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Family day out to Kents Cavern!

When it’s stormy outside, what better place to take refuge than Kents Cavern in Torquay.

Like many prehistoric families before us, we headed underground to the safety of this amazing kilometre-long cave network to escape the howling winds and driving rain this October half-term.

The kids were instantly captivated. They had to be. Put anyone in a dark place with the sound of bear growls and an ever-present threat of sabre toothed tigers and they’ll soon focus.

Our cheerful tour guide Alfie warned us that the lights would be going out behind us as we made our way through one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe.

All around us, 400 million year old rocks and incredible stalagmites and stalactites glistened in the dim light.

          

 

         

One particularly gnarly rock formation is, according to our guide Alfie, known as the Mick Jagger because of its strange likeness to the legendary lead singer of the Rolling Stones. Geddit?

We all let out a spontaneous groan before being led even deeper underground, bending down and squeezing into single file as we negotiate the narrow passages.

To nine-year-old Jake’s horror then delight, he is chosen out of our 28-strong group to lead us, torch in hand, to the next stage of our journey where Alfie entertains us with tales of Ice Age animals, mammoth teeth, hyenas and skulls.

Props are provided throughout and passed around so we can see our ancient ancestors up close and marvel at how far we have evolved. At least some of us have anyway.

Then it’s into the Bear’s Den where things get really spooky. We are shown how Stone Age man used scallop shells full of animal fat and moss to make candles.

Alfie demonstrates the lovely warming glow these could give off using a not-so-ancient cigarette lighter before warning us that he’s about to kill the lights.

With that the candles are snuffed out.

You’ll never experience a darkness like it. You can’t tell if your eyes are open or shut. Of course, I was not in the slightest bit scared. I immediately grabbed what I hoped was my husband, just to make sure he was ok. I’m good like that.

Alice, seven, enjoyed a distinct advantage by wearing a glow in the dark Halloween top, which I could just make out in the pitch black.

After what seemed like two hours but was probably more like 30 seconds, the lights came back on and we made our way to the Great Chamber and an exhibition dedicated to Stone Age and Victorian excavators.

It’s incredible to think firstly that people lived in these caves and secondly that men without machinery or any sort of technology later set about exploring them.

Thanks to the likes of nineteenth and early twentieth century experts William Pengelly and Arthur Ogilvy, my children get to explore a place that is thought to be the earliest known human settlement in Britain. Now that’s a pretty good way to spend a Saturday.

When it’s stormy outside, what better place to take refuge than Kents Cavern in Torquay.

       

Like many prehistoric families before us, we headed underground to the safety of this amazing kilometre-long cave network to escape the howling winds and driving rain this October half-term.

The kids were instantly captivated. They had to be. Put anyone in a dark place with the sound of bear growls and an ever-present threat of sabre toothed tigers and they’ll soon focus.

Our cheerful tour guide Alfie warned us that the lights would be going out behind us as we made our way through one of the most important Stone Age sites in Europe.

All around us, 400 million year old rocks and incredible stalagmites and stalactites glistened in the dim light.

One particularly gnarly rock formation is, according to our guide Alfie, known as the Mick Jagger because of its strange likeness to the legendary lead singer of the Rolling Stones. Geddit?

We all let out a spontaneous groan before being led even deeper underground, bending down and squeezing into single file as we negotiate the narrow passages.

To nine-year-old Jake’s horror then delight, he is chosen out of our 28-strong group to lead us, torch in hand, to the next stage of our journey where Alfie entertains us with tales of Ice Age animals, mammoth teeth, hyenas and skulls.

Props are provided throughout and passed around so we can see our ancient ancestors up close and marvel at how far we have evolved. At least some of us have anyway.

Then it’s into the Bear’s Den where things get really spooky. We are shown how Stone Age man used scallop shells full of animal fat and moss to make candles.

Alfie demonstrates the lovely warming glow these could give off using a not-so-ancient cigarette lighter before warning us that he’s about to kill the lights.

With that the candles are snuffed out.

You’ll never experience a darkness like it. You can’t tell if your eyes are open or shut. Of course, I was not in the slightest bit scared. I immediately grabbed what I hoped was my husband, just to make sure he was ok. I’m good like that.

Alice, seven, enjoyed a distinct advantage by wearing a glow in the dark Halloween top, which I could just make out in the pitch black.

After what seemed like two hours but was probably more like 30 seconds, the lights came back on and we made our way to the Great Chamber and an exhibition dedicated to Stone Age and Victorian excavators.

It’s incredible to think firstly that people lived in these caves and secondly that men without machinery or any sort of technology later set about exploring them.

Thanks to the likes of nineteenth and early twentieth century experts William Pengelly and Arthur Ogilvy, my children get to explore a place that is thought to be the earliest known human settlement in Britain. Now that’s a pretty good way to spend a Saturday.

By Chrissy Harris

 

Read more about Kents Cavern here


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