Caves of the Mendip Hills

Caves of the Mendip Hills

The Caves of the Mendip Hills are formed by the particular geology of the Mendip Hills, with large areas of limestone worn away by water makes it a national centre for caving. The hills conceal the largest underground river system in Britain. [cite web |url= |format=pdf |title=Fact Sheet 8: Rivers |accessdate=2007-01-27 |work=Cheddar caves ]


The hills consist of anticlines of Carboniferous Limestone lying over Devonian Old Red Sandstone. When a surface stream running down one of the Sandstone peaks reaches the layer of Limestone it sinks below ground through a "swallet", continuing on its way down towards sea level by enlarging existing cracks in the rock to form caves. The catchment area of the Cheddar Yeo, which rises in Gough's Cave, measures convert|54|km2|sqmi|1|abbr=on|lk=on. Dye marking shows that some of the water travels underground for up to convert|10|mi|km|0|lk=on, taking up to 14 days to reach Cheddar.


The earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain was found at Aveline's Hole, near Burrington Combe. The human bone fragments it contained, from about 21 different individuals, are thought to be between roughly 10,200 and 10,400 years old. [cite web |url= |title=Earliest British cemetery dated |accessdate=2007-01-27 |work=BBC News ] [cite web |url='s.html |title=Aveline's Hole - An Early Mesolithic Cemetery Site in the Mendips |accessdate=2007-01-27 |work=Rick Schulting ]

Archaeological evidence including pottery, flints, hearths, coins, burials and metalwork from the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman eras have been found in many of the caves. [cite web |url= |title=Mendip Hills: An Archaeological Survey of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty |format=pdf |accessdate=2007-01-27 |work=Mendip Hills AONB ]


The caves which are easily accessible to the public are at Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole, but the vast majority of the caves require specialist equipment and knowledge. Many of the caves are gated and operate leader systems in an attempt to reduce the damage caused when the caves are visited. [cite web | title=Mendip | work=Protect Our Caves | url= | accessdate=2008-04-15] Local caving groups organise trips and continue to discover new caverns.

Cave Diving

Attempts to move from one cave to another through the underground rivers led to the development of cave diving, with Swildon's Hole being the site of the first cave dive attempt in Britain, in 1934 and the first successful cave dive in Britain, being achieved the following year at Wookey Hole where the last sump is currently the deepest sump in Britain at convert|76|m|ft|0|abbr=on|lk=on.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

The cave complexes at St. Dunstan's Well Catchment, Thrupe Lane Swallet, Lamb Leer and Priddy Caves have been identified as geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are also caves within the Cheddar Complex SSSI.

List of caves

A selection of the better known caves are listed below




External links

* [ Active Mendip]
* [ Google Map of Mendip Caves from Bracknell District Caving Club]
* [ Wiki about Mendip Caves from UK Caving]

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