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Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole, Somerset

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Wookey Hole caves nestles in the Somerset countryside near Wells. As well as the caves and it's legends there are other things to see and do at this site including a visited to a Victorian Paper Mill, where they still make paper by hand today, a cave museum, Dinosaur Valley, Fairy Garden, Victorian old penny pier arcade with mirror maze and more.

History

In 1914 archaeologist Herbert Balch published his results of some investigations he had done into human remains which had been found in the caves. It is believed that earliest man 50,000 years ago lived within the caves and when the Celtic peoples of the Iron Age moved into Britain the caves were a safe and comfortable place to live with a constant temperature of 11 degrees Celsius. By the 15th century only bones, broken pottery and legends remained.

In 1926 electric light was added so that visitors could better see the detail of the rock. As well as bringing colour to the caves it also brought life with Moses algae and bright green ribbons of hart's tongue ferns began growing, and horseshoe or pipistrelle bats have made it their home.

There have been many explorations made by man/divers over the years and in the museum you can see the various pieces of equipment used particularly that used by Graham Balcombe and Penelope Powell who over a number of years from 1935 explored from chambers 1 to 25.

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Picture showing part of fairy garden and entrance to Caves

Legends - The Witch of Wookey

In the 18th Century local people said the Witch of Wookey was an evil old woman who lived in the caves with her dog, and one day while in the process of casseroling a child a monk who hand entered the cave sprinkled her with holy water and turned her to stone. There is a Welsh Legend which says King Arthur slew the black witch "who lived in the cave at the head of the Stream of Sorrow on the confines of Hell". 

In 1912 Herbert Balch found human bones, a dagger and an alabaster ball amongst some Iron Age Remains (these can be seen at Wells Museum, in the centre of Wells). But on a visit to the caves you can enter the Witches Kitchen (chamber 2) and touch the shining stalagmites of the Wookey Hole Witch and her dog.

The Wookey Hole Paper Mill

There has been a Mill at Wookey Hole for centuries, there is mention of one which was used to grind corn in the Domesday Book of 1086. At some later point it may have been converted to a fulling mill, which is where woven wool is beaten into broadcloth. However, by 1610 it had become a papermill, where paper was made by hand, the clean water of the River Axe, little air pollution and the shelter in the valley providing good drying breezes made it an ideal site. By the 19th Century machinery was starting to take over however in 1848 a London Stationer called William Hodgkinson bought it so as to preserve the tradition of high quality paper for watermarked bank notes and legal paper. WHpapermill.jpg (248995 bytes)
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The Hodgkinson family owned the site until 1950 and during this time the family built the mill buildings, a church, houses and school and at it's height it employed around 200 people. In 1976 the mill was revived and today is one of only two handmade paper mills in Britain. The mill still produces artists paper and souvenir items, which can be purchased in their gift shop, by mail order, some quality paper retailers in London, and exports it all over the world.

Visitors can take a tour of the mill and see the handmaking process of making paper and some even get the chance to have a go at some of the process themselves, like the children in these photos.

 

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Getting the mould ready. Up to their elbows in 'stuff'.

With the aid of the VATMAN the mould full of 'stuff' is shaken to even out the mixture and at the same time the excess water is drained off.

WHPaperMaking04.jpg (223671 bytes) WHPaperMaking05.jpg (226383 bytes) WHPaperMaking06.jpg (224543 bytes)See Larger Image
See Larger Image Now taking on the role of the CROUCHER who places the 'stuff' mould onto a sheet of damp woollen felt.

See Larger Image Lifting off the mould leaving the
watermarked 'stuff' on the felt.

Now adding his handprints and footprints onto the paper sheet. From here the sheets are sandwiched between Hessian cloths to dry out.
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Some Terminology Explained

Stuff

The name given to a porridge like substance made of cotton and water, the main ingredients of handmade paper.

Mould

The mould is rectangular and made of wood, it supports a find wire mesh of phosphor-bronze which is sewn into intricate designs to make the watermarks.

See Larger Image A rack of paper hanging to out to dry.

