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Carnglaze Caverns (Cornwall)

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Carnglaze Caverns is a tourist attraction & music venue in Cornwall / Location: St. Neot, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 6HQ / Tel: 01579 320251

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      24.02.2011 21:53
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      Worth a look if you're in the area

      Carnglaze Caverns is a tourist attraction and music venue near St Neot in Cornwall.

      *** Getting there ***

      I took the children there during half-term. We used the A38, and the turn-off for the Caverns was well-signed with one of those brown tourist signs. It's fairly small country lanes from there, but a straight-forward mile or so to the entrance of the site, which is also well-signed. There are directions and a map available at the Carnglaze Caverns website (http://www.carnglaze.com/index.htm).

      The car-parks are just past the ticket office: we drove through and parked and then came back to pay. If it was very busy, I can imagine parking might be difficult, but there were signs to further parking. For our visit it was fairly quiet and there was plenty of room to manoeuvre.

      At the ticket office there was a short wait while the receptionist dealt with another family. She was extremely helpful and well-informed about the caverns. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £4 for children. Since our visit I've seen a two-for-one voucher in the local paper, which was a little annoying! (I also saw the same offer on the Groupon website, although I'm not sure what Groupon are like).

      We had a choice of whether to wait for the guided tour or whether to go in by ourselves with the map. As it was half-an-hour to wait until the next tour, we chose to go it alone. The receptionist helped us with our helmets, supplied a wind-able torch and directed us.

      *** The Caverns ***

      It's an attractive site, and outside the caverns, the grounds were well-kept and there was a lovely waterfall down the side of the rock.

      The caverns are man-made, from the quarrying of slate in the past, and there are three main chambers cut out where the miners followed the best quality slate and dug it out. The caves extend 150 metres under the hillside, to a depth of 60 metres. The temperature in the caverns is a steady 10 degrees, so when visiting it's best to have a jumper and sensible shoes!

      When you first enter the caverns, it's straight into the first chamber. This is called the Rum Store, because during the Second World War the Navy commandeered it for use to store its, er, rum (bet you weren't expecting that! Haha). I believe it was also used to store some museum artefacts. Today it's converted into a music venue, with seating for up to 450 people. There's a bar near the entrance, and signed helmets from bands that have played there all along one wall. Although I haven't attended a gig at the Caverns, it looks like it could be great, and I'll certainly be looking out for bands I'd like to see. Upcoming events include Suzi Quattro, various folk and blues bands, and the Levellers. Apparently Carnglaze Caverns is also licensed for civil ceremonies, so that would be an unusual wedding!

      The Rum Store is accessible to wheel-chair users and people with low mobility.

      At our visit, the auditorium was roped off, so visitors could only look around the beginning of the chamber, where there were some tables of artefacts and tools. The receptionist had said it was ok to handle these objects, so we had a bit of fun feeling the weight of the sledge hammers and imagining what it would have been like to work underground. Apparently miners began at 7, so the children were quite shocked to think that for my son he have been starting at his next birthday and daughter would have been working for several years already!

      There is low-level ambient lighting throughout the chambers, but we needed to use the torch to read at the information points. These are marked and numbered on the map, and we followed the suggested route.

      To get to the second chamber is a descent down a lot of rough-hewn steps. The floor of the chamber is also quite rough and uneven, so people with mobility problems wouldn't be able to to access chambers other than the Rum Store. The children enjoyed the spookiness and depth of the descent. We walked through the main chamber where there were some displays of life-size model miners at work, with information points to help us understand what their lives would have been like. At the end of the chamber was the 'Baby' pool, which is apparently 2 metres deep, but looks much shallower because of the refraction of light. It's safely enclosed, and occasional drips from the ceiling sent perfect circles of ripples across its surface.

      The third chamber contains the huge 'Mother' pool, which as a self-guided tour, we got to switch on the underwater lights ourselves to reveal just how deep and big it was. It was a gorgeous clear water, tinted green-blue by the rock. Again it's safely fenced off. We could also look out for baby staglactites, known as the "dead men's fingers" (although there are no records of anyone dying in the caverns, apparently) which were about 10 inches long.

      *** What else? ***

      After exploring the caves, we went back to reception and dropped off our hard hats. Then we went to look around the Enchanted Dell and woodland walk, where there are numerous bronze fairies, pixies, green men and even dragons to find. The children really enjoyed searching for these and counting them. The woodland walk is quite steep in places, with some slippery areas and some bits that seemed in need of hand-rails or fences. (That said, we saw some workmen working on the paths, so they were in the process of getting it ready for the season ahead). Even when ready for summer, it wouldn't be suitable for people with low mobility due to the steepness and narrowness of the paths.

      It was very pretty, and when the spring flowers come to bloom properly will be even better.

      We came back through the car-park and visited the two wood cabins that are the shops. There's a craft shop, which sold some nice jewellery, ornaments, dreamcatchers and the like. It also did a lucky dip for children for 75p, from which my son got a glider he was very pleased with, and my daughter got a "princess slate thing" that she was less impressed with. But it's a lucky dip!

      The other shop sold fossils and stones, fudge and souvenirs. The children bought a Carnglaze Caverns pencil and eraser, plus some sweeties with their £2 each spending money.

      Although it's pretty mild, I'm not yet ready for picnicking - but there was a nice walled-in picnic area with tables next to the shops. It also looked like there was a hot-food stall, which would presumably be open during the high season and for music events, although it was closed on the day we went.

      *** Our thoughts ***

      Our visit took about two hours. I don't think there's enough to do there for it to be a *day*-out, but there's certainly enough for a pleasant afternoon or morning. That said, we were visiting in the off-season, so there may be much more going on in the summer.

      We had a very nice time there and we learned quite a bit about the history of the slate quarrying. The setting was beautiful and the 'Mother' pool was particularly impressive. I very much enjoyed going round. It's no rival for Wookey Hole for example, being much smaller scale, but if you were holidaying in Cornwall it'd be a nice one to drop in at.

      Son said: "It was brilliantic"

      Daughter said "It really made me think and it's quite a peaceful place. And it was quite adventurous and awesome!"


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