Friday, February 29, 2008

Outside the Wyre: Kents Cavern

You've read his comments! You seen the adverts for his website! You've heard about his fondness for Last of the Summer Wine. He's been away from this board for a while, but now he's back...which means I don't have to create a midweek posting this week.
So let's have a big hand for Mr. John Steventon from across the pond, and his occasional guest-blog (and before you all start celebrating, this service will be back to it's usual cruddy self next Thursday...so put the champagne back in the fridge):


Torquay, the Riviera of the English Coast. Many have traveled there, and many more have joked about it, and some, I dare say, have explored its many mysteries and histories. Agatha Christie, for one, and in her explorations she too delved into the depths of Kents Cavern, and even wrote about it in The Man in the Brown Suit.
Torquay is a seaside resort area, filled with natural beauty and, unfortunately, not so beauteous tourists. That aside, there is a lot of history to explore, and the coast is riddled with caves that allow us to reach back into the time of early man and prehistoric creatures. Many of the caves have been blocked up, to prevent tourists from getting caught in them at high tide, but the finest (that we know of in the area), is Kents Cavern, and is open to the public.
Before I go on, and before the fine people of Kents Cavern send their burly cousins after me, let me state the fact that it is not easy to maintain such a site these days. Museums and other educational facilities find it difficult to capture the attention of wandering tourists, but need to do so for the many expenses that operating and maintaining such a place requires. So, yes, there is an entrance fee, and a gift shop that rivals the caverns themselves. There is also a nice cafĂ©, a hiking trail, and some gardens to peruse. Unfortunately, many of the artifacts are in the British Museum, or off being studied, leaving behind some mannequins dressed as paleontologists and cave people, some plastic replicas, and, when it works, a laser light show. The tour guides also have some pretty bad jokes, and I hear there is sometimes a person dressed up as ‘Cavog the Caveman’.
I thank the Lord that I didn’t have to put up with Cavog the Caveman on my trip.
Okay, this all sounds rather silly for a place that British Heritage has labeled “beyond doubt one of the most important sites in Britain for Paleolithic archaeology”. However, tourist money is important to maintaining this site, and I urge you to visit if ever in the area. The truth is, it is such an interesting place that you can’t help but learn something there, if only accidently. Someone with half a brain or more will actually come away with a lot to think about, regardless of the laser light show and monumental gift shop.
So, the facts: Human beings were using the cave fro over 350,000 years ago. This is mind boggling if you think about it, especially considering that humans as we know them go back as much as 35,000 years ago. Not only has the cave been used for hundreds of thousands of years, but detritus from the outside world has washed into it, carrying the remains of all sorts of creatures who did not live in the caves. The people of Kents cavern claim to have a hand axe that dates to 500,000 years old; Not a claim to make lightly, let me tell you.
There really is too much to tell you in a humble little blog like this. The cavern has the stalactites and stalagmites you would expect from a cave, and some of them are quite nice. There are rock formations, and stone tools, and animal remains, and minerals, and just a lot to see. It’s a small tour, unfortunately, but I bought the souvenir guide book which is chock full of interesting facts and photos. In fact, I wish I had read the guidebook first, so I could have appreciated even more the things I saw.
In closing, I will say that if you are visiting Torquay, it may be worthwhile to hike up the mountain to see the caverns. It’s a long walk, but there is a pub at the top (bonus!), and at least two shops that sell excellent Cornish Pasties on the way. The caverns are at the top of the mountain, just below the pub, and it is a lovely walk to the top, and a beautiful view when you get there. You also pass the Torquay Museum on the way, which is another place worth visiting.
For more information, please visit http://www.kents-cavern.co.uk

John Steventon Feb. 29, 2008

15 comments:

John said...

Thank you, Brian, for the rousing introduction.

Thanks also for another opportunity to share with you a fine place of historical interest within your fine country that I've had the pleasure to visit.

But 0 comments? I'm gonna develop a complex...

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Feral Beast said...

Thank you for telling me about that and if I ever get to go to the UK I will be going there.

Brian Hughes said...

John,

After some of the comments I've been getting recently, you should be glad.

Mr. Beast,

Just make sure you visit the many historical and archaeological wonders of the Wyre first. I think John's angling for a job at the Torquay tourist board to be honest...although they might get upset about his comments concerning their caveman mascot.)

John said...

Brian,
Have you seen Cavog the Caveman? I'm sorry, but I'm not crazy about people in costumes. I don't like clowns, either, if that's any consolotion.

Btw, if you click on the wooly mammoth photo, you can read many more fascinating facts about Kent's Cavern.

And remember... "Torquay! We still got it!" For more information, please visit your travel agent.

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

John,

Can't say I've ever met Cavog the Caveman. Then again, I've never met anybody who actually likes clowns either. (Apart from Martyn, of course...he's a big fan of 'em.) Ghastly creatures. It's about time the chemical companies came up with some sort of spray to get rid of them.

Bwca said...

oh 'across the pond' - Johnno's a Septic?
That's why he doesn't immediately associate caves with The Famous Five ... and why he didn't mention Torquay-inspired Fawlty Towers - which was my first thought when I saw the photo of the white hotel:
"would you people please stop bothering me, can't you see I've got an hotel to run".

John said...

Of course I associate Torquay with Fawlty Towers... or is that Watery Fowls? Honestly, there's a heck of a lot more I wanted to write about Kents Cavern and Torquay, but I didn't want to push my luck.

Brian's Golden Rule is to "keep it short so the audience is left wanting more".

Hopefully ya'll be wanting more.
:0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS I've got a Muh-ther.... and eight brothers who love me.

PSS Don't mind him... he's from Barcelona.

Brian Hughes said...

'Brian's Golden Rule is to "keep it short so the audience is left wanting more".

No...Brian's golden rule is "keep it short because I can't be bothered writing anything longer."

The Actor said...

I think that you'll find that, in reality, I dislike clowns.

Brian Hughes said...

Damn it, and I've just sent you that parcel full of Charlie Cairoli stuff!

JahTeh said...

Very nice John, but for interesting you couldn't beat our Narracoorte Caves in South Australia. Unfortunately we don't have a caveman but there's probably a pub nearby, usually is.

Brian Hughes said...

Creep.

John said...

Brian,
who are you calling a creep? Did I miss something?

Thanks for the comments, everyone! Maybe seeing all this chit chat will encourage Brian to invite me back for another post.

:0)

Let's see, I can write about West Kennet Long Barrow, or Avebury, or 'interesting stuff found while renovating my house', although 40 year old Christmas cards, and Automobile calendars from 1972 hardly qualify for a blog about Wyre Archeology.

Cheers, JOHn :0)

JahTeh said...

'Crawler' is the word, I might want to (if I go insane) visit the States one day.

Brian Hughes said...

Sorry...I didn't mean to type the word 'creep'. I was just choking on a bit of toast after I read Witchy's comment. John, you're always welcome to post most stuff here. It gives me an opportunity to do something other than write for this board for a few days...and that's got to be a good thing for everyone.