“ Clearwell Caves are part of an ancient tradition of Free Mining that has operated in the Royal Forest of Dean since Tyme out of Mynde. „
I did the semi deep tour with my guide, Mike, in June '12. It was one of the highlights of my trip to the UK. I wanted to do this because my ancestors were Welsh mine owners. I thought it would give me some perspective of what their lives were like. Mike shared a lot of history of the region and this mine in particular. He had a lot of anecdotes about what it was like to work in the mines.
If you like darkness, crawling, falling, getting dirty, and being on the edge of danger, you will like this. It isn't really too dangerous, but being on the edge of it adds a bit of thrill. And did I mention it's DARK? It's the darkest darkness that you could ever imagine. Strangely, I didn't feel spooked by it. It was rather intoxicating really. I'm already ready for my next fix! It's addictive, I think.
Tips for if you go:
* Wear sensible, sturdy shoes. I thought I had. Mike recommended I borrow a pair of their wellies. Good advice!
* Wear something you can get dirty. You will be loaned some overalls, but dirt may seep into areas you don't expect.
* Listen to your guide. Mike was very calm and helpful. Whenever he made a suggestion, he was spot on.
* Bring your sense of adventure. There is a lot that can potentially spook you if you let it. Chill out. Enjoy the experience and go with it. If you can relax, you will have the time of your life.
The museum part of it is a bit underwhelming by itself, but when added to the caving experience, it enhances it. You can see pictures and artifacts that were used in the mines. If you don't like darkness and crawling, you can go the museum where there is (relatively) lots of light and the floors are even.
It’s Bank Holiday Monday after a long and lovely Easter Weekend, the weather has been spanking gorgeous… until today that is! ‘I’m bored!’ I moaned ‘Ok, what would you like to do?’ – he’s very patient! ‘dunno, you think of something’ ‘Ok, what about family visiting?’ ‘Nahhhh, that’s boring’ ‘Ok, what about going to the pub for lunch?’ ‘Noooooo’ ‘Ok’ He then pulls out a leaflet about Clearwell Caves, ‘how about here then?’ To this I get very excited and start chattering about a picnic also, I drive on down to our local Sainsbury’s, which was a really stupid idea on a Bank Holiday – Could it get any busier? NO!! I arrive back home about an hour after I left with sandwich fillings, crusty rolls, drinks and other bits for our day out. We make a flask of tea and the sandwiches and off we go! The drive to clearwell caves is lovely, all country driving through fields and small villages. Clearwell Caves is located beneath the Forest of Dean, 3 miles south of Coleford. The leaflet we had showed a wonderful picture of a cave that looked great, there was water in there too, all looked like a great day out. We got there and parked up, walked down a slope to the entrance, we paid £3.80 per adult and £2.40 for children. The caves are open 10am – 5pm everyday 9th February to 31st October, including Bank Holidays (obviously!) The cave system is natural but Iron ore has been mined there for nearly 3000 years! 8 large caverns are open to the general public (So they said!) They still produce natural ochre’s, these make natural pigments. The mining is carried out with traditional methods still and only on a very small scale. They have small displays that show how the mining was done thr
ough the ages. Also showing the development of the mining techniques till the present day. They also have the engine room on show that contains several vintage engines including the 1915 Ingersol Road compressor – used to drive the early pneumatic drills. (All sounds very exciting doesn’t it?!) Anyway, this was boring me and off we toddled down into the cave’s, it all started so well. It was quite dark and damp, you have to remember to wear good shoes with good grips (so I had to leave my 9 inch stilettos at home) There are bats living in the cave also, but don’t worry, we didn’t see a single one! You walk through the weaves in the caves and read certain bits of information on the wall. There are some good sights, you can pay extra to go on more deep level visits, I wish we had done this bit read nothing about this on the leaflet, when we got home we found out all the info on the website! You come out in the shop before you know it, I was quite let down by the walk round the cave, you expect so much more, when you come out in the souvenir shop, that’s it! All done! The highlight of the day was the picnic we had in the car – they didn’t have a picnic area, only a tearoom. We sat in the car and had our lunch then drove home, the drive once again was lovely. I would recommend you went if you pay extra for the extra tours, I wouldn’t of you were just going to look round the standard caves and mines. If you get excited about old machinery then this place is certainly for you.