Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Devil's Arse is quite a sight!

Now that title got your attention, didn't it?! 
Path to the Devil's Arse 

Today we enjoyed the second part of our Castleton caves joint ticket by paying a visit to The Devil's Arse, also more politely known as Peak Cavern. The more interesting name apparently came about due to local folks in historical times believing that the sound of gurgling water that sometimes heard from within the cave was actually the Devil himself farting. Although no water gurgled today, our guide did imitate the sound and I could understand why superstitious minds made the connection! The renaming was a hasty decision for Queen Victoria's first visit, a question of decorum!

The mouth of Peak Cavern is massive, so massive in fact that I couldn't get far enough back to capture its expanse in a photograph so you've got the dramatic cliffs overshadowing the path instead. Within the entrance cavern, we were treated to a demonstration of ropemaking - from fragile flax to sturdy rope - which we both found fascinating. Parts of Hailsham are named for the ropemaking industry there, but I had never thought through its practicalities before. I now understand just what that statue outside Hailsham Tesco is doing! Troglodytes lived and worked in Peak Cavern as ropemakers from the 1600s until 1915, amazingly, and we saw what I presume is a replica of one of their tiny dwellings

Peak Cavern does have some low overhangs, but is far less claustrophobic than Speedwell Cavern and is completely walkable - no boat rides here. We were shown rock formations including flowstones and unusually dark coloured little stalactites, the result of water trickling through volcanic rock above. Another change for Queen Victoria, this time for her second visit, was the blasting through of a short bypass tunnel at one point, high enough for her to walk through. Previously visitors had lain individually in a 'boat' that looked suspiciously like an unlidded coffin and been shoved through a very small aperture along a short stream. It looked horrifying so I was glad of the manmade alternative. Most of the Cavern is still natural though.

Approaching Peak Cavern through Castleton 
Speedwell Cavern and Peak Cavern could easily both be visited in a single day, although it is possible to book a joint ticket that lasts six months. This is what we did, taking advantage of the early bird discount which didn't actually require us to get up especially early. Booking is advised for Speedwell and we got lucky with Peak Cavern today as there were only six people on our tour, but a whole school party arriving as we left! Do allow time to appreciate the pretty walk to Peak Cavern. From the car park, we walked along narrow streets between extremely cute little cottages and alongside a small river with arched stone bridges. All very picturesque! There were even Shetland ponies in a field (with the obligatory sheep).

On a different note, an urgent 38 Degrees appeal for action:
Our bees are in danger again. Toxic chemical companies are trying to get
their banned pesticides back on UK fields. On Tuesday an application was submitted to the government asking them to lift the ban on bee-killing chemicals for some crops planted this autumn. A huge petition will make it clear to the environment minister, Elizabeth Truss, that she still needs to protect our bees, not the toxic profits of bee-killing chemical companies. Please sign this 38 Degrees petition.

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