Ah, United Kingdom.
Such vistas you have to offer, such HISTORY. Such grace.
So, why is it that I find myself thinking most fondly of one of the most kitschy places I’ve visited in years?
Because – WOOKEY HOLE.
My friend, Jennifer Kelley, had been living in the UK on and off since 1996, and had apparently been seeing advertisement posters for Wookie Hole for many years. Locally, the damn things are apparently plastered everywhere.
When she mentioned it the other day – the first thing that perked my interest was ‘Wookey’. The second word that drew me in the rest of the way? CAVE.
Those of you who have been following me on my travel blog know how much I ADORE caves.
The two words combined?
I HAD to go.
The village of Wookey Hole, out in Somerset, is very quaint and quite pretty. The tourist attraction, however, is garish to the point of almost being off-putting. Since nothing like that had stopped me in the past, we continued past the ‘little Witch and Wizard’ loos, onward to the ice cream shop, in which the tickets were being sold.
It was enough for me to pause, albeit briefly. There was a cave, however, and I didn’t know if I’d actually be able to visit another cave while in the country on this particular trip, so I belive my next words were, “Ah, well. Fuck it. They have dinosaurs too, so that should be fun, right?”
I had no idea.
It needs to be mentioned that the queue for the tickets takes exactly as long as it takes for cold molasses to begin moving to slowly slide along the sides of the jar its currently residing in. I was hoping that this wasn’t indicative of the events ahead.
With tickets finally purchased, we made our way up a paved hill along a really gorgeous path. Lots of greenery and moss covered rocks everywhere. At some point, there were breaks in the fencing, through which you can see the large, fiberglass dinosaurs in the park below. The entire park is in a rather large area that seems to be carved out of the surrounding mountain, feeling a bit Lost World-ish. It was a great deal nicer than Dinosaur Land in Virginia, I can tell you – which both surprised and pleased me.
The winding path up to the mouth of the cave is a short walk, but the tours through the cave only happen every 20 minutes, so we ended up standing for a bit, talking to a pair of local girls who were on their first time visit as well. They had apparently wanted to check the park out for years, but had just not gotten around to it until now.
After a lovely chat, we finally gained entrance to the cave. The tour guide ushered us all into the ‘staging area’, where he proceeded to climb up on a rock and loudly go through the story of the Wookey Witch (so as to be heard over the shouts of the various children in the group). Once you stride past the large statue of the Wookey Witch at the front, the cave was actually impressive. It was far larger than I thought it would be, and our tour guide was suitably hilarious.
There are large pools of water throughout the cave, and at one point we were taken into a chamber at the edge of the Axe River. There was a small boat at the river’s edge that apparently looked just like a scene out of Skyrim. The lighting wasn’t really all that good, and my Nikon is fairly crap at low lighting, because I haven’t yet figured out all the settings and didn’t have my tripod with me – and we weren’t allowed to use flash. The tour also takes you over a gorge-ish slash through the cave, with a steep drop to the river, which was quite exiting.
During the tour, we learned that Wookey Cave was the site of the first cave dive in the world.
Once the cave tour was through, the cave mouth opened into what looked like sewer tunnels with faux pre-historic cave paintings on them, nicely topped off by the playful, comic image of a farting Mammoth that seemed to be vomiting a rather alarming amount of brown goo from its trunk, to form splatty words on the wall.
The rest of the park is also quite nice. Throughout the first area, there are lots of surprising, delightful little tiny faerie doors in and around the river, with a collection of lovely statuary. There is also a rather impressive assortment of Dinosaurs and other Pleistocene epoch mammals (including a somewhat challenged/confused Dire Wolf) as you make your way through. Various animals would make surprise roaring or growling noises as you walked by, which was somewhat entertatining. There was a small ‘excavation’ area, where you could pretend to be discovering new fossils, which looked entertaining.
Near this was an opportunity to endure the Wookey 4d Experience, which we chose to take a miss on.
Once inside the building that provided further ‘attractions’, we encountered a collection of truly morbid and delightful old timey games that depicted Chinese, French, English and American style executions. For 20p, you could watch as Chinese swordsmen chopped off somebody’s head, as somebody was guillotined, hanged, and eventually electrocuted. There were also several ‘naughty’ 20p machines, were you could look at naked women doing what must have been fairly racy things back in the 20’s (one apparently had a women simply eating a bowl of fruit).
We shot rubber balls at each other with large blue cannons for a few minutes before making our way to the penny arcade, which again was full of a rather impressive collection of antique gaming machines.
All in all, it was a spectacular way to spend £18.