Cheddar is a gorge lying on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. The maximum depth of the gorge is 137 m (449 ft), with a near-vertical cliff-face to the south, and steep grassy slopes to the north. The area is underlain by Black Rock slate, Burrington Oolite and Clifton Down Limestone of the Carboniferous Limestone Series, which contain ooliths and fossil debris, on top of Old Red Sandstone and by Dolomitic Conglomerate of the Keuper. Evidence for Variscan orogeny is seen in the sheared rock and cleaved shales. In many places weathering of these strata has resulted in the formation of immature calcareous soils. The gorge was formed by meltwater floods during the cold periglacial periods which have occurred over the last 1.2 million years. During the ice ages permafrost blocked the caves with ice and frozen mud and made the limestone impermeable. When this melted during the summers, water was forced to flow on the surface, and carved out the gorge. During warmer periods the water flowed underground through the permeable limestone, creating the caves and leaving the gorge dry, so that today much of the gorge has no river until the underground Cheddar Yeo river emerges in the lower part from Gough's Cave. The river is used by Bristol Water, who maintain a series of dams and ponds which supply the nearby Cheddar Reservoir via a 137-centimetre (54 in) diameter pipe that takes water just upstream of the Rotary Club Sensory Garden, a public park in the gorge opposite Jacob's Ladder. The gorge is susceptible to flooding. In the Great Flood of 1968 the flow of water washed large boulders down the gorge, damaging the cafe and entrance to Gough's Cave and washing away cars. In the cave itself the flooding lasted for three days.
Cheddar Gorge & Caves are famous for the discoveries made by archaeologists about Britain's pre-historic past. The Cheddar Man Museum tells the amazing story of how our ancestors lived through a 40,000-year struggle for survival during the Ice Age. The Museum of Prehistory brings together the findings from Cheddar excavations and shows how they fit into the bigger global history of our species. The thinking of some of Britain's leading archaeologists, palaeontologists and anthropologists is used in telling the story. On display, amongst other things, are original flint tools, butchered human remains that are evidence of cannibalism, a replica of Cheddar Man, reproductions of art objects and music, video footage and live demonstrations of our ancestors' survival skills, a hunter-gatherers' encampment, demonstrations of flint knapping and fire making, hands-on cave painting.
Did you know? The butchered human remains scattered around Gough’s Cave are evidence that suggests our ancestors were cannibals. Cannibalism was probably normal everywhere until farming became widespread 6,000 – 4,000 years ago. Two flint spear points dated to 40,000 years ago are evidence of our species' earliest arrival in Britain. As it grew colder, they left again. Butchered horse bones excavated from Gough's Cave date to the end of the great Ice Age. Our ancestors, the Horse Hunters of Cheddar Gorge, stampeded their prey over the cliff edges. Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest complete skeleton, was buried in Gough's Cave 9,000 years ago. Cave painting and hunter-gatherer re-enactments take place most days between April and September. Wheelchair users can access the Museum via a ramp and a small lift. Interpretation panels with large type and some audio are available for the visually impaired. There are good displays, videos and interpretation panels for the hard of hearing. There are clifftop walks with stunning views and public access to the caves. Gough Cave visit includes an audio guide. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. and The Original Cheddar Cheese Co. are nearby.
Location : The Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset BS27 3QF
Transport: Weston Super Mare (National Rail) then FIRST Bus 126 (Sundays 826). Bus Routes : 126 (826 Sundays) and 668 stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 - 17:00
Tickets Gorge, Museum and Caves: Adults £16.95; Children (5 - 15) £11.95
Tel: 01934 742343