A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Over and under

My holiday to Somerset is over and I'm back home, but for last week this little cottage was my home.

It has to be said that W and I had a fantastic time away and did a heck of a lot. I had been hoping to blog during the course of the holiday to let you know what we were up to, but we were so busy that I didn't have time, so I'm going to do a series of retrospective posts, starting with our trips to Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar caves, and Wookey Hole. We didn't go to Cheddar and Wookey on the same day, but it seems appropriate to put them in the same post.

The first part of our trip to Cheddar was a bus tour up the road that ran through the middle of the gorge. We'd actually just driven down this road so had seen some of its splendour already, but as I'd been driving and having to negotiate some very tight blind corners it was good to be able to look around freely without risk of causing an accident. Here are a couple of photos of the gorge from the bus tour.

We then made our way to the caves, which are as spectacular as the gorge (even if some of the audio guide is a bit naff and touristy at times) with some amazing stalactites and stalagmites. This first photo from inside the caves is a view up the roof of the cave and it's a huge funnel-like hole that yawns at you from above.

And then you come across a cage of Cheddar cheese ripening in the cave! Although it's not strong, you can smell it as you approach the area.

This one is an amazing cathedral of stalactites dripping down off the wall and must have taken many, many thousands of years to form. Quite stunning.

And this is one of my favourite photos from inside the caves. I love the amazing structures of the stalactites and stalagmites, and also their perfect reflections in the water. I also like the subtle colours and it's wonderland/fantasy world feel.

More stalactites ...
There are two main sets of caves at Cheddar - Gough's Cave and Cox's Cave. I can't clearly remember which of the above photos are taken in which cave, but they are both spectacular ... until suddenly, in Cox's Cave, you are walking down a narrow set of rocky stairs, having seen some wonderful structures of nature, and you come across this ...

It has to be the most rapid change in mood of a place I've come across for a very long time. No longer are you wandering the caves in awe of God's creation and imagination; suddenly you're distracted by a whole Lord of the Rings theme going on. It's quite fun, but it comes upon you so unexpectedly and I burst into fits of laughter the moment I saw the disembodied head with the glowing tiara, initially forgetting that W couldn't see what I was seeing as she was behind me on the stairs. When it came into her line of sight she too burst into laughter, which in turn made the German blokes behind her begin to giggle. The rest of Cox's cave is taken over by the LOTR theme and here are just a few of the photos I took.

At the end of our exploration of the caves, and the weird LOTR experience, we decided that we really ought to try to see the gorge from above. This is no easy task for two brittle asthmatics, one with the added complication of anaemia (me), and the other (W) with the added complication of arthritis, but we're a stubborn and determined pair so we headed off up the steps that take you up the first part of the cliff and then headed on up from there ... slowly ... very slowly ... very, very slowly at times. It was worth it though ...

After our long (and possibly slightly foolish) hike along the gorge walk we had a much easier descent. It was still down a fairly rugged path, but it was downhill and that makes a lot of difference when it comes to breathing :o) We both managed to avoid any breathing crises during the walk though, which I think we deserve medals for :o)
We came out of the woods at the bottom of the gorge walk onto the road and had to amble our way along this to get back to the car near the tourist part of Cheddar - by the caves' entrances and gorge walk steps. It was a longer road walk than I'd anticipated, but it wasn't arduous, the temperature was pleasant enough (it'd been a beautiful, sunny day), and we came across some wild goats that we watched by the roadside for a while.

I really like this next photo of one of the goats ambling its way through the roadside trees. The sunlight just makes it for me.

And just after seeing the wild goats I saw something out of the corner of my eye do a little scurry on the ground to my right. I turned and saw this little chap.

We'd been told by the bus tour guide that there are water voles in the area so at first we thought that maybe this might be one of them (neither W or I are great at wildlife identification), but after a bit of internet research I rather think that this might be a much more common Long-tailed mouse/Wood mouse. Regardless of it's rarity we enjoyed it and it didn't seem to be particularly nervous of us either - it ran around us for ages, played with a leaf that was next to me and scurried over the toes of my walking boots. Eventually it nipped off towards the grass, but not for long and only after we'd been watching it and taking photos of it for a good ten minutes or so. I don't suppose any of you are able to confirm our identification of it as a Long-tailed mouse/Wood mouse, or suggest what else it might have been, are you?

That was about it for our excursion to Cheddar, so next is a little bit on our trip to Wookey Hole, which was actually the following day. Wookey Hole is touristy in a different way to Cheddar - more theme park-y. However, rather than an audio guide that is at times slightly irksome (as is the case at Cheddar), the tour of the caves at Wookey is guided by a person - a man. During the tour he tells the legend of the Wookey Hole Witch and how she is said to have been turned to stone by the incantations of a priest and his splashing her with holy water. The photo below is of the rock that is said to be the witch turned to stone.

The caves at Wookey are enormous and have incredibly deep rivers running through them. Some of the rivers look to be only a couple of feet deep, but this is an illusion given by the clarity and purity of the water and the lack of surface movement as there's no wind. In most places the rivers are actually several meters deep! You can't tell the depth of the river in the photo below, or see the illusion of its shallowness, but you can get some idea of the scale of the place by the rowing boat ... and this wasn't the biggest opening in the caves by any means.

Here is a much bigger cavern. This was taken whilst standing on a bridge that must only have been about a third of the way up the height of the cave. The place seemed to go on forever, and it was difficult to comprehend how deep into the land we must have been.

The caves were amazingly spectacular ... awe-inspiring ... magnificent. And then you step outside and come face to face with this ...

It's a bit of a shock to the system to go from the wonders of nature hidden deep in the Earth to an over-sized, plastic gorilla. Get into the spirit of it and it's okay, but it does feel quite random. However, W and I did get into the spirit of it and I took several more photos of what was to come, and it's very different from the beauty of the caves.
This guy might only be plastic (or something else, but definitely not real), but he's still a bit scary, don't you think? Kind of wonderful in his way ... perhaps ... maybe ...

And then you come across this fellow and his mates. They stare at you from around the gardens, lurking in the bushes, although they have a hard time hiding seeing as they're so big and some of them are painted quite gaudy colours. Still, they're fun and we were there to have fun so we got on with enjoying ourselves and got into the spirit of it.

So that was our jaunt to Cheddar and our trip to Wookey Hole. Both were great fun and we saw some amazing works of nature, which I've tried to give you a flavour of, but it's difficult to do so in such a limited space and only a few photos. For a true impression you really need to go there and experience it, but then I guess that's the case for most things in life.
I'll be back soon with another instalment of our Somerset Sojourn.

1 comment:

living_with_ba said...

Some of those photos were so beautiful...it's been ages since I've been to Cheddar Gorge...or Wooky Hole Caves...