Poole's Cavern, Buxton

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Poole's Cavern, Buxton

Landmark - Address: Green Lane, Buxton Derbyshire, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9DH

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Review of "Poole's Cavern, Buxton"

published 25/09/2003 | MandyMinx
Member since : 30/11/-0001
Reviews : 166
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Pro Historical, exciting, captivating
Cons cold, dark and damp
very helpful


When you think of the Victorians, with their fancy skirts and stiff collars it's hard to imagine the gentry of the time doing little more than having tea in the parlour or strolling in the park on a sunny afternoon. It seems though that our Victorian ancestors were a lot more adventurous than many of us give them credit for. Apparently they had an absolute fascination with caves and thought nothing of clamouring around in the dark in pursuit of the admiration and accolades they would receive for their bravery.

Poole's cavern in Buxton was a favourite tourist attraction for the Victorians but this fantastic cave had been in use a long time before that.

The day we went to Poole's cavern was a beautiful hot summers day. The visitors centre is quite small but was really interesting. There were all sorts of artifacts on display that had been found in the cave dating from the earliest man to the Romans and beyond.
Luckily for us there was a tour due to leave, although they are only half an hour apart anyway so had we just missed one we wouldn't have had too long to wait.
The mouth of the cave wasn't immediately visible as we left the centre so we were quite surprised to find it tucked away a few yards down the path. Before we went in the guide, a young woman in her early twenties checked to see if anyone was claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. I am claustrophobic in some situations but I have visited many caves and have never had a problem so I decided to risk it. Living in Nottingham we have been able to visit lots of caves. Nottingham is built over a labyrinth of caves. In most of these you have a flight of steps taking you down into the cave so it came as some surprise to find that at Poole's cavern there were none.

It was actually quite an experience to walk from the heat of the day into the cold, damp belly of the cave. The cold hits you immediately and it took a couple of seconds for my eyes to adjust from the brightness of the day to the shadows within. That said the cave is actually lit, in sections. In the Victorian times guides would have given the visitor a candle but as the caves became more popular there was a line of gas lamps installed. There is one still standing within the cave, it doesn't work of course.The guide explained how they had to keep the lights off as much as possible as any seeds that were brought in on the clothes and shoes of visitors would germinate. She showed us a patch of grass growing on one of the damp rocks. This particular rock had a spotlight shining on it. She explained that they wanted to keep the cave as natural as possible so didn't want to encourage this artificial growth. I understood that, it did make me think however about the wonder of life, seeing that patch of fresh green in this dark, hidden corner.
Using a torch to highlight different areas, our guide brought our attention to an area that had been excavated. It was sectioned into different squares and in a couple of sections there were bones, human bones, a femur and a skull.
She explained that although we thought the cave extremely cold, the temperature within remained constant and was actually warmer than the bleak temperatures generated in an average winter back then. This was the reason that early man had come to the caves in search of shelter.
Apparently altogether there were over 4000 items found, including Roman artifacts which led to the first part of the cave being known as the Roman chamber.

There is a debate as to how Poole's cavern got it's name. Was it named after John Pole who owned the land that the cave was discovered on, or was it after William Poole, an outlaw thought to have hidden out in the cave in the 15th century? Of course being a romantic I prefer to believe the latter and there is evidence to prove that he was around at that time. William Poole was a flasher. No, not the dirty old man type. A flasher was someone who would clip the edges off coins, melt them down and make money. I suppose you could call him the equivalent to a forger these days. Anyway when they excavated they found evidence of the clippings that were made.

I think for me the most exciting visitor to the caves was Mary Queen of Scots. I have read much on the life of Mary and I know that from the time she was imprisoned she was held in some pretty poor conditions. Mary developed chronic rheumatism and came to Buxton to drink its healing waters. It is said that Mary came to visit the cave and when she could walk no further she asked for the pillar she stood under to be named after her. Apparently some of the guides have been in the cave alone and heard footsteps in the dark. Some even think that it is Mary. It was amazing to be standing there, where she might have stood too, all those years ago. I of course had to touch the cold, wet wall of the pillar. It felt good to be so close to the history surrounding it.
There is a section where many of the visitors who walked the caves in previous centuries had scratched their names into the rock. In those days it was a way of recording that you had been there. Quaint....18th century graffiti!

