Monday 25 April 2011

U is for Underground Britain – that is what U is for ...

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

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Grumpy1 said...

Hello Hilary

U is also for unknown - I don't know whether, or not, alphabetic grouping is possible on Google Reader. The only settings I can see are - newest, oldest, and something called 'magic'.
Thanks for your comments on my blog.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roberto .. you're right .. unknown in the UK and Aus!! Oh well .. perhaps Google will do something about it sometime .. thanks for looking anyway ..

Good to see you here .. cheers Hilary

Sue said...

Caves are amazing, I love going in them and sensing the weight of the earth above. Eerie places, primeval, and no wonder given what you've discussed.

Paula RC said...

As much as I would love to see the underground caves of our beautaful country I wouldn't like to crawl through those narrow tunnels. Whenever I see potholing on the TV I go cold at the thought of being stuck down there in the dark.

Lots of love to both you and your mother.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sue .. I went into caves quite happily in South Africa .. but not so sure here .. as Jarmara below says cold, dark and narrow - not so keen.

Sue - you're so right with the descriptive words eerie, primeval etc and weight of earth above .. I guess Australian caves are quite cavernous?

@ Jarmara .. as I said to Sue above .. I kind of agree with you .. we crawled through some tunnels in South Africa and I wasn't that keen .. here it'd be too dark, damp and questionable! Also potholing - I definitely agree with your comments!

Thanks for your thoughts re my Mama .. she seems to be 'fine' at the moment - peaceful and sleepy ..

Great to see you both - thanks for coming by and commenting .. have good weeks .. Hilary

Joanne said...

Fascinating! Science Fiction/Fantasy, brought to real life. What is it they say, truth is stranger than fiction?

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Your blog is so soothing and comforting. It almost satisfies the need to have done explorations ourselves. I agree that there is a whole world beneath our feet.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joanne .. hi - welcome back!! Your comment absolutely holds water here .. it is incredible .. thanks so much!

@ Munir .. soothing and comforting .. great - so pleased Munir you enjoy the posts .. I actually think I have satisfied that need for doing the exploration myself - good thought!

We tread the earth and should do it with more care .. you're right.

Thanks Joanne and Munir .. have good weeks ahead .. Hilary


Really enjoyed this as I love wild life and all that goes with it. It fascinates me. I hope you're ok now.
Take care.

Anonymous said...

So very atmospheric. The Golden Eagle also did an underground post of cities. They really excite the imagination :O)

walk2write said...

You and I must be thinking in parallel fashion. I was thinking about posting on caves in Florida, but I couldn't find the pics I took of our last trip to Marianna on this computer. I think I must have them on the laptop at the other house. It will be nice to have everything in one place.

I love that caves are so full of life, some things never seen by the light of day.

Thanks for the lovely comment you left on my site. I hope you and your mother are doing well.

Arlee Bird said...

I've never thought of England as being a place of many caves. In my younger days, I went through a period when spelunking (cave exploring) was one of my hobbies. It's fascinating under the ground, but I eventually became fearful of claustrophobia and stopped doing it. I still like going on public tours of larger caverns though.

Hope you join us in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post on Monday May 2nd.

MTeacress said...

A window into the earth...that's a good way to put it. We've got some amazing caves here in Utah (Timpanogos), and after a 1000 foot (in elevation) hike upwards, visitors can cool off inside. Caves are a neat experience. :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You must put a lot of effort into these blogs. Well done, Hilary. The subject matter is always fascinating. Thanks!

Karen Lange said...

What a great choice for the letter U! Can't believe the Challenge is nearly over. Have a great week! :)

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

What a great description of what lies beneath your feet. Like you, I am quite happy to leave the mysterious warrens to the current inhabitants. On a visit to Nova Scotia, I was invited to explore an old mine shaft that extends two or so miles out under the ocean. I could not come up with one reason to accept...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yvonne .. thanks very much .. there's so much going on we don't see - and thanks I am almost better - you too: take care

@ Madeleine .. I must check out the Golden Eagele's posts .. thanks - caving is very atmospheric .. but I'm glad I'm above ground.

@ W2W .. I think probably everyone was wondering about U!! That would have been so interesting to see - another day I hope. There's so much going in caves and we could weave in so much more!

Pleasure being over at your site .. and my mother is fine - many thanks ..

@ Arlee - do you call it spelunking .. modern verb I think? Speleology - is the art of caving isn't it? - but spelunking is a fun word.

So you caved too .. large caves I can handle .. but the Welsh one .. looks very interesting - one day I might visit.

Yes - I'll be there for the mega Reflections Post .. thanks for reminding me ..

Many thanks Yvonne, Madeleine, W2W and Arlee .. enjoy these last few days of the A - Z .. cheers Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Michelle - glad you picked that phrase up "window into the earth" .. I wouldn't mind your big caves I think .. and I'm sure they must have many interesting aspects to them .. lovely name Timpanogos .. at least I get to walk back down!

@ Joylene .. thanks - just pleased you enjoy them .. always good to see you ..

@ Karen - I know ze end is coming! Glad you enjoyed 'U' .. and you too have a good week ..

@ Amy .. many thanks .. I did manage to go down a mine in South Africa - not a very deep one (there are tours for very deep ones) .. and managed the cage (which to me is the worst part!!) and the tour was interesting .. but I'm so appreciate those early miners .. terrible and frightening ..

So your thought about no reason for visiting under the ocean .. I think I can quite easily understand!

Many thanks Michelle, Joylene, Karen and Amy .. lovely seeing you here and have good weeks .. Hilary

Sara said...


This was very INTERESTING! I didn't know about "underground Britain" and all the caves. You are so right about how "We forget beneath our feet life continues, and continues to evolve..." I liked this thought.

Thanks for sharing underground Britain with me:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. delighted you enjoyed it and learnt something. As you noted there is so much going on all the time as we trample around!

Thanks - glad to read that it was a little thought provoking .. underground is as important as above!

Cheers - Hilary