I’m sure that most cachers have a “must do” list of caches that they would love to visit. Ever since I spotted it, the ‘Banwell Bonecaves’ earthcache (GC3M60D) had been on mine. This earthcache was placed at a very unique spot: A cave full of animal bones which had been excavated and placed on display in the 1800’s by The Bishop of Bath and Wells. He claimed that the bones were proof of Noah’s flood and placed them on display as a warning to those who disobeyed God! The bone caves are made all that more special by the fact that they aren’t accessible daily like most tourist attractions, instead you have to visit on a rare open day or private tour. I enquired at the beginning of the year about open day dates, but was told that none would be available this year which was very sad indeed. That didn’t stop us though and I arranged for a private tour with Doggywalker, Hollyncharlie, Helennbrian and stones2005 and we headed to Somerset to take a look around.
Banwell Bone Caves
We started our private tour with a video presentation to give us some background on the caves and show us what the deeper caves are like. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to go and explore those ones. After the video we headed to the main bone cave passing the information board where we all quickly jotted down the answers to the earthcache! 😉
The bone cave is a large cavern around 40ft in diameter and 20ft tall. The owners had placed candles around the cave to light it up and give atmosphere and told us about the bones that were contained within the chamber. We were then free to explore and take photos of the fascinating cave.
We then headed up the hill to see the other interesting buildings on site. Interestingly we could see our campsite and our tents from this spot!
We visited the summerhouse which was renovated to look exactly as the original by following old records. There were some fantastic views from the summerhouse too.
The final attraction was the tower. The tower had had a massive restoration lasting around a decade and it really was quite magnificent that it had been restored so well. We followed the spiral staircase to the top for some wonderful panoramic views.
We finished our morning with yummy cream teas and cakes at the owner’s houses. It really was so kind of them to open their home to us and take us around this unique attraction. I’d really recommend booking a private tour of Banwell Bone caves. The tour lasted about 2 and a half hours and the owners were so knowledgeable. Tours can be booked via their website: http://www.banwellcaves.org/
Off-Piste and in the dark
Continuing our underground theme for the day we headed off for another cache which had been on my to do list for about 2 years, Off Piste and in the Dark (GCZKQ7). This fantastic 7 stage multi devised in 2006 takes you around Sandford woods and down underground into Sandford Levvy. After the bone caves we headed here with Doggywalker, stones2005, Yorkie63 and MummaD for a bit of an explore. We headed up, down, and around on paths and off-piste around the woods collecting the clues. At one point we took a bit of a diversion to try and obtain the Somerset Well Rounded Cacher Challenge (GC22QHC) however I realised that we were meant to have contacted the CO before attempting it to get a hint as to where the cache was (Down in a cave!) so we gave up on it, but did see some fabulous views on the way to the location.
Once we had got all of the clues we headed to the entrance to Sandford Levvy. This mine was a particularly interesting one. It’s a horizontal passage around several hundred metres long with two intersecting crossroads with tight, short passages. The mine was dug in 1830 in an attempt to locate ore, but wasn’t a commercial success. However, it found a new use in the second world war when it was used by the Auxiliary Unit of the local Home Guard. A paving slab floor continues along the start of the mine which was created by the home guard. Some remains of their wooden bunks can be found inside the mine as well. Unfortunately we didn’t see any bats when inside, but plenty of cave spiders and stone mosths instead. The British Resistance Archive website has some information on the patrol who occupied the mine during WWII at http://www.coleshillhouse.com/sandford-levy-bunker.php
We headed in across the paving slabs and past some fantastic calcite formations on the walls with cave pearls forming on the floor.
It didn’t take us long to find the micro inside the mine which helped us get the coordinates for the final, however, we wanted to carry on exploring first. We headed deeper into the mine until we reached a beautiful calcite floor which sparkled in our torchlights.
On the way out we spotted something we hadn’t noticed on the way in which was my favourite feature of the mine, a Quartz Geode large enough to place your hand in and covered in crystals.
The final cache was a big ammo can and a great reward for our hard work! A great cache and a definite favourite!
During our trip to Somerset we paid a visit to the beautiful Cheddar Gorge. We walked up all 257 steps of Jacobs ladder and followed the gorge walk around the top before finally reaching the geocaches near the bottom. It was a beautiful day when we walked it and the caches were very rewarding when we eventually reached them.