1st of April 2017 – £19 per adult
Joined by Amanda Eastwood, David Eastwood, and Sinead Flament
This is not an April fool.
Rolling hills, King Arthur, cheese, cricket, a yearning for low taxes, tea and cakes, and did those feet in ancient times walk upon those mountains green? Where better in this sceptred isle to have a pokey, little cave where a witch definitely didn’t live? Somerset’s weird.
Although sounding like a sci-fi porn parody, Wookey Hole is a site that started as a Georgian curioso, and has since been wobbled through the prism of focus groups, consultants, and graphic designers to become the Blackpool-on-Tor it is today. The gaudy signs that wallpaper the surrounding attractions owe more than just inspiration to a certain orphaned wizard, like the Disney characters shoddily painted on an ice cream van. And there was this twinkly music playing all around that sounded like John Williams’s orchestra being conducted by a lab chimp.
By the ticket desk was this poor, poor lass they’d kitted out like a fancy dress witch cackling at us, whose costume couldn’t mask the “shoot me” glint in her eye. That “sexy Hallowe’en witch” angle felt somewhat inappropriate, over history’s mentally ill woman living in a cave, “prophesying the future” as means of validation, furiously masturbating with a ergot-tipped broom handle.
“Don’t get lost in the caves, sir!” she said.
“For £19, I expect a fleet of St. Bernard’s to rescue me if I do,” replied I, wittily.
Needless to say, we were the only people without children. And did I felt a total bastard walking through a dinosaur playground without my two year old! Sorry, Florence, Daddy’s too busy to see you this weekend. He’s eating chocolate ice cream on a pirate ship, surrounded by laughing children.
So, up we queued, MIDI track a-twinkling, plastic witch a-cackling, local ads a-poorly rendered. It was everything my Dad said adulthood would be. I liked the guy who gave our talk. He was charming in a stiff-as-a-board kind of way, and didn’t shy away from kid-scaring bullshit. Like that weird lad you don’t really know who’s too old to be at your Halloween party.
All nonsense ghost stories aside, the cave itself was such a beautiful thing – a cathedral rendered from dripping minerals, and a votive to absolutely nothing. I find caves tragic. They’re sad and past tense, yet timeless. God, I’m a twat when I want to be! They told us how the stalagmites form because of calcite and, in doing so, take all the mystery out of some daft story about a witch.
“Watch out for the ghost!”
“You mean that white stain on the wall?”
Apparently Alexander Pope had some of the stalactites shot down and taken to his house in Twickenham. That’s totally fine. Not mental.
They store cheddar in the cave, probably for the tourists more than the cheese. I keep mine in the fridge.
I tell you what, it’s hard writing a blog on your phone in a cave. I came this close to smashing in my face on slimy rocks, then we were given hard hats. I heard about three kids ask why we needed to wear them. Why do you think, you stupid little idiot?
Exiting the cave to a sunny Somerset in the spring was a nirvana inducing experience that I recommend to everyone. Just ignore the seven metre plastic gorilla.
You think that’s it? Are you mad? There were plenty more opportunities for transaction, none of which were missed. There was a kids’ show I skipped because, despite taking these blogs seriously, I’m not mentally ill. We had a paper making mill. Great. Whose idea was it to build a paper mill next to a witch’s cave? There was a “how the caves were formed” section that I loved. Yeah, it was prolix, but look at the state of this blog. There was a gallery of old time pier games, having the nice twist of requiring an old Victorian penny to operate. There was a mirror maze that my girlfriend smashed her face into and I nearly shat with laughter in front of her Dad. And there was pirate mini golf. I lost.
It’s tacky end-of-the-pier stuff, but that’s not always a bad thing. I’d say it was a throwback to a forgotten England, but I’m not sure this place ever moved on to be thrown back. But yeah, it’s pleasant. Go… if you’re in the area. It’s a manifestation the “true England” (as seen through the eyes of a Daily Mail reader after PTSD).