Wookey Hole

 This is in Somerset near to Wells.

This is probably the most famous of the underground cave networks in England. Although a lot of it is open to the public there are still some caves and tunnels that are yet to be explored.

The first men to live in the caves would have been there 50,000 years ago when the caves were already a million years old.

The temperature inside is a constant 11 c which is lovely on a hot summers day and not too bad when the snow is piling up outside.

Legend has it that the caves were home to the Witch of Wookey, an evil woman who lived there with her dog. The local people blamed her for turning the milk sour and for casting spells on them and their livestock.

 

One day, after pleas from the locals, a monk went into the caves to see if there was anything he could do to end the animosity and found her stewing a child in a huge cauldron. Hastily he threw some holy water over her, catching the dog too, and turned them both to stone.

Welsh legend has it that King Arthur slew the black witch who 'lived in the cave at the head of the Stream of Sorrow on the confines of Hell.' The stream would probably refer to the River Axe which flows through the caverns, and considering that in 1912, bones, a dagger and an alabaster ball were found amid the Iron Age remains, I think the Welsh story might have something going for it.

The cave walls are various colours, stained by years of seepage of lead, manganese and iron oxide. As the water swirled through stalagmites and stalactites formed, fissures grew wider and tunnels were enlarged.

Because of the witch connection most of the caves are named after her. There is her kitchen, and her parlour, there is Hell's Ladder and The Lake of Gloom.

The Witch's Dog

It has now been over 60 years since divers started to explore the cave system and it seems that they can now go no further.

In 1985 a diver reached 220 feet down but found the tunnel became too narrow for him to continue and he still hadn't touched bottom. It appears that Wookey Hole is one of the last challenges to be solved by cave explorers.