Cheddar Gorge - History and Facts | History Hit

Cheddar Gorge

Antara Bate

14 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar is a small town in Somerset, England. The resident population is around 5,750.  It is set at the foot of the towering limestone Mendip Hills and can be approached through a gorge, the largest in the UK. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has evidence of settlements from 14,000 years ago.

Cheddar Gorge history

At almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, this is England’s largest gorge, and a place of spectacular natural beauty. The gorge would have begun forming about one million years ago during the last Ice Age when water from melting glaciers formed a river, which over time started to carve into the limestone rock creating the steep cliffs visible today. The Cheddar Yeo River gradually made its way underground, creating the famous Cheddar Caves.

One of these underground caves within the gorge is Gough’s Cave. Since its’ excavation, in 1890, Gough’s Cave has gained an international reputation for its historical and geological significance. The cave was the home of ‘Cheddar Man’; Britain’s oldest, complete skeleton found in 1903. It is also the site of the largest underground river system in Britain.

When he was found, there were claims that our five-foot-tall ancestor was the long-sought earliest Englishman, dating back 40,000 to 80,000 years. However, subsequent radiocarbon dating from the Seventies onwards suggests he lived around 10,000 years ago. This made the figure even more significant as The Cheddar Man was now believed to be the only existing complete skeleton of a Mesolithic human who settled in Britain when it became an island after the last Ice Age. All previous colonies of early man had been driven away or perished in the ice-ages.

Cheddar Man and all the others of his hunter-gatherer group had come from today’s mainland Europe across the land bridge known as Doggerland before rising sea levels left us as an island.

Cheddar Gorge today

During the tourist season, over 500,000 people visit this village. Attractions at Cheddar Gorge include Gough’s Cave, the multimedia Dreamhunters exhibit, The Museum of Prehistory, Rocksport activities and Escape Room Games. The area also has lots of scenic walks.

Getting to Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge can be found at the Cliffs, Cheddar, Somerset, BS27 3QE. The closest train station is Weston super Mare. Visitors can take bus 126 from Weston super Mare to Cheddar village. If driving, the site is signposted from the M5, A371 Axbridge to Wells road and A38 Burnham to Bristol road

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