BLASTING INTO THE UNKNOWN: UNSEEN CAVERNS TO BE OPENED UP AS PART OF £3 MILLION WOOKEY HOLE EXPANSION
Wookey Hole Caves is blasting into a major expansion with plans to create a new tunnel which will open up previously unseen caverns beneath the Mendips.
Managers say the plans represent the most exciting project at the attraction in more than 40 years with more people having walked on the moon than in the vast underground caverns.
The move is part of a £4 million investment in the tourist attraction, which brings visitors and tourists into the West Country from all over the world boosting the economy.
Specialist consulting engineers have carried out a full geotechnical survey of rocks and plans are being submitted to bore an access tunnel through the rocks so that visitors can see a spectacular underground lake and cave formations only previously seen by cave divers.
It would create one of the biggest showcave systems in Europe and represent a major boost to the region’s tourist industry.
Director Daniel Medley said: “The local authority have passed our plans for this exciting new development, and we start work today literally tunnelling into the unknown.
“The new tunnel will be similar to the one created in 1973 which enabled people to see extra caverns and which is now an established part of our tour.
“The tunnel created then is also used to store Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar. The new access tunnel will be 70 metres long and will enable people to go into the 20th Chamber, which the cave divers have always called King Arthur’s Beard because of the shape of a rock formation in it.
“All the geotechniocal checks have been made and we believe the tunnel will take around a month of work, and it will be ready in time for the summer holidays. The new chamber will give people an insight into a world only glimpsed by a few people that are brave enough to swim underwater with oxygen tanks to access it at the moment.
“We have had in excess of three million visitors to the caves over the past 10 years but the new cavern will be truly spectacular and will give people a reason to come back.
“This is such a monumental phase of the caves history; so much so that we are in talks with documentary makers to track the progress of the project. Although we have seen images of the cavern taken by divers, for us we are literally blasting in to the unknown so we are all very excited to see what lies on the other side.”
The tunnel and associated work would represent an investment of between £2 million and £3 million with a further £1 million investment planned for later in the year.
Said Daniel Medley: “We are applying for the necessary planning permissions and we are looking for local politicians to back this major investment in the West Country’s tourist industry.”
Last year Wookey Hole Caves invested £1 million in creating a 4D Cinema that has been in daily use entertaining adults and children alike with a series of exciting films.