About Caving on Mendip
What is Caving
Put simply, caving is the recreational exploration of caves and potholes. A typical caving trip may involve climbing, abseiling, crawling, swimming and walking. Caves may vary hugely in size and shape – some caves in the UK have chambers large enough to fit a cathedral, whilst in other places cavers may need to crawl on their bellies.
Some caves may have an abundance on calcite ‘formations’ (stalactites, stalagmites etc.) while others have none. Caves can be dry or wet, clean or muddy, horizontal or vertical, with waterfalls, streamways and lakes, or dry, sandy ‘fossil’ passages and chambers.
Why do people go Caving?
Caving gives people the opportunity to see things that few people have experienced. It is an exciting, challenging and rewarding pursuit which can be undertaken by anyone who is reasonably fit.
Some cavers may just choose to visit well-known caves while others want to discover places where no one has been before. Many cavers spend much of their time excavating blocked passageways with the aim of finding the major cave system that may be beyond, Most caves have been discovered this way.
Caving is one of the only forms of original exploration left and more accessible than most, with caving areas in many parts of the UK. In addition, British cavers go on many expeditions worldwide to explore previously unknown caves.
For many, caving can become a lifelong pursuit, with people starting as sporting cavers and developing other interests such as exploration and digging, cave diving, research and cave science, photography, art, surveying and mapping, conservation, archaeology and historical research.
How can people get involved?
Training and safety are of paramount importance – what to wear, what equipment, lights, emergency procedures. In order to learn to cave safely people should get help from experienced cavers. The easiest way to do this is to join a caving club. There are many caving clubs in the country. Most of the big clubs are based in areas close to caves but there are also caving groups in many cities.
The Cerberus Spelaeological Society (www.cerberusspeleo.org.uk) is a local Mendip based caving club with a modern headquarters/hostel at Oakhill north of Shepton Mallet. Anyone interested in finding out more is invited to get in contact at trycaving[at]cerberusspeleo.org.uk.
There are also organisations who offer cave training on a commercial basis and these can be found easily on the internet.
Mendip is great for active people - there are opportunities to go walking, riding, cycling, climbing, caving, fishing and many other things.
If the outdoors is your thing then look at what's on offer.
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50 Years of the Mendip Society
2015 saw the Society celebrating fifty years of looking after Mendip - an amazing achievement! To commemorate this historic event a full and varied program inaddition to the normal walks and talks, was organised.. The events were open to everyone and there was something happening every month throughout the year. Full details were available a special Anniversary Program.
A number of speciial projects were introduced as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations one of which is the formal establishment of the Mendip Way, combining both the West Mendip Way and East Mendip Way footpaths. The project involves signing the path in both directions from west to east and from east to west. A new guidebook is being prepared along with a supporting website.
Another project which is in progress is the publication of a new book ‘Man and the Mendips’, updating the 1971 publication which coincided with the Mendip 71 Exhibition we laid on at the Bishops Palace in Wells. If you have any memories of the early days of the Society you would be willing to share, or would be interested in getting involved in the project, then please get in contact.
Other projects are also in the pipeline so as they say, Watch This Space!
The Mendip Hills have a rich archaeological heritage, ranging from Mesolithic cave deposits to Second World War militaryfeatures. The landscape was exploited throughout the prehistoric with a wide range of site types including settlements and ritual landscapes.
The landscape appears to have had significance in the Neolithic, with such field monuments as mortuary enclosures and the henge-like Priddy Circles constructed during this period. There are approximately 300 barrows across the Mendip plateau, constructed between the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age, highlighting the ritual significance of this landscape. Bronze Age barrows are frequently found in linear cemeteries, such as Ashen Hill barrows and Priddy Nine Barrows. Late Bronze Age/Iron Age settlement sites such as Pitcher’s Enclosure, near West Harptree, or Dolebury hill fort, near Shipham, have been found around the edges of the higher ground. There is a concentration of possibly ritual field monuments in the centre of the plateau, but some monument types, suchas Bronze Age barrows, occur in most
Medieval and post medieval deserted or shrunken settlements and extensive relict field systems are found along the southern scarp edge of the limestone plateau in the central Mendip area. Relict field systems we re also found throughout the trial survey in the eastern Mendip Hills and a deserted element was recorded around nearly all of the settlements.
The mineral wealth of the Mendip Hills led to the development of a major Roman mining settlement at Charterhouse. Mining of lead continued in this area into the Post Medieval period, particularly around Charterhouse, Stockhill, East Harptree and Chancellor’s Farm, creating distinctive patterns in the landscape.
The extensive Second World War bombing decoy found on Black Down serves to highlight the wide range of archaeological monuments that are found in this area. The contemporary, or near contemporary, aerial photograph may sometimes be the only record for some other types of site from this period, including Prisoner of War and military bases. Two Prisoner of War camps were recorded to the north of Wells and the structures associated with an ammunition store and associated base were mapped near to Maesbury Castle.