The first time we went we took our 4 year old son. The staff were friendly, and the guide was very informative as we went around. We took lots of pictures in the deep caverns. There was food and drink available in the cafe area, which was very reasonably priced. On our return home, we looked at the pictures we had taken and found some very strange images. There were Orbs and strange mists, which was great if you believe in that sort of thing.We visited again over the bank holiday, this time we were alittle rushed by the guide, and at times we felt we were chasing after him. Again we took lots of pictures. When we got home, again I found a very strange image, of a person upside down in the form of a shadow! You can see the head and hands! VERY Weird. ha
This was our second trip to Chistlehurst Caves.
The first time we went we took our 4 year old son. The staff were friendly, and the guide was very informative as we went around. We took lots of pictures in the deep caverns. There was food and drink available in the cafe area, which was very reasonably priced. On our return home, we looked at the pictures we had taken and found some very strange images. There were Orbs and strange mists, which was great if you believe in that sort of thing.
We visited again over the bank holiday, this time we were alittle rushed by the guide, and at times we felt we were chasing after him. He was also alittle less informed as to the history of the caves, but again we took lots of pictures. When we got home, again I found a very strange image, of a person upside down in the form of a shadow! You can see the head and hands! VERY Weird. ha
Overall a great trip out, the tour lasts around 45 minutes, and coming from Croydon, very easy to get to via car.
On the most recent half term I was looking for days out, but living in England meant we were restricted by weather... AGAIN!
Tired of soft play areas and shops, I went online and discovered the caves!
I remember once going there as a child myself and was intrigued if much had changed, so my 3 year old son and I decided to pay a visit.
Heres what we thought.....
The caves are situated in Chisltlehurst, which is near Bromley. We live fairly local, but even for those further away it is quite straight forward to find.
By Road -This was how we got to the caves. It is not difficult to find, take the A222 between the A20 and A21. At the railway bridge turn into Station Road then right again to Caveside Close. (For those of you using Sat nav, the postcode is- BR7 5NL)
It is worth noting that some of the roads closer to the caves are quite narrow with 2 way traffic.
By Rail - The caves are ideally located just around the corner from Chistlehurst train station. There are regular trains from Charing Cross and London Bridge.
By Bus - (To Chislehurst Station) The 269 runs between Bromley and Bexleyheath and the 162 runs between Beckenham and Eltham
Upon arrival I was pleased to see plentiful free car parking and even happier when we got inside to find we only had 5 minutes wait until the next tour! Result!
Should we had not been so lucky, it still would not have been that long to wait. Tours run on the hour but as it was busy they were running every half an hour.
The entrance fee in my opinion is excellent. For a 45 minute guided tour it will cost: Adults £5, Children/OAP £3 and under 5s free!
There is no option other than to have a guide, but this is understandable as the caves are a labyrinth of man made tunnels forming a maze covering over 6 hectares and are up to 30 meters underground.They are also mainly unlit so parrafin lamps are given as the only source of light.
The guides are very knowledgable and are full of intersting facts about the history of the caves that were first open to the public in 1900. He showed us all the different areas including old hospitals, churches and a well. There are lots of carvings on the walls too that all mean something. I came out feeling much more informed about Romans, saxons and the Blitz, as well as famous musicians that had performed at the caves.
Given the long history of the caves, it is to be expected that there might be a ghost or two about the place. There are a lot of stories about possible ghosts, stories of a Roman centurion killed nearby, of sounds of children, of sightings of people, the sound of horses, etc. A woman is supposed to have been murdered and drowned in the 'haunted pool', and a priest is supposed to have died of fright after having been in the caves.
At one time, there was a prize of £5 offered to anyone who would sleep in the caves alone. Many people tried and eventually a policeman succeeded, however he said that he was aware of something behind him at one time and would not repeat the experience for any amount of money. Another person was found unconscious. These days, no-one is allowed to stay overnight in the caves, following an incident in which one of the guides was hurt.
