Sunday, 11 October 2015

Chislehurst Caves

Today Elvis, myself and the family went to Chislehurst Caves for a double birthday treat. October is a bit birthday mad in my family with birthdays on the 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 16th and 21st. (By the time the last birthday is reached, everyone is a little tired of singing the Birthday Song!) Still, the caves were a treat for The Brother and The Sister so we all trooped into the car and set off.

 The caves were brilliant! They are around 22 miles long with three different sections (Druid, Roman and Saxon), and although the tour round is only about a mile it takes you through a small part of each of the three sections. There is no electricity through the caves (though at one time they were all lit) so for most of the time we used paraffin lamps to show the way which was very dramatic. The caves were extensively used during the World Wars and at one point there were around 15000 people living down there, sleeping on three tier bunk beds and carving their initials into the chalk walls. During the tour we had an 'in cave bombing experience', where the tour guide takes away the lamps so that we can experience the total darkness of the caves, with the accompanying sounds of bombs exploding on the surface above. It was very impressive.

Elvis didn't much enjoy the caves. I think he was afraid of the ghost that reportedly lives down there, of a woman who was killed by being hit over the head with a large rock and dropped into a 12 foot pool. During the war with all the children living in the cave, the pool was filled in until the water was only a few inches deep for safety and whilst this was being done, the lady's skeleton was discovered. Since that time, there have been many reports of voices being heard coming from the pool area and sightings of a shadowy figure. There was even a competition set up in the 1950's, where anyone who stayed a full night by themselves in the caves by the pool would be given £5. They were allowed 6 candles, a box of matches and a thermos flask and were taken down there by some guides who would then leave the competitor on their own, leaving a trail on flour on the floor when they left in case the person wanted to leave in the middle of the night. Apparently over 300 people attempted this but over all the years, the prize money was only given out once- the majority of people lasted about a minute before running out of the caves.

Once out of the cave though and in the sunshine, Elvis recovered his spirits and was a happy travel hamster once more. Especially when the birthday cake was brought out!

We stopped to have a picnic lunch overlooking a reservoir with some boats sailing on it. The distortion in the above photo was were the window of the car began but I think it looks kind of cool. It was a great day out!!

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