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Be in ‘ore’ of the Clearwell Caves

Posted on 31st March 2014

This guide looks to introduce you to one of the most prominent attractions and landmarks of the Forest of Dean’s history.

Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean is an iron ore mine that has been a part of the forest’s history for thousands of years; today it stands as a working mining museum and is one of the best things to do in the Forest of Dean for families and those coming to the area on holiday.

As a working mine

Clearwell Caves have been used to source iron ore for centuries, where the product has been used for tools, weapons and machinery. The Clearwell Caves are particularly interesting for their iron ore as it can come in the form of a powder in an array of colours, including red, yellow, purple and brown ochre.

The iron ore mines at Clearwell Caves have been a part of the ancient natural cave systems for some 330 million years having been formed in a bed of Carboniferous limestone, known as Crease Limestone originally. The original source of iron mineralisation at the caves remains a mystery to geologists, who have studied and researched its origins as the remaining strata above the caves’ limestone contains a relatively small amount of iron mineralisation when compared to the huge amount that ended up in the cave systems. While a few mysteries remain there is still much to learn about the area and the working mine from the Clearwell Caves and its new use as a museum.

As a museum

Today the mines act as a working mining museum where visitors staying in family holiday cottages in the Forest of Dean can come along and learn about the mining history of the area and see the stunning caverns as well as the geological and mining displays.

Alongside the museum, Clearwell Caves offers the chance to experience deep level caving where trained and experienced mine leaders take groups down into the complex abandoned workings on an exploration of the caves. Here, they can see all manner of sights and put themselves to the test in a challenge of physical capability and courage as they explore the intertwining nature of the caves and mines.

Visitor information:

Entry to Clearwell Caves is just £6.50 for adults and £4.50 for children, with under-fives able to visit the mines for free. This allows visitors to see the nine different caverns 100 feet underground and learn from the mining equipment and geological displays dotted around the museum.

Semi-deep level visits cost just £12 for adults and children, where they can experience the caves at a simple level, and then the brave can take on the exhilarating deep level visits that cost £25 for adults and £18 for under 18s. To find out more about the caves ticket prices see the Clearwell Caves website for details.

Image Credit: Ben Coulson (flickr.com)

As a filmstar

The ‘ore’-inspiring caverns are such an impressive sight that they have been the subject of a number of prominent films and TV series. Back in 2010 the Clearwell Caves played host to the film crews of both Dr Who and Countryfile’s Matt Baker. Matt Smith was seen in the caves filming the April 2010 ‘Time of the Angels’ episode of Dr Who as it made use of the caves’ atmospheric appearance.

The caves were also used as the backdrop for such broadcasts as Merlin in 2009, Dalziel and Pascoe, The Pirate Prince, Blakes Seven, Narnia, The Changes and Kidnapped, to name just a few. Father and son team Ray and Jonathan Wright run the caves with Ray having acted as a founding member of the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club, which was started in 1964. Since this time the pair have continually kept the Clearwell caves maintained and open for visitors as well as obliging film crews to make use of the attraction’s fantastic scenery.

Image Credit: Timothy Krause (flickr.com)