The guide tells these stories and even the non believers can't help but wonder... especially when the guide takes the parrafin lamps off of you at the most haunted point in the caves and leaves you in complete darkness where you literally can not see hand in front of you!!
The guide was fantastic, I was a little puzzled as to why they were all dressed up as a cross between a pirate and a Harley Davidson fanatic but even so, they were very good! There was a tip box at the end of the tour for your guide but there was no pressure to put anything in as the guide had left by this point!
I would say there were about 30 people on the tour, although this is quite a lot, the guide gives plenty of time to explore each area, so even if you are at the back, you wont miss out on anything.
To get the best from the caves and understand all the information on the tour, I would say they are most suited to adults and over 10s.
My 3 year old however still had a fantastic time! The uneven terrain made it a real life adventure for him and I think the dark spook factor was the biggest appeal!
My top tip before visiting is wrap up warm, it is quite cold down there. Also wear sensible shoes as the terrain is very uneven. There are some quite low points too so tall people beware! The guide does pre warn you however when approaching a low bit!
The reception area of the caves is quite small and ALL of the facilities are in this space.
There are all the information leaflet stands and benches for people waiting for their guide.
There is a cafe offering a wide variety of freshly prepared meals, snacks and daily specials. I didn't go in here as it was exceptionally busy but it looked nice enough and prices seemed reasonable.
There is also a gift shop, this is where you purchase tickets and you can also find a small range of associated gifts, trinkets and collectables. Most things were little souvenirs for kids eg pencils, postcards etc and again I was very impressed with the prices. We bought a postcard for 30p and £1 notepad.
There is also a toilet in this area, it's worth going before your tour, especially with little ones as there are no toilets in the caves.
As there is so much in this space, it is very busy and hard to browse the shop or relax in the cafe. That is the only negative of the daytrip though so it can't be bad!!
I saw some advertising on my visit about having a party at the caves where you can have your own private tour of the caves followed by a buffet meal in the Caves Restaurant with the option of a speciality spooky cake. I can not comment any more on this facility but it looked good.
The Caves are open from Wednesday to Sunday and the 45 minute guided tours start hourly. The first tour is at 10am and the last at 4pm.
During local school and Bank Holidays (except Christmas and New Year) they are open every day.
The Caves are closed from Friday 25th December until Tuesday 29th December inclusive for Christmas.
A cheap day out thats well worth a visit, especially if its a rainy day.
What should have been a a great day out was completely ruined by the appalling behaviour of the guide. He spent so much time playing up the negative aspects (spiders etc) and jumping out screaming with a torch under his chin that I learned nothing about the caves. His only intent was to scare the people on his tour.Certainly not recommended for anyone who is looking for something fun and educational. But if you are into immature American guides and cheap scares, this would be good for you!
Chislehurst Caves are miles of mysterious passageways hand cut from the chalk stone to form an enormous labyrinth covering more than 20miles in length and at a depth of up to 30 metres beneath the Chislehurst woodlands. The caves were dug over a period of 800 years and were originally formed in the process of searching for flint and chalk.
In 1914 the caves became part of the Woolwich Arsenal and were used as an ammunitions depot. They only remained as a depot for a few years and were then used by the Kent Mushroom Company who grew mushrooms in the caves because of the dark and moist conditions which were great for the growing crop. This was brought to an abrupt end however with the outbreak of the second world war. Chislehurst caves were overnight transformed into the biggest air raid shelter outside of London and undoubtedly saved many lives in the process. The caves became a major tourist attraction at the start of the century and guided tours have been operating for many years now.
The Chislehurst Experience:
I have visited the caves on two occasions now and both times have had a fantastic time. The caves are very spooky and you get a real sense of the work which must have been put into them over the years to produce what is there today. I have already mentioned how long they are and this really hits home when you are told to stay with the group at all times because if you go wondering you may not be found for a couple of days given the sheer length of the tunnels and the many different routes available.
