Newest Review: ... more reasonable. Full visitor information can be found at the website http://www.cityofcaves.com/. I'd been looking forward to seeing t... more
They do WHAT with POO ?
Caves of Nottingham
Member Name: thehonesttruth
Caves of Nottingham
Advantages: Entertaining interactive guided tours
Disadvantages: Not wheelchair or pushchair friendly
With it being the school holidays, I've been trying to keep my daughter busy and entertained . Not having access to a car, our adventures have been largely limited to areas we can reach by bus - and nowhere is more handy than Nottinghams City of Caves attraction, the entrance of which is situated on the upper floor of the busy Broadmarsh Centre .
If travelling on any of the local bus routes into Nottingham, the attraction is only a few minutes walk. It's also only about 5 minutes walk from the train station, and there is a large car park just outside the Broadmarsh Centre .
It is worth noting that there are two types of tours available, audio tours where you walk around at your own pace, with a walkman type device giving you the information, or performance tours, where you will meet various characters on your way around . My daughter and I opted for the performance tour, which takes place hourly . We had a few minutes wait, so we amused ourselves looking around the gift shop, which is both the starting and finishing point for the tour. The shop sells various books about Nottingham, including some on the caves, local ghosts, buildings of interest . It also sells a selection of fossils and geodes, starting off very small at quite reasonable prices, but becoming progressively larger, with some very attractive large pieces costing a few hundred pounds. In terms of souvenirs, there is little here that children would want to spend their hard earned pocket money on. Some may consider that a bad thing, but I personally was grateful not to be bombarded by my daughter requesting I spend an inordinate amount of money on a pencil sharpener .
Our tour began with a woman in a tunic and leather waistcoat requesting that we all select a hard hat to wear as we went round . With it being the holidays, there were quite a few people in our group ,around 15, and finding a hat to fit my six year old daughter took a bit of a struggle, as the sizes of the hats were not clear. The group then progressed down a narrow stairway and down a couple of narrow passages, to the first stop on our tour, the enchanted well. Here, our guide (in a distinctly eastern european accent) explained how important clean drinking water was, and the diseased that could come about from drinking contaminated water . She pointed out to us the place where a spring trickled down through the rock, and invited those of us that wished to to toss a coin into the well and make a wish, and many people did so as she explained how the druids would have seen water coming from the rocks as a miracle, and would leave offerings at the spring .
Our next stop on the tour was the medieval tannery, where our guide changed roles, and became the head tanner . I found this part very amusing, as she offered all the children a job, before explaining they would be working 12 hour shifts with no days off . She did however mention one of the jobs benefits - if you needed the toilet, whether solid or liquid, you would just use one of the tanning vats to relieve yourself, as poo and wee were both used in the curing of quality leather. She explained how the cave used to open onto the River Leen, and that the tanners would sneak out at night to illegally wash their skins in the river, sending poo, wee, and other nastiness into the towns drinking water. She emphasised the importance of always taking your break upstream, where the water was fresher, and explained that the tanning process was a lengthy and tiring process, requiring hard physical labour, with a lack of a sense of smell being a distinct advantage. This was also the part of the tour that stuck in my daughters mind, with her muttering about how she couldn't believed they used poo. This particular aspect led to some googling later, as my daughter wanted to know more .
We then briefly stopped in a small circular room with a hole in the ceiling, which, we were told, was a gambling den beneath a pub, where shady deals would be made and crimes planned . The hole was so that pebbles could be dropped down to warn those below to escape. Here, our yung guide left us, with instructions to round the corner, where we encountered an air-raid shelter, complete with gas masks, benches, and kettles. She explained how the tunnels were used as shelters during the war, as many people lived in slums in the city and didn't have gardens or basements where they could build shelters .She jokingly berated us for forgetting our gas masks, and explained the role of the ARP in ensuring the safety of people in the area . We then rounded the corners into the slums themselves- genuine cramped basements preserved when the shopping centre was built, showing the way people would have lived . There were some models of rats, indicating the low level of sanitation, and various boards explaining the problems which bad sanitation could cause , such as Cholera, Tuberculosis and Smallpox.
Then, we ascended the stairs again into the gift shop, the whole tour having taken about 45 minutes .
I personally very much enjoyed the tour, although I found that a large group in narrow tunnels sometimes made for a slightly claustrophobic feel . While I really liked the older guide who did the air raid shelter bit, as she had a genuine Nottingham accent, my daughter found the younger guides accent a little hard to understand, although I had no problems . Both guides I felt put a lot of spirit and humour into their roles, and helped to make what could have been a very dry tour amusing and interactive, talking with us and involving us in the experience.
The caves are open from 10.30 -5 daily, with last admission at 4pm . Performance tours are only available on Saturdays and Sundays , with times posted in the gift shop .
The one negative I can think of with this attraction is that due to steep stairs and narrow passages, it is probably not the ideal place for wheelchair users or for pushchairs . I also think very young children may find it a little dark and scary . But, for myself and my daughter, it was a perfect day out, and more than that, the tannery part led to my daughter demanding that I google for more information about the use of poo in leathermaking, which provided some interesting giggles!
Summary: An excellent time .
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