Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wookey Hole...Revisited

A Return to Childhood Memories

Today 21st C Dad and I took the children to Wookey Hole, a place which we had both visited during our childhood during the 1970s and 80s. Between us we recalled the memories of the network of showcaves, the witch that had been turned to stone, the paper mill and the collection of Madame Tussauds' waxwork heads!

We couldn't spend a week in Somerset without another visit to relive our childhood experiences.

Wookey Hole in the 21st Century is a whole new experience. Set in a village, a few miles out of Wells, Wookey Hole looked all too familiar upon our arrival. However, as soon as we got out of the car and trekked up to the entrance, the differences began to emerge.

We were initially met by a purple witch, advertising a range of in-house entertainment events that were taking place throughout the day. I certainly don't remember hosts of the witch variety in the 1970s...maybe they only come out for Halloween...

While queuing for our tickets I noticed that the ghastly Self-Service Restaurant, which served bland food in the 70s, has thankfully now closed and has been replaced by the Big Top restaurant in the centre of the complex.

Our tour began with a visit to the caves and was both entertaining and interesting, with a guide who had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. 21st Century tours now include more clever lighting than once was available in the past and enabled us to come face to face with the real witch of Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole caves now also stores Cheddar Cheese for a range of supermarkets and is consequently sold as Cave Aged Cheddar. The cave tour now includes a walk past the Cheese Cellar, so non-enthusiasts of the smell of mature cheese should take note and remember a nose-peg for future tours.

After a walk through a concrete tunnel, which is now decorated with beautiful recreations of cave paintings...

...the tour leads into the familiar exit, with a view of the river flowing out from the caves.

Familiarity didn't stay with us for long, as we turned and followed a path into Dinosaur Valley, an exhibition of dinosaurs and other creatures, including my favourite...a huge woolly mammoth...

The tour then leads into the old Paper Mill building, which now plays host to exhibitions about the Wookey Hole caves as well as the history of making paper. Paper making demonstrations were available as well as other fun activities including, climbing frames and a Victorian arcade full of ha'penny machines. There was also a hall of mirrors and a mirrored maze, which was excellent.

Sadly, as a result of change in ownership the Madame Tussauds collection of heads no longer exists, which was a disappointment. However, one of the latest features that has been added to the attraction is a theatre, where Wookey Hole organisers are able to put on performances tailored to the seasons. Today, we were entertained by a fabulous troupe of young performers who showed off their acrobatics and circus talents focusing on a Halloween theme. The children were fantastic and put on a thoroughly entertaining performance, which is well worth a repeat visit.

Wookey Hole Revisited did give me plenty to think about, especially how the passage of time goes so quickly. When I visited as a child, I never once considered how I would be returning several decades later with my own children.

I remember my excitement then. However, it seems nothing compared with the excitement of my two children today. I initially complained at the price of a family ticket at £38 for a day's pass. However, tight-fisted old me has come around to the wonderful value that it represented, resulting in a very memorable family day out.

On the subject of money, here is something that I picked up at the Paper Mill last thing upon which to ponder no matter what century one might live in....

ADDENDUM - I have since discovered that Wookey Hole was once owned by Madame Tussauds, hence the connection with the Head exhibition. Its current owner is Gerry Cottle of Circus fame, which accounts for the development of the new theatre attraction. More information about the history of the caves can be found here.


IngeniousRose said...

21st Century Mummy, I have just looked (twice) at the picture of the Wookey Hole witch, it is 11.10pm, I may be awake for the rest of the night too spooked to sleep. I am relieved to read that the wax heads are no longer there. It could have prevented me sleeping ever again. Very interesting post x

Baba said...

hello hello ! I found you !!! Looks like you have had a brill few days....was great to hear about Wookey Hole - sure provoked a few Baba memories too! Glad you're back, missed you xx

Ruby in Bury said...

I've often heard the name "Wookey Hole" and have always wondered what sort of a place it was - now I know, so thank you for that post! Looks like a great day out.

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Ingenious Rose - LOL...just wait for my Halloween post - hee hee. I actually missed the Heads exhibition...must be my gorey nature. :-#

Hi Baba - I am pleased that you tracked me down and would like to apologise for not giving you advance knowledge. Actually, I knew that our cottage had Wi-Fi and had planned to blog sooner, but I've been too busy enjoying myself! Can't wait to chat about your trip to WH. ;-D

Hi Ruby - Wookey Hole is such a fascinating name! You should put it on the MUST DO list for your trip en route to Cornwall. Looking forward to getting home for a catch up ;-D

Erik said...

*puts on work head*
do u know when the Tussauds Group let go of Wookey Hole?

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi erik - I'm sorry I don't know when Tussauds sold Wookey Hole. Sorry I can't help.