Pooles Cavern


Poole's Cavern was officially opened to the public as a show cave in 1953 by the sixth Duke of Devonshire and is a 2 million year old natural limestone cave on the edge of Buxton. Its alternative name is Poole's Hole and has been designated a site of special scientific interest, with archaeological explorations undertaken in 1981 and 1983, which suggests the cave was occupied from the Bronze Age. The name comes from the story about an outlaw, Poole, who, legend has it, used with cave as a lair by to rob weary travellers back in the 15th century. It was listed as one of the Wonders of the Peak by Charles Cotton in 1683 and it's claimed that Mary Queen of Scots was an early visitor.

Today, it's possible to travel deep underground to explore the bowels of the cave, with expert guides and discover the vast limestone caverns to see how crystal stalactites have formed in the chambers over billions of years. The underground world is now lit up with new LED lighting, as opposed to the system of gas lamps which were used right up until 1965.

Work in the last few years has shown there is a passage somewhere beyond a massive boulder choke, or rock pile, at the current end of the cave and the part which is currently open to the public is around 310 m in length. It has various chambers called the Roman Chamber, Great Dome, Poached Egg Chamber and Sculpture Chamber and is packed full of features including large stalactites and stalagmites called the ' Flitch of bacon' and Mary Queen of Scots pillar,' as well as stalagmites, which have a very porous texture and poached egg colour, which come from the minerals leached from the lime burning on Grin Low above.

Cavern tours are accompanied with a guide at all times, and tours begin every 20 min and leave from the visitor centre, exhibition area. The cavern tour is approximately 15 min underground and there are 28 steps in the cavern with no more than 10 in one place, so pushchairs and child buggies are permitted in the cave. The temperature underground is a constant 7°C, 44°F and there are just two low points. One is located at the entrance one is situated by the first set of steps but they are clearly marked with 'mind your head' signs.

There is a pay and display car park for 80 vehicles at a level access to the visitor centre. The cafe serves refreshments, light meals and snacks and there is a separate room for group and school use and a wet weather picnic room. Dogs are allowed in the visitor centre and cafe.

The shop stocks rock mineral samples, a range of other goodies including books, toys and gifts and also some jewellery. The visitor centre includes the cavern exhibition with archaeology found in the cave on display and a film showing the unseen parts of the cavern.

The country park surrounding Poole's Cavern leads to a woodland path from the car park to the open summit of Grin Low, 437 m above sea level. It's hard to believe that it was once condemned as an eyesore, but from the 16th to the early 19th century, the site was a sprawling limestone quarry. The rock was burnt in pudding pie kilns to supply the farming and building industries for fertiliser and mortar and the outlines of the kilns can still be seen today, and the waste, meanwhile, was dumped on the hillside.

The debris was too deep enough for workers to burrow inside and they fashioned small lime waste cottages, which were still being used in the mid 19th century, although by then the Duke of Devonshire took action. In the 1820s, the first trees were planted as a direct response to complaints about the appearance of this heavily quarried wasteland and the trees soon became another asset to the environs of Poole's Cavern, and today they form 40 hectares of mature woodland full of beach, ash, elm, and sycamore with willow, hawthorn, rowan and birch trees around the edges.

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