Like Cheddar, Wookey Hole is Somerset’s other showcaves attraction. These caves have been created through the natural erosion of the Mendip limestone hills by the River Axe that flows underground through the caves. There is evidence that man inhabited the caves as long ago as 50,000 years ago. They were extensively excavated in the early twentieth century which opened them up to visitors to the area. Today you can take a guided tour through the caves to find out all about the history of the caves, how the beautiful rock formations were formed and something of the legends that surround them. The Wookey Hole attraction is a fun packed family day out and it’s not just the caves you can explore. On the site is a mill that has had several uses over time the latest of which was a paper mill. There is also Dinosaur Valley that contains twenty life-size models of all sorts of dinosaurs, the largest collection of Edwardian Penny Arcade machines and The Mirror Maze.
Today you can take a guided tour through the caves to find out all about the history of the caves, how the beautiful rock formations were formed and something of the legends that surround them. One such legend is that of the Wookey Witch which originates from tales from the Dark Ages that tell of a woman who lived in the caves and was blamed whenever anything bad befell the neighbouring village. A monk, Father Bernard, was sent by the villagers to tackle the witch who on seeing him fled deeper into the cave hurling curses at him. He finally came face to face with her and threw water he blessed at her at which point she is said to have turned to stone.
You can see her figure in stone in the Witch’s Kitchen.There are several other chambers that can be explored with your entrance fee including the Witch’s Parlour, the Cathedral Chamber and the Hyena’s Den. The caves keep a constant temperature of around 11 degrees Celsius which has made them a comfortable place to live in the past, an excellent location for maturing cheese and is still used today by some of the country’s most endangered bats – horseshoe bats – that roost and hibernate within the caves. Wookey Hole Caves is open seven days a week, all year round. There is often themed events such as Halloween nights and a Christmas circus. Your entrance ticket will cover you for all attractions on the site and is valid throughout the day.
Ebbor Gorge National Nature Reserve
Four kilometres north west of Wells is Ebbor Gorge a National Nature Reserve (NNR) on the southern escarpment of the Mendip Hills. Much of the NNR is wooded and contains ancient ash/maple woodland, glades as well as species-rich limestone grassland. The woods are particularly rich in ferns, fungi, lichens, mosses and liverworts. Ebbor Gorge is also home to some of the country’s rarest species including the white letter hairstreak butterfly and Greater and Lesser horseshoe bats that roost in the gorge. The best time to visit Ebbor Gorge is Spring if you want to catch the wild flowers in bloom. Autumn is also good when the leaves on the trees are turning colour. There are two car parks near the NNR both on the minor road from Wookey Hole to Priddy.