If I may I would like to try and tell you about the physical structure of the cave. Poole's cavern is huge and magnificent. The moisture that drips through the walls is acidic and forms calcium carbonate which drips down from the ceiling and becomes stalagmite and stalactites. Very technical I suppose but what does it mean?
It means that the cave is always growing, always changing.
The stalactites that hang from the ceiling look like needles, or even long spindly fingers. The biggest has the end missing but still hangs magnificently in the centre of the cave. It is known as the flitch of bacon as it is supposed to look like half a pig. On a visit to Peak cavern in Castleton we discovered that they also have a structure that has been given the same name. Ironic that in a time when food was scarce, both structures were thought to resemble food.
There is an area of the cave where stalagmites are growing up and they look like poached eggs, being white with a yolk coloured peak. Evidence of the growth within the cave is the tiny stalagmite that has started to form on one of the hand rails in the cave.
I wish I could tell you everything we saw but not only would that make this opinion too long, it would also spoil it for you if you should choose to visit the caves. I have no doubt that I would be unable to describe the beauty and the wonder that is on display in this cave. You will have to go see for yourself.
I will tell you that at the end of the tour there is a huge rock that shimmers in the artificial light around it. To me it looked like a cauliflower covered in a light frost, you know the type you get on a November morning. We spent a few minutes here as everyone tried to decide what they thought this resembled. This particular structure was the subject of a competition on Blue Peter and someone got to name it. It is officially called the Sculpture. James said he would have called it mashed potato.

This being the deepest part of the cave, the tour guide talked a little about some of the unscrupulous people that would have hung around at the caves entrance offering to give tours to the nosey Victorians who wanted to venture inside. She explained how many an unsuspecting visitor would follow a guide into the bowels of the cave only to find them at the mercy of the guide, who after placing them in the most vulnerable of positions, would rob them and leave them to find their own way out.

With that, she turned off the light.

When we came out into the sun again we had a great laugh as all of our glasses kept steaming up and we couldn't see a thing after emerging from the cold into the heat of the day.

The cave is open from 10.00am to 5.00pm daily from March to the end of October. It is open in the winter but it is advised that you call ahead to check as rain can make entrance difficult. To get there we followed the A6 from Bakewell. (The views along the way are spectacular and the cave is well signposted.)
We paid for a family ticket to the cave which cost us just over fourteen pounds but that covered us for two adults and three children. This was a great price and value for money is guaranteed as if you pay and don't complete the tour you could have a refund. There were toddlers and oldies in our group and everyone enjoyed the tour. My kids loved every minute of it. I would definately say this is a visit that suits the whole family. Take my advice and take your camera.

For those of you that don't like tight, closed spaces I can reassure you. The cavern is very high and very wide. Nowhere were we asked to crouch down, or mind our heads and hard hats were not even needed. The floor felt a little slippy in places but not so bad that you had to take tiny steps. All the raised areas have a decking floor and I felt safe and secure during all parts of the tour.

The tour lasted about 45 minutes and the guide was confident, knowledgeable and really friendly.
Disabled access is limited but I think just getting into the cave is an achievement and they have done a lot of work to level the walkways and make the footings firm. There is a gift shop, nice clean toilets and a café and outdoor seating area. The car park is large and free too.

I think the great thing about this cavern is the great pain that the staff are taking to preserve it and keep it natural. I got a real feel that they want the cave to continue to grow and change in the way it would have done if it had been left undiscovered. Good for them. I definately appreciated it. Go visit, you'll love it.

Thanks for reading........Mandxx

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Comments on this review

  • noyzboyz published 11/10/2006
    Hi, Thanks for a great op. I grew up living close to Pooles Cavern so I've been down it many times and know several of the guides. Your op has really done the place justice. Cheers Chris
  • jeannie published 03/10/2003
    Sounds wonderful. love Jean xxxxx
  • Muddy250 published 01/10/2003
    I've visited this area hundreds of times (live not far away) but have never been in the caverns. Chris
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Product Information : Poole's Cavern, Buxton

Manufacturer's product description

Landmark - Address: Green Lane, Buxton Derbyshire, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9DH

Product Details

Address: Green Lane, Buxton Derbyshire, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9DH

City: Buxton

Type: Landmark


Listed on Ciao since: 25/09/2003