 

Cave Museum

In this museum you will find displays giving more information about the history of the caves and various digs which have taken place over time. The caves at Wookey have provided rich pickings for archaeologists over the years. Workman in 1857 found the remains of prehistoric man, including flint tools and animal bones. In 1912 they found almost a complete skeleton of an old woman, the remains of goats and a dagger amongst other Iron Age remains.  Many of these items are now on display in the Cave Museum as well as at Wells City Museum nearby.

 

King Kong and Dinosaur Valley

For the children there are over 20 life-size dinosaurs in the park from Tyrannosaurus Rex to Stegasaurus. You can wander around the park and here these quite vocal inhabitants.

 

  See Larger Image Simon Scurr

Fairy Garden

Your walk back from the caves takes you through the Fairy Garden, with fairies, dragons and elves. Flowing through the centre is the River Axe as it emerges from the depths of the caves into the British sunshine.

 

The Magical Mirror Maze

Is a modern version of an old mirror show that would have accompanied a travelling fairground. The mirrors are each 8ft high and there are over 40 of them and it is made to look more magical with lights. See if you can find your way around, it is difficult, taxing and amusing to wonder around. See the many faces of yourself or your travelling party.

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Victorian Pier Penny Arcade

Here you will find the biggest collection of original Edwardian Penny Arcade machines in the country, and visitors can play them with real old pennies! You can change your money at the kiosk, and they will give you a pocketful of old (large) pennies to use on any of the machines.

 

New attraction includes the Wookey Hole Circus Show put on three times a day during the summer months, or just on weekends at other times.

 

Allow at least 2 hours for your visit to complete the tour of the caves, valley and mill. After the cave tour you can walk around the valley and mill at your leisure and you can leave and re-enter the mill at anytime during the day on production of your Wookey Pass.

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Further information Grid

 

Location:

Wookey Hole Caves and PaperMill, Somerset

Ceremonial County: Somerset

Grid Reference:

ST 531477

Map Link:

VIEW MAP

Aerial photo:

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Multimap Aerial Photo

Route(s):

 

Best Times to Visit:

Any time - good all weather attraction. If caves are closed because water level is high, there is still plenty of other indoor activities to do

E-mail:

witch@wookey.co.uk

Website:

www.wookey.co.uk

Other useful websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wookey_Hole_Caves

Nearby Locations:

Cheddar Gorge and Caves

Glastonbury Abbey and Tor

Wells Cathedral and Bishops Waltham Palace

Other Relevant pages:  
 

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Planning Grid

Location:

Wookey Hole Caves and PaperMill, Somerset

Grid Reference:

ST 531477

Getting there:

2 miles from Wells of the A371.

Access:

Once you have done the cave tour, you can walk around the valley and mill at your leisure, re-entering the mill at any time during the day on production of the Wookey Pass.

Parking:

Free parking onsite

Facilities:

Toilets, Cafe, Restaurant and Shops

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

The magnificent caves, the Paper Mill where visits can watch the making of paper the traditional way and also have a go, dinosaur valley with 20 life size model dinosaurs, Victorian penny arcade, mirror maze, the fairy garden in the valley where there are statues, plants and the River Axe coming out the caves and making it's way through the valley.

What to take:

Camera, flash, Sensible shoes for in the cave as they can be wet

Nature highlights:

 

Address:

Wookey Hole Caves

Wookey Hole

Wells

Somerset

Postcode:

BA5 1BB

Telephone:

01749 672243

Opening times:

Daily. 1 Apr-31 Oct 10am to 5pm; 1 Nov-31 Mar 10am to 4pm.

Closed 25th and 26th December. Open Weekends and school holidays during December and January

Charges:

Adults 15; Children 10 (3-14) Under 3yrs Free; Family 45; Concessions 10

Photo Restrictions:

 

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Caves and valley not suitable for disabled visitors in wheelchairs in the caves (there are over 200 steps) or valley, they can access the Papermill.
Special Needs Facilities:

Disabled toilets in the car park and mill

Concessionary rate for wheelchair users, and one carer

Children Facilities: Buggies and small children need to be carried through caves. Baby changing facilities.
Dogs Allowed: Guide Dogs only

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.

 


By: Tracey Park Section: Theme Parks Key:
Page Ref: WookeyHole Topic: Activities and Educational  Last Updated: 07/2009

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