Speleothems in Hall of the
Mountain King, Ogof Craig
a Ffynnon, South Wales.
Beneath our countryside lies a world of unrivalled beauty ... the world of caves with their intricately eroded galleries, their hanging limestone curtains and their pillars of joined stalactites and stalagmites, all emitting a milky sheen.
The world of caves is one of silence, broken only by the drip of water – and colour, where the walls have been stained by minerals.
This world provided the earliest known dwellings in Britain ... the Neanderthals began occupying them just before the last Ice Age, approximately 130,000 years ago .. with Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age man occupying them, on an ever-decreasing scale, until about 2,000 years ago.
Other occupants over time included sabre-toothed tigers, beavers, tailless hairs, red deer, cave bear, hyena, wolf ... to today’s inhabitants - bats, spiders, frogs, beetles, etc
Llangollen canal: The final narrows
Caves are providing us with extra information previously unattainable via the topographical aspects of the earth beneath – and through historic remains – bones and skeletons, tools, cave drawings, artefacts ... including Roman occupants ... giving us pottery, bone pins, iron, bronze and silver rings, brooches and coins.
Since those days man has built new underground structures ... mine workings, deep tunnels quarried into the earth, or tunnels connecting one part of the country to another, cellars and undercrofts provide other havens for wildlife.
Natural erosion occurs giving temporary underground cover ... rivers cut down creating their river beds, provide purchase for undergrowth to grow across creating a temporary bridge ...
Covered areas – pedestrian passageways, the underground (metro) system, sewage systems, service tunnels ... all spaces that will soon be occupied by creatures other than humans ...
|The Herald Moth hibernates in|
cool, dark places
We forget beneath our feet life continues, and continues to evolve ... spiders, hibernating moths, flatworms, springtails and ground beetles ... providing prey for bats; small pools support crustaceans; trout too have ended up in underground waters; flies, frogs ... all are part of the cycle of life.
Most underground entrances or shafts provide suitable conditions for a wide variety of shade and moisture-loving flowering plants, liverworts, ferns and algae, while in caves themselves many species of fungi have been found on decaying animal and plant matter brought in by floods or cavers.
Underground Britain gives us yet another aspect of the British countryside hidden away in their silent locations ... a window into the earth ....
This is Underground Britain – that is what U is for ..
Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories