Mendip caves

Introduction | Cheddar catchment | Wookey catchment | Burrington area | Eastern Mendip | Western Mendip

Cheddar Catchment

Cheddar Caves

The largest caves in the Cheddar catchment occur along the southern side of Blackdown, around Charterhouse. These caves, GB Cave, Charterhouse Cave, Longwood Swallet, Manor Farm Swallet and the recently extended Upper Flood Swallet are classic examples of swallet caves. Relative to their size, this group of caves, especially GB Cave, are some of the most intensively studied in the world. All five major caves are similar with streamways, often well decorated with stalagmites, descending down to a sump or a choke, with up to four tiers of relict high-level phreatic passages.

The caves drain to Cheddar Risings. Above these large springs at the mouth of Cheddar Gorge there is a complex series of abandoned caves. The largest is Gough’s Cave, 2.1 km long, which intercepts the underground River Yeo, which has been followed upstream through several deep sumps.

GB Cave

Reservoir Hole

Discovered in 1898, this show cave is also one of Europe’s most important Upper Palaeolithic archaeological sites and the home of ‘Cheddar Man’, one of several skeletons found in the cave. Mitochondrial DNA from this skeleton was found to match that of a school teacher living nearby today. Several other smaller caves, Great Oones Hole, Long Hole and Gough’s Old Cave occur higher in the cliffs. Further up the gorge is Reservoir Hole, a relict cave system which once drained to Cheddar. This cave is notable for ‘The Frozen Deep’, the largest chamber (by floor area) in the UK.
Upper Flood Swallet