Longleat Safari Park and Cheddar Gorge
So, who’s up for some extreme tourism?
My latest escapade for visits unlimited was to audit Longleat Safari Park and sister attraction Cheddar Gorge.
Some simple cave exploration in the Gorge and dancing with lions at Longleat – no problem at all for a wheelchair user!
I have to admit I was intrigued. I couldn’t believe my luck. How romantic, how interesting, but how much of the caves would I see? How would I get around the Safari Park?
Well, I found the whole experience fascinating and much more accessible than you might have thought. With the help of some very well-motivated staff I had a great time. Both sites were an absolute pleasure to survey. Yes, I saw plenty of features that could be improved but the sites are well worth a visit now.
Day One – Cheddar Gorge.
The attraction in essence consists of several caves developed in Victorian times as a tourist venue. With an introductory film show, a modern museum, walks and viewpoints and several shops, there’s a full day out here.
After purchasing tickets, see the introductory film. This beautifully sets the scene with colourful history, wildlife, flora, what to visit and what can be managed.
The main cave – Gough’s Cave – after the man who made a public attraction out of it is unfortunately inaccessible to wheelchair users and anyone who can’t negotiate four sloping steps but is very rewarding for anyone else.
Staff helpfully bumped me down (not for the general public) so I did see most of what is on offer. If my recommendations are followed the access will be quickly improved.
A long tunnel carries you into the rock – Cheddar Man, unique rock formations, twists and turns, audio description points – very special indeed.
After Gough visit the very accessible Museum of Pre-History. Small enough not to be daunting or boring but large enough to house a huge array of exhibits all displayed with imagination.
The fun never stopped
I was lucky enough to be accompanied by an enthusiastic school party who were greatly entertained by the Stone Age re-enactor who dressed them in animal skins, told them about skinning a rabbit and finally showed them how to start a fire with just a few sticks – hugely impressive!
My final, and possibly favourite destination was Cox’s Cave. This is a network of several inter-connected chambers. Complex and challenging for some with mobility or visual impairments it rewards those who can manage handsomely.
A brilliant film show showing the development of Early Man in the area is displayed on the raw walls of each chamber, carrying you through his history, changing environment and the animals he hunted. Sound and lights enhance this extremely entertaining production. Different episodes take you through the cave complex.
Mindful of my mobility issues, staff made sure I saw as much as possible by letting me in the front and back entrances. Nothing was too much trouble.