Monday, 13 May 2013

Blue John Cavern Tour Peak District

Despite hubby having finished full time work nearly two weeks ago we haven't done as much as we had hoped in the form of days out together because we have been so busy with lots of other different projects etc. So Monday we got up early, made a packed lunch and set off to Castleton in the Peak District. Luckily for us we are only 30 minutes away, we had checked the opening times of the Blue John Cavern and were happy that it was a quiet day so we had a private tour guide all to ourselves!

Its a tiny little shop on the hillside, you wouldn't even realise there were these huge caverns just behind/underneath it but they are. It cost £34 for all six of us and was well worth the money. There was a school group but they went ahead of us so it was very quiet by the time we got down.

Blue John has been mined here for a few centuries and its the only place in the WORLD where it occurs, they are not sure why it occurred here but it may be that oil somehow worked its way into the cliff thousands of years ago. This could also possibly explain its purple-blue colour. The name "Blue John" might possibly come from France, according to our guide "Blue John" used to be taken to France to be worked on and turned into pieces of jewellery and other items. Sometimes when its mined it can be a yellow or a blue colour, the colour for yellow in French is "jaune", this isn't concrete though-just a story.

All together there are 245 stairs going down into the caves and in some parts its extremely narrow, no good at all if your claustrophobic! Thankfully none of us are and the steps were broken into sections so not all at once. The tour guide had worked in the caves a very long time and even mined Blue John in the winter when they weren't as busy with tours.

Here he was showing us some of the items found in the caves, that had been washed in with the melt water from the Ice Age. These included a human leg bone, deer antlers and lots of miscellaneous bones that were around 4000 years old!

This was one of our favourite parts of the tour, the cliff here is called White Peak because it is made up of limestone, the limestone was once, thousands of years ago part of a huge reef and this band of limestone was made up by thousands of fossils of sea creatures. Not what you expect in a cave in the middle of the Peak District! But so cool to be able to make out small sea creatures.

The shapes in the cave ceiling was so cool, lots of intricate patterns left by melting ice. Lots of different colours on the walls due to the reactions with deposits of iron.

We stopped here at the balancing rock as the guide asked us if we were sure we wanted to pass, he said some people didn't wan to pass but we all said yes. As we saw the other side we could see it wasn't actually balancing at all but wedged between two pieces of rock. This was Ruben's favourite part of the tour and the bit he remembered most.

The patterns looked like waves in places, there were some brilliant views of stalactites but the photo didn't come out well. One was 2 foot long and even named-but we have forgotten what! Some of them looked like teeth, gutted the photo didn't come out of the teeth ones as they were brilliant.

The guide explained that there had been tour here since the 17th century and that they used to last 6 hours (we were in there for nearly 1 hour). They used to fill bowls with magnesium and light them up so tourists could see the patterns and colours on the ceiling. He then told us they moved on to candelabras, lighting lots of candles and using a pulley system they pulled it right up to the top for people to see. Must have been quite cool to be honest and nicer than the rather ugly electric lighting used now. He told the children how there was no moss in the cave until the use of electric lights though, so that was an interesting fact.

Then it was all the way back up the 245 steps!! Downside of caverns, only one way in and one way out.

These were our views whilst we sat in the car having our picnic lunch (it was hailing outside minutes later!)

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago (when we were still dating !) Hubby and I went to the Blue John Caves. We went pot holing as well and I got stuck between two rocks !!
    It was a memorable weekend away :)

    Great blog post x