You are lead by an experienced guide who luckily knows the caves like the back of his hand. The tour takes forty-five minutes and is lamp lit which is nice and also keeps the tunnels dark and mysterious which gives them a unique feel - I'm glad they haven't fitted underground lighting. You are taken to the three main areas of the caves named Druid, Saxon and Roman because they all used the caves at one time or another, the guide tells many stories of the strange goings-on and also tells a few jokes which is a nice touch. It really is very interesting and kids will love it because there's lots of exploring to be done and the tunnels get rather narrow at times so you have to squeeze you're way through tight spaces and at times even crouch. Wheelchair access is possible, although the ground is uneven and bumpy.
- tours run on the hour every hour
- the caves were used as film locations for many films and television programmes, doctor who, insemenoid, bliss, neverwhere, randall and hopkirk (deceased).
- There is a gift shop, café and free parking
- On march 22nd 2008 there was a paranormal investigation at the caves, I do not know the findings, if you visit you can make up your own minds, I thought it was very spooky.
Wednesdays to Sundays, 10am till 4pm.
- open everyday during the school holidays except Christmas and New Year.
The Chalk Pit
Tel: 020 8467 3264
- short walk from Chislehurst Station
- take the A22 at Chislehurst Railway Bridge, turn into Station Approach and turn right at the end, then turn right into 'Caveside Close.' The entrance is in Caveside Close.
- By bus, numbers 269 or 162 from Bromley.
A fantastic place to go for a day out and very reasonably priced too unlike many other London attractions. Definitely worth visiting. *****
Thanks for reading.
(Review also posted on Ciao under the same name)
Walking up to the entrance of Chislehurst Caves, there aren't many clues as it what could be lying beneath. The only giveaway is the slightly unusual road name - Caveside Close! But as the tour descends it's difficult not to get unnerved by the damp smell and rapidly dropping temperature. The look and feel of these man-made caves is very different to that of natural caves. The staglmites and stactites are replaced by a series of fairly regular rooms with interconnecting tunnels. The guide during the 45 minute tour explains that these caves were apparently originally dug by druids (by hand?!) then used as an overflow ammunition store during world war 1. Bizarrely they were then used as a mushroom farm then came into their own during the Second War when Kent was under heavy bombardment as it was on the route towards London. As the air raids began to get heavier, people started making their way down to the caves and using them as shelter. At first they took there own beds etc down but eventually so may people were using the caves that they were established as an official air raid shelter in 1941. Eventually an incredible 15000 (yes that's 15 thousand!) people were using the caves on a regular basis, many living down there. Today the tour round the caves shows some of the features from the war-time years. There is a re-creation of a "pitch" which houses a number of bunk beds where a family would have slept separated only from another family by a curtain. The guide explains that there were lots of facilities available for the families - canteens, a theatre, cinema, bank, shop, post office and a church which is still there complete with stained glass windows painted on the wall. Apparently people can get married there if they wanted to! There is also a recreation of a hospital but apparently the only significant event that happened there was the birth of a baby, aptly christened Cavena. Chisleh
urst Caves is well worth a visit especially as a good way to show children what life was like for some people during WW2 and the sacrifices some people made. The tour is by experienced guides who have clearly been doing the tour for the number of years. There is a car park with lots of spaces and a cafe where I think you can get drinks and snacks.
