Cheddar is Britain's largest gorge, boasting an elaborate
cave system and limestone cliffs which rise spectacularly from the valley floor.
It's also great for wildlife from bats to bugs!
Gorge - a natural wonder.|
Photo - Cheddar Caves and Gorge
Cheddar Gorge lies on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills in
Somerset, and is a major tourist attraction, especially in summer.
out in the Ice Age, the cathedral-sized caves are breathtakingly enormous and
you might even run into a distant relative - Cheddar Man.
complete skeleton was discovered at Cheddar Caves in 1903, having been buried
below ground for 9,000 years.
As well as human life, wildlife has been
an inhabitant of these caves for centuries including the British Cave Spider.
also a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats, a highly protected species which don't
like to be disturbed.
There are at least three roosts in the caves and visitors
report regular sightings of them flitting about.
In the afternoon the bats
start waking up and gradually become more active.
the evening the bats leave the cave and hunt around the woodlands catching insects.
creatures have an amazing ability to find their way around in the dark using a
bat version of sonar - a series of sound bursts sent out at a frequency higher
than humans can hear.
There are estimated to be only around 14,000 Lesser
Horse Shoe Bats in Britain and all of those confined to Wales and the South West
Cheddar Caves and their three roosts are an important stronghold
for the species.
Whilst in the caves, visitors are guaranteed to see the
Cave Spiders, but a bat sighting will be more down to chance.
speaking, the later in the day you visit the more likely you will be to see them,
although sometimes the bats can be spotted around midday when they become restless.
top to bottom
good way of seeing the changing geology and plant life at Cheddar Gorge is to
work your way from the top right to the bottom.
On your journey you'll see
how different wildlife has used specific levels of the Gorge to make their home.
grassland dominates the Gorge's plateau, and during summer it's packed with summer
flowers including stunning Spotted Orchids, and colourful patches of Wild Thyme.
Cheddar Pink is totally unique to the Cheddar Gorge and it's one of Britain's
rarest plants, also known as Firewitch.
Its family is native to the Mediterranean,
and it's so rare that it isn't found anywhere else in the world.
Pink blooms around the time of Pentecost, and the Dutch for this religious date
is Pinkster, hence the name.
the gorge gently descends from its upper to mid slopes, a thick cover of hazel
and oak coppice takes over from the grassland.
It's in here that one of
our most endearing British mammals has made its home - the Dormouse.
healthy population of these creatures is due to the
excellent mixture of trees
including Hazel and Oaks.
This little creature takes about 15 minutes to
wake from its deep sleep and torpor.
Dormice walks and courses are available
through the Mammal Society for those interested in getting involved.
Cave and gorge photos copyright
and courtesy of Cheddar Caves and Gorge.