This post is a continuation of the blog post I wrote in the early hours of this morning. It was still my yesterday, as I consider I’m still on the day of the week it is until I’ve actually slept! This is the link to that post… 6th August – Writing Challenge.
I’d just started to tell the story of my favourite camping memories – that of our family holiday in 2008 that we called our “South Coast Adventure”. It was a mad week, and in true British style we enjoyed it despite the fact that for most of the entire week it rained. Not just a little rain either! I took a look at the photographs I took while we were away and the trip was pretty much exactly 10 years ago. We left Cambridge on 8th August, so this is a great trip down memory lane for me!
Day 1 was mostly travelling down to Somerset from our then home in Cambridge. It was early evening by the time we’d arrived, put up the tent and arranged the beds. It was a very small tent with just 3 cells – a main central cell, where I made the tea and cooked, and two cells either side. Hubby and I had one and our son had the other. We thought as we had loved Cheddar during a holiday in 1994 when we were married, and had no children (we’d actually just lost a daughter when hubby decided to take me a way for a few days). I’d never been before and that time we’d stayed in the Cheddar Gorge Hotel, which sadly wasn’t there by 2008.
Cheddar is one of those places that stays the same and you know what you’re getting as soon as you arrive. Ok, the tea shops, museum, etc may change ownership but the Gorge itself and the caves remain as stunningly beautiful as they’ve been since they first formed 1.2 million years ago. The official Cheddar Gorge website is here. For more information about the geological aspects of the gorge and caves the British Geological Survey have a page specifically dedicated to the formation of the limestone cliffs which make up the gorge. Their page is here.
I wanted to share some photographs I took but they are poor quality – the camera I had at the time (10 years ago) was greatly inferior to those available now – my mobile handset takes far better photographs than my digital camera took at that time! So all pictures of Cheddar Gorge, due to the weather really aren’t great quality.
Anyway, once the tent was up hubby and I wanted to go in to Cheddar to see if the Riverside Chinese Restaurant was still there. When we’d visited in 1994, by the time we arrived and had relaxed for a bit in the hotel it was late, and the Riverside was the only place open to get a meal. We just took a risk on whether the food would be ok. Thankfully, it was fantastic, so in 2008 we were ecstatic they were still there and that the food was just as delicious. Our son became a fan too 🙂 *We did a mini repeat of the trip in Summer ’17 with our now adult son and his g/f and the Riverside is still making great tasting food! I checked Tripadvisor and whilst there are mixed reviews the food and service are better than average.
The next memory is so sweet. As any Mother will tell you, when your child has new experiences their reactions make your maternal instincts fly. Mine bubble or crawl whenever my son is in need of reassurance, even as an adult, and, as he lives away (funnily enough close to the coast in Hampshire) whenever he visits or we go down to visit him I can’t control my maternal instincts and they’re never fully satisfied until I’ve had at least 2 full, long bear hugs and spent over 3 hours in his company! #motherandsonlove
So, we were laid down with all the tent closed off for the night. The camping lantern was on in the central area until our we were comfortable in our respective beds. We said goodnight and then, taking the lamp into our cell, switched out the lamp. Our son had a miniature camping lantern in case he needed to get up in the night. He was given clear instructions that if he needed the bathroom he was to wake us, as we didn’t want him walking across the camp site alone in the middle of the night.
So, we’re lying there chilling when I hear him crying quietly. He was deliberately muffling his tears. I asked if he was ok and he just broke down. He was scared that it was so dark and that all we had between us and the elements was a thin canvas. My heart went out to him, I mean literally. There were waves of motherly love floating through the space between me and him. He didn’t want us to get up to go to him and after a few minutes of reassurance he settled down. I didn’t sleep until I heard him sleeping.
The next morning we were up early. We knew we had just the one day to visit the gorge as we were moving on the following day. It was already raining and going over to the shower block was an experience. By the time we were over there we didn’t need a shower as we were already soaked through to the skin!
We had a damp but enjoyable day in Cheddar. We parked within the main gorge car park and decided to walk through the main road in to Cheddar itself. This really is the best way to enjoy the town and the views are spectacular throughout. We visited both Cox’s Cave and Gough’s Cave – see photographs below.
Cheddar Cheese being matured within Gough’s Cave. This is with the permission of the Marquess of Bath, owner of Longleat Estate (the location of Longleat Safari Park). ©Nattinatters 2008-2018
A calcite “waterfall” within Gough’s Caves. This is actually in gorgeous tones of Gold. ©Nattinatters 2008-2018
One of the pools within Gough’s Cave. ©Nattinatters 2008-2018
Cheddar Man – 9000 years old – the oldest complete skeleton of a Homo Sapien found in the UK, within Gough’s Cave ©Nattinatters 2008-2018
After visiting the caves we went for a cream tea at Derrick’s Tea Room. Our son doesn’t like dried fruit so he was overjoyed that chocolate chip scones were available, with Nutella spread in the bowl in place of the usual jam. In Summer 2017 the tea rooms were under new ownership and had been renamed the Lion Rock Tearooms Despite the change of name, the service, scones and tea were just as enjoyable as those we’d had 9 years previously.
We then visited the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Their cheddar is so much tastier than the cheese you buy in a supermarket. It has a unique taste all of its own and, as when we visited they’d just started to mature some of the cheeses back in the caves, as was done historically, we were advised by the guide to try the normal mature cheddar first and then immediately afterwards try the cave matured mature cheddar in order to appreciate the difference in taste. There was just no comparison. How the cheese can taste so much fresher, but creamier by just being matured in a cave rather than the maturing racks at the company’s buildings I don’t know. We decided to buy some cheese to take with us to use towards a picnic the next day. *We visited again in Summer ’17 and ordered a few cheeses to be posted to reach us after we’d returned from the holiday. The range of flavours in the past 9 or 10 years has increased, as has the choice of chutneys and sauces. It’s definitely worth a visit. The Visitor Centre is accessible – I was in my wheelchair last Summer and they were very accommodating – I did email them first to let them know when we were coming so they were expecting a wheelchair user. The cheese making area is still visible from wheelchair height and so are the sample counters (thank goodness for that one!)
After that very damp day we had a fish and chip dinner in Cheddar before returning to the campsite for an early night.
I can’t believe that I’ve been writing this for a couple of hours and that 2 minutes to midnight I am still only on Day 2 of the South Coast Adventure. I’ll leave the rest of the adventure to some future date where I’ll link back to these original posts. I would say to any tourists coming to the UK that if you decide you want to visit an area of outstanding natural beauty and a fantastic history the South West is an amazing place to visit, and Cheddar especially.
Until next time! 🙂