Somerset, in the South of England, is a land of mysteries. Here at Wookey Hole, where a river flows out of the underworld, pagan and Christian legends intermingle.
Here, too are mysteries of man himself. How did the early cavemen, who inhabited these caves, really live from day to day? And what makes a modern diver explore the caverns beyond the sunlight?
Even the earliest men who lived in the valley of Wookey Hole 50,000 years ago, hunting bear and rhinoceros with stone weapons, must have been in awe of the great caves for they had already existed for millions of years.
When, much later, the Celtic peoples of the Iron Age were moving into Britain, they found the caves a safe and even comfortable place to live – inside, the temperature is a constant 11° Celsius. Yet by the 15th century only bones, broken pottery and legends remained.
Then, in 1914 the archaeologist Herbert Balch, having completed a two year excavation of the caves, published his findings, and the age of real exploration had begun…
Visitors came to wonder at the secret river and its encrusted caverns. Perhaps Coleridge was inspired to write the lines: “Where Alph, the sacred river, ran, Through caverns measureless to man”