Visit to England - Cheddar Gorge – August 2011
After Stonehenge we drove to Cheddar Gorge in the County of Somerset. This is a cutting through the mountains in the Mendip Hills.
There are several caves in the gorge, and it is the site where Britain's oldest complete human skeleton was found in 1903, known as Cheddar Man, and estimated to be 9,000 years old.
The maximum depth of the gorge is 137 metres (499 feet), with a vertical cliff-face on the south and grassy slopes to the north. Wild Old English Goats roam the slopes and acts as a natural environmental control to maintain the wild flowers; which otherwise would be consumed by trees and small bushes. This also helps to stabilise the cliffs as it prevents tree roots breaking open the rocks.
The gorge was formed by melt water floods during the periglacial periods which have occurred over the last 1.2 million years.
There are 2 natural caves in the gorge, Gough's Cave and a smaller Cox's Cave. A Man made cave called the Crystal Quest was made for children's entertainment.
We visited Gough's Cave, below are some of the pictures we took. When you enter you get an audio guide so you understand what you are looking at. This cave is prone to flooding so is only open when the weather is suitable. It also contains a cavern of local made Cheddar Cheese which is allowed to age naturally in the cave environment. (We tried the cheese during a tour of the factory, it is super).
The local cheese factory (Actually in the gorge), is the only factory remaining in Cheddar that makes the famous British Cheddar Cheese. We took the tour and were able to watch the cheese making process. This is a very complicated and a long winded process that involves creating the whey, cutting it frequently, pressing the cheese, heating it and pressing it multiple times before putting it into storage to allow it to mature. Below are some images from the factory
The gorge has many interesting shops and bars, and the Gin and Tonic was to die for. Below are some images from the commercial area of Cheddar.
We stayed in a local bed and breakfast called "Gordon's Hotel". It was very quaint, with narrow corridors, but very clean rooms. The garden had a swimming pool and was brightly decorated with flowers. It also had many apple tress, which is very fitting as Somerset is the cradle of 'English Cider Making' known locally as "Scrumpy", and of course I could not resist a glass of this traditional beverage. Unlike commercial ciders, it contains no gas, and has a distinct fruity taste.
This was a wonderful place to visit and I had many childhood memories of past visits. It was nice to see that it had not changed too much over the years, and still kept its appeal.