Our next destination was the small village of Cheddar, which we actually stumbled upon by accident. After I spotted a large Market Cross we decided to stop, and after that, we decided to explore the village, and came across one of Somerset’s most incredible sights…
Status: Sedgemoor District, Somerset, Village, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Cheddar Gorge, Market Cross, Cheddar Cheese, Cheddar Caves etc
As we were driving through, on the way back towards Weston-super-Mare and our hotel, I spotted this rather impressive Market Cross in the centre of the village. We pulled over to have a look, and examined the fine stonework. It was first built in the 15th Century, and looking at the design we thought it looked like the exterior arches were a later add on, as the rest of the cross looks standalone. This turned out to be correct, as the arches were added in the 1600’s, and replaced in 1834, providing a place for a small covered market in the village (although I have since found out that a car crash in 2012 badly damaged the arches so they were restored, meaning they look even newer than 1834!).
We moved on through the village, after remembering about Cheddar’s most famous landmark, the Cheddar Gorge. On our way there we passed down some pleasant streets, past the quaint buildings that make up the village. Sadly we were a bit pressed for time, and only really had time to visit the Gorge so we had to miss out some of the hidden gems in the village, although hopefully we shall visit again sometime.
We did however pass Cheddar Methodist Church, shown on the left with the solar panels on the roof. So far I am unable to find a date for it’s construction, but its a lovely little building in a nice rural village.
We were soon approaching the entrance to the Gorge, which isn’t so much a physical entrance but the crossing of a boundary. The Gorge is 100% free to visit, at any time of day as a normal public road runs through the centre. On the way up to the Gorge we passed “Cheddar Rising”, the body of water in the picture. This is part of the Cheddar Yeo, a river which began high in the Somerset Hills and ran underground, underneath the Gorge itself until this point when it emerges. From here it runs on to the River Axe near Rackley.
There are numerous Caves on the way up to the Gorge, and they are open to the public for a small fee. A variety of other shops also line the entrance, where you can see the beginning of the stunning cliffs that will evolve into the Gorge further up the hill. There is also a National Trust visitor centre, as they own the caves here.
You may be wondering if the village has any connection with Cheddar Cheese? It was of course the birthplace of Britains favourite (and the USA’s 2nd favourite) Cheese, Cheddar. There is only one dairy left in the village that still produces the Cheese, varieties of which can be found all over the country. There are many foods in the UK that are protected by their place of origin, as in they can only be called their trademark name if they are made in a certain place. Cheddar on it’s own has no such protected status, although the many variety, which comes from this area of England, is called “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” and can only be called this if it is made in either Somerset, Cornwall, Devon or Dorset. Cheddar is my favourite Cheese and its great to visit it’s birthplace here in Somerset. We did pass the Cheddar Factory, which is located a little bit further back down the hill, on the way up to the Gorge.
This is the Gorge itself, one of the most incredible places we have visited in the UK. The towering cliffs rise up on either side of you, and parts of it look like something you would have seen in Jurassic Times. I half expected a Pterodactyl to come flying over the top!
The Gorge is made out of Limestone, and was created well over 13000 years ago, and was created when frozen soil, which covered this area, melted during warm months and ran along what was the original surface of the hill. The Gorge was gradually carved out by the water, and some of it seeped through the Limestone to create the fantastic caves beneath. This was made possible thanks to the Limestone being permeable. When the erosion was originally being carried out in the Gorge a river would have run through the centre but it eventually receded beneath the surface, linking in with the Cheddar Yeo which exits the Gorge and runs through the village.
At it’s tallest, the cliffs stand 449 feet above the road. There are more caves located in the Gorge, and one of them, called Gough’s Cave, is quite famous. The oldest complete skeleton in Britain was found here, and nicknamed Cheddar Man, who lived around 7150 BC. The cave also contains a large portion of the Cheddar Yeo, and is the location where it flows out of the Gorge. The river and it’s surrounding waterways make up the largest underground river system in the whole country. The Gorge just becomes more and more fascinating the further you explore.
Cheddar is a stunning place, and home to a truly incredible landmark. There are other things to see in the village, from St Andrew’s Church to the Cheddar Reservoir. Travel wise there is no train station, but the village is quite close to the A38 (South for Burnham-on-Sea, North for Bristol) and the M5 Motorway (South for Exeter, North for Bristol & Birmingham). Other major local places include the city of Wells, with its famous Cathedral. We returned to the hotel to rest up for our next day of travelling, which took us around the major city of Bristol, and the historic Roman City of Bath…