Clearwell Caves

On Monday I took a short trip with my camera to Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean. The area was originally mined for ochre. Mining for iron ore began in the Iron Age (c. 100 BC), increased from Roman times and then increased considerably in the last century.

Mine shaft

The low light conditions made it difficult to take good photos without a tripod, but it was good practise!

Demonstration of water forming caves

One of the issues highlighted by the exhibits was how difficult life would have been for the miners, particularly the children (as young as six or seven) who were employed to carry 60-70lbs of iron ore at at time on their back in a ‘billy’ or hod, bent over to stop the ore from falling out. Another display highlighted the long-term health conditions suffered by miners later in life, such as bronchial difficulties.

Bronchial medicine bottles

I loved the sound chamber, where a standing wave of sound created loud and quiet areas around the cavern, giving an insight into how bats create a sound landscape. And I enjoyed playing the old air receiver that had been converted into a percussion instrument.

The skeleton pool had a mesmerising projection of ancient sea creatures who would have swum in the area 350 million years ago.

Ammonite and plant projections in the Skeleton Pool

In the well-stocked gift shop, I couldn’t resist buying a pot of ochre pigment that is still mined from the caves and a small lump of iron ore. After lunch at the Lamproom Cafe, I headed off for a walk around the meend (the area of land that has been mined). I attempted to follow the guided walk from the leaflet I picked up in the shop, but there were many more paths than described in the instructions, so I quickly gave up and just wandered around between the beautiful head-height ferns, fireweed and ancient trees.

Clearwell Meend
Mossy tree

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