Friday, April 17, 2009

Wookey Hole Caves

In its 50,000 year history, Wookey Hole Caves has seen it share of inhabitants such as the Neanderthal man and Romans. At a constant temperature of 11 °C or 52 °F, the caves are a prime location for maturing Cheddar cheese. In 1935, Chamber 7 was the location of the first successful cave diving expedition in Britain performed by Graham Balcombe, Penelope Powell, and their cave diving group. However, Wookey Hole Caves is most known for a certain witch.

Stories surrounding this legend vary. A woman wronged by life in some way decides to take her frustration out on the females of the village. In one version, the villagers banded together and requested the services of a monk from Glastonbury. In another, the witch curses the romance of a couple. When it fails, the man becomes a monk and seeks revenge on the witch. Either way, the monk enters the cave. He blesses the water and begins splashing it among parts of the cave. Supposedly, some of the holy water was splashed on the witch, turning her to stone. She remains in the cave 'til this day.

The Witch of Wookey Hole is actually a stalagmite in the first chamber of the caves. Over the years, the rock took on a human form and thus, a legend is born. But is it really just a tale? The story was first written down in 1748 though circulated among generations for years before. In 1912, cave explorer H. B. Balch found evidence that may substantiate some of the story. He discovered a milking pot, a ball made from a stalagmite, tools and even human remains which may or may not belong to the "witch".

If that weren't enough, the caves are also said to be haunted. The ghost of a potholer who drowned is said to roam the chambers. The spirit of a child who died on the site has also been seen. Of course, the witch herself is believed to demostrate her powers on occasion. For more on Wookey Hole, check out their website, take the virtual tour and watch the live webcam.