Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 16: Nottingham & Arbor Low

We spent most of our morning uncertain about what to do as many of the things we wished to see were only open on weekends. Creswell Crags only runs cave tours on the weekend, for example. After dithering over breakfast, we walked to Broadmarsh Shopping Centre and located “City of Caves”. It was astonishing to find a tourist attraction in a shopping centre, much less elaborate caves as old as medieval times!

We chose not to wear hardhats and descended the stairs with an audio guide. An earthy dank smell arose and we found ourselves in the caves. There were wells (I threw a penny into the Make A Wish well, hoping to be inspired by the caves), rooms damp with water and low ceilings. It was not claustrophobic - more cosy. A little unsettling perhaps. The guide took us to a room where clandestine meetings were supposedly held. A hole in the ceiling was said to be used by a boy on lookout to drop a stone into the room, providing a warning of approaching enemies. 

The lighting is very eery down there.

Then we entered the tannery which had pits carved into the floor (would have been full of piss and shit - lovely) and a grand pillar holding up the ceiling (it once held up a road!). We passed into a cave with a poorer pillar (but this was a younger one - 1700s as opposed to the 1500s pillar).
They don't make pillars like they used to.

We viewed an air raid shelter made during WWII (cave shelters like this one saved countless lives) and then were confronted with the cellars of Victorian slums long demolished for the railway.

The marshes of Nottingham escaped a plague in the 17th century, something which appealed to wealthy people seeking a new home. But then the slums arose - those living in the cellars dug extra space into the malleable sandstone.

Speakers provide ambient sounds in this tourist attraction but you can still hear trickling water and rumbling trams, buses and cars overhead. The whole place shakes. History buried beneath progress.

Now that's just creepy.

I truly believe these caves have provided shelter for millennia, the ancient tool marks disguised by descendants widening the caves. 

We emerged into the gift shop. After browsing the shopping centre, we found an awesome comic book shop. Then it was time for lunch at Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem Inn (the oldest inn in England, the sign boasts). It was built into the sandstone of Castle Rock. We enjoyed our meals there before passing through a Sainbury’s then drove to Arbor Low.

Satnav refuses to acknowledge its existence. As we neared it, we noted the old fences made from only stone (no mortar!) and the rolling green hills full of lambs.

We were greeted warmly and shown the B&B. No one is staying in the double room so we have the lounge, kitchen and bathroom to ourselves. Wifi is free!

The owner offered us cake and the cats offered us company. A female black and white cat (very friendly) demanded attention from us which we gave. Cazy is still healing from losing his cat and relished the contact. The cat followed us in and proceeded to hungrily link the Marmite jar until I kicked it out.

The stone circle, owned by the B&B family, requires £1 for entry but we were allowed to visit it for free. The sky was bleak as we roamed over the very impressive ditch, capturing the stones with our cameras. The stones are flat or fallen - who knows? The owner boasts that Arbor Low “is cooler than Stonehenge because you can climb over it”.

Cooler than Stonehenge? Hmm.

The English Heritage sign was not as enthusiastic about people climbing on the stones. The lambs didn’t care. I was excited to be unchecked by any security guards. What a place! A burial mound lies at one end and the ditch is large. You can’t see over the henge at some points - not a very defensive structure, then! Another burial mound is a short walk away.

Heathens!

It smells of country and poo here. 

We went to a village pub and had freaking huge meals. Back for an evening in. So...it’s nice here. Glad the double is not rented!

Goodnight.

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