It was bank holiday Monday and the sun had come out for the first time proper in weeks so what could we do? All the footpaths were closed because of foot and mouth so where could we go that was "safe". What about Chislehurst Caves? We'd never been before and they're only 20 minutes away. So off we went. The caves are not caves in the Cheddar/ Wookey hole manner, they are man made flint workings in the chalk deposits common in this area of south-east London/north-west Kent. They have tremendous history attached and are probably one of the area's best kept secrets They date back as far as 4000 years ago and were said to have been started by the druids. In fact they are divided into three areas, each having its own distinctive characteristics and features, the oldest, the Druids at 4000 years, the Romans at 2000 years and the Saxons at 1000 years old. Together they form an elaborate labyrinth covering several miles and it is said that it would take two days to cover the whole length. It is not even known whether they have all been identified yet. The chalk was mined in order to make lime which was used to form the plaster used in the wattle and daub dwellings of the time. The Romans would use the lime to make cement (the area has a proud and long tradition of cement workings which continues to the present day) and the flints would have been used for weapons and latterly building materials. The mines were of immense importance to the local economy over hundreds of years. In latter years the caves were used as a mushroom farm (the present owners are Kent Mushrooms Ltd but farming is no longer carried on there), ammunition store and in the second world war, one of the country's biggest air raid shelters, at times holding up to 15 000 souls. There was a complete community underground comprising churches, a hospital, the country's first permanent Citizens' Advice Bureau, shops and even Scout and Guid
e troops. There was a dedicated rail service every night from Cannon Street station in the City serving the shelter. In the 50's 60s and 70s they became a popular music venue hosting some the biggest names of the day in jazz and rock including the Who and Jimi Hendrix. Because of the unique accoustics, it was even possible to hold several concerts at once in separate locations without them interfering with each other. On arrival you enter a modern wooden chalet type complex which houses the ticket office, the shop and from the looks of it , a rather nice cafeteria. The prices are very reasonable, adults £3.50 and kids over 5, £1.50 Because of the complexity of the caves, they can only be seen on guided tours. There are two tours, a short one of 45 minutes and a longer one of about 90 minutes. Because of some localised flooding, it has not been possible to do the longer one for a while but this is not a hindrance, I expect you will find time to go back and do it. I know I will! About 60 of us gathered at the entrance and we were led into the ante-room. The first thing you notice, even though you are only a short distance in, is the damp and the temperature. It's not very cold but cold enough to see your breath. It's also not very dark. This would soon change. We were led forward to another area where we were issued with paraffin hurricane lamps, one between about four. And then it was dark. Very dark. Much of the system is not supplied with electricity so the lamps are vital. They add tremendously to the atmosphere which is all the more important as there are very few natural features. They also keep you warm! The tour itself takes in all three major areas and is about a mile long. You visit several features such as a couple of churches, the Druidic altar (said to have been used for child sacrifice) and a mock up of the hospital. There are also several toilet blocks and the old offices of the CAB. One of the m
ost poignant reminders of the shelter era are the "pitch numbers" still marked on the walls. The guide demonstrates the unusual accoustics by banging an old water tank and to listen to the echo reverberating around the complex for several seconds after is quite eerie. So are some of the stories told by the guide but I'm not letting on, so you'll have to go and find out. At one stage, having been right at the front of the 'snake' for most of the tour, I dropped right back and waited until the rest had gone round a corner. I didn't have a lamp either. Tip; don't lose the pack, it gets very dark, very quickly and because of the odd accoustics, you can't even hear the guide talking when he's just around the corner. I thought I was made of stronger stuff but no! I soon rejoined. Another tip, wear good stout shoes. Not because there are great distances to be covered but because of the number of visitors over the years, the floor has taken on a curious rippled surface (like the sea shore under shallow water). High heels are not advised. We were a little apprehensive because we had three youngsters with us, the youngest being only four (complete with light sabre so the force was with us). We needn't have worried, they all thought it was brilliant. Like I said, it isn't that there is a lot to see, it's the sheer immensity of the complex which is emphasised by not being able to see it which is the secret of this attraction; the shadows from the lamps adding to the sense of apprehension one feels when surrounded by the unknown. That and the unforgiving darkness. Definitely worth a trip. The caves are situated almost in the centre of Chislehurst and are best reached by train to Chislehurst from Charing X. They are only a short walk from the station. By car, junction 3 of the M25 for the A20 towards London, come off at Sidcup and go left to Chislehurst on the A222
is probably the most direct route for those outside London. There is ample car parking at the site. One final tip, wear stout shoes but try not to wear your best ones or your favourite trousers for that matter. The mud in the wet areas, although not deep, will splash and as it is made mostly of chalk, will take some cleaning. If you're going on anywhere afterwards, bear this in mind!