Last weekend Christine and I visited Creswell Crags on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It is a limestone gorge with various caves along the sides, in which evidence for occupation by human ancestors during the ice age has been found. They are also the only caves in the UK to have cave art on the walls, which was only formally discovered in 2003.
The gorge itself was a beauty spot in Victorian times, and various archaeological excavations have taken place since then. Many of the finds are now in a museum and visitor centre, to the north of the site, which we also visited, and this organises tours of two of the more interesting caves. The caves are normally closed to the public, so it is only by going on the tours that you can see the cave art, which are simple animal depictions carved into the rocky walls of the caves. There’s possible evidence that these were painted at one time, like in other caves in continental Europe (I visited Lascaux, or rather the mock-up at Lascaux II, back in the 1990s), but nowadays just the carvings are visible.
It’s a very interesting site, and the museum explains how the area was in different periods in time – before the last ice age, there would have been hippos in the water and hyenas hunting. The museum was opened in 2009 and is an interesting piece of architecture in itself, and has the ubiquitous café and gift shop.
It’s worth a visit – you can wander around the gorge itself for free, but the tours inside the caves and the museum cost money – up to £13 for adults to do both tours, although this is valid for a year for any repeat visits. There’s a picnic area if it’s a nice day, and the gorge is very pretty.