Thursday, 12 March 2015

Underground Boat Trip

We found an opportunity yesterday to go down a hole in the ground, having been at Castleton with Rosie to take local photographs.  Speedwell Cavern is situated at the bottom of Winnats Pass in Derbyshire.  It is unique as a visit and the caverns are deliberately isolated from the rest of the cave system to maintain this unique access.
 As an old lead mine, this was an expensive and unprofitable business.  Now a tourist attraction, it is able to turn a profit.  The cost of maintaining the caverns and the provision of liability insurance makes this an expensive visit at £10 full adult price, but it is the only way you can have this unique experience.
 Be prepared to descend about 160 unevenly spaced steps in cramped conditions to reach the mining levels - you will be provided with a hard hat and you will need it!
 The guide will use one of two boats to navigate the length of the first tunnel.  I was impressed by the skill and showmanship of our guide who was able to turn a difficult boat trip into a dynamic and animated theatrical event.
 The flooded tunnel is low and there is a significant hazard of the boat regularly bumping the walls, so all hands must remain inside the boat rim at all times.  Hard hats are also essential here.
 Look out for the stalactites at the top of the large chamber at the end of the run.  There is a lot to take in during the visit and you need to be on the boats to understand what the mine is all about.
Then there is the joy of the return trip via the passing place along the tunnel and of course the ascent up those 160ish steps which seem more than when you went down them.
Although I have spent some time in my youth going down holes in the Derbyshire countryside, which has one of the largest cave systems in Europe, this was my first trip down Speedwell Cavern.  I was not disappointed and would recommend this unusual attraction to anyone who is moderately fit enough to climb the steps in their own time.
Ah! Sunshine, and the prospect of walking up Winnats Pass - or turning around and visiting one of the fine cafes in Castleton - Yum!

Advisory Note
If you are thinking of visiting the Cavern, car parking is £4 all day at the machine.  Pay the car parking fee when you book your cavern trip and you will be charged £1 for the parking and given a hand written ticket for your windscreen. If you are a pensioner or a carer, you will need to ask for concessions.

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