and Caves… we had bought our tickets on line, it’s cheaper than buying it at the door, and the ticket allows you to visit the Caves with an audio guide and access via the caves through to the 275 steps up via “Jacobs Ladder” which will take you up to the top of Cheddar Gorge. But if you don’t want to visit the Caves, you can still access the top of the Gorge via a different route.
The two main Caves open to the public are Gough’s Cave discovered in 1903 and Cox’s Cave discovered in 1837. The audio guide was very informative and explained all about how the caves were formed and we were fascinated by all the beautiful formations called Stalactites and Stalagmites. It also told the story of how they found Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton in 1903, estimated to be 9,000 years old. It is believed that the Caves have been the site of pre historic cheese making (Food and Drink in European Pre- History). We did later on in the day visited a Cheddar cheese factory and shop in the lower part of the Gorge and indulged in some cheese tasting.
This whole area is part of a site of Special Scientific Interest called “Cheddar Complex”.
As we walked deeper and deeper into the cave the air was a little colder and humid, there is clever lighting to add a sense of drama and suspense. I find Caves fascinating, and at the same time a little scary, I prefer when I am able to stand up and walk around comfortably rather than having to crawl around on very narrow and low spaces. These were great caves to explore.
We also visited the smaller Cox’s Cave, which had a more theatrical feel with some story telling with witches and wizards, a type of cave that kids would love.
Through Cox’s Cave we come out into “Jacobs Ladder”,so called after a biblical description of a ladder to the heavens, it takes you up 275 steps and at the top there is a watch over tour, which provides great views of the town of Cheddar and its surrounding beautiful countryside.
From here we walked all the way on the top right of Cheddar Gorge, which is Britain’s largest Gorge, with cliffs of 450 ft. The walk is quite strenuous in place or maybe we are just very unfit. We gained height, via a path with lovely views, grasslands, wild flowers and trees and even encountered few goats roaming around and then we started our way down towards the road that cuts through the Gorge. As I was coming down, I slipped in the mud and landed on my bottom in full view of a man and a woman standing by the road side, who were kind enough not to burst into laughter at my clumsiness. With a sore bottom and dirty hands and clothes I walked downthe final steps to meet them and Brian, who was ahead of me, at street level. The lady had some hand wipes and she offered them to me so I could get cleaned up a little. After a chat with them we carried on with our walk and climbed up again now over the top of the left hand side of the Gorge, again enjoying amazing vistas. It was hard on my sore muscles going up hill again and continue to walk along the grass path until once again we started the walk down back into the street level exhausted but pleased with ourselves for managing to complete the 5 miles round walk.
Afterwards as part of our ticket we could go on the open top bus and tour the road that cuts through the Gorge, it was nice to be able to just sit down and look up at the cliffs an just relax and take a moment to reflect on what we had accomplished.
After the bus tour we started walking back towards our Glamp-site and stopped by the Cheddar cheese factory for a tasting session, we finished the day at a lovely Indian Restaurant for a very tasty and spicy meal, before calling it a day and retiring to our Pod for a well deserved rest.
The next day we woke up to gorgeous sunshine and decided to have our breakfast by the sea, so we made our way to the sea town of Western Super Mare only about 30 minutes away from Cheddar and parked our car by the long promenade, we sat down at a very humble little Coffee Kiosk by the sea front, and with sea air, coffee and a bacon roll we’d found the perfect way to finish off our weekend adventure.