Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Playing Mole

"If a man is poor he had only to go to Nottingham with a mattock, a shovel, a crow, an iron, a chisel or a mallet, and with such instruments he may play mole and work himself a hole or burrow for his family."
—Anon 1870



The city of my birth, Nottingham, England, has something in common with the place I live now, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands - caves. I was brought up with the knowledge that underneath the city ran a vast labyrinth of some five hundred caves, which over the centuries have been used for public house cellars, a tannery, air raid shelters and for general storage and living accommodation.



They have been inhabited and worked in for over 1000 years, and they are all handmade! The city is built on bunter (Sherwood) sandstone, which is very soft and easily carved into with simple tools. Many of the caves were almost lost during the building of a new shopping centre in the late 1960s, but they have now been preserved as an ancient monument, and since 2004 The City of Caves has been a designated tourist attraction. The pictures above and below are from Nottingham21.co.uk, clicking here will take you to a gallery of the caves. 


Ray Teece, who owns the site, and who has generously allowed me to use his images, was given access to areas not generally open to the public and there are some fascinating pictures. 


Under Willoughby House are caves once used as air raid shelters during WW2 but which at one time, Ray says, may have been used by the gentry to have a cool drink in equally cool surroundings. In 1189 drinkers were enjoying ale which had stored deep in the cellars of the 'Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem', arguably the oldest pub in England, and the caves of which are said to have run directly to Nottingham Castle, perched on the rock high above. 'Mortimer's Hole' is perhaps Nottingham's most famous cave, and played a part in British Medieval history. It is supposed to be the tunnel where Edward III's soldiers entered the castle and captured his enemy, Roger de Mortimer.

A two year Cave Survey is currently being carried out by Trent and Peak Archaeology, University of Nottingham, using laser scanners, which produce 3D images, to record the layout of the caves and tunnels beneath the city.The link takes you to the website where the techniques is explained and where unusual and exciting videos can be viewed of the results of their survey. They have a somewhat ethereal quality and are accompanied by wonderfully appropriate music. If you've time have a look at more than one - they're fascinating.

This one shows the Herbarium Cave, one of Victorian lace manufacturer Thomas Herbert's spectacular garden caves. It was heated with a hypocaust system and may have been used to provide heated seating for Alderman Herbert's guests. Another great place to have a drink or a party.



In Lanzarote, our caves are not man made. The majority are the results of ancient volcanic eruptions and they are dotted all around the island. Some are accessible only to experienced cavers and others have been further enhanced and developed as natural auditoriums for concerts, such as the spectacular Jameos del Agua, created by the artist and visionary César Manrique. Manriques' own home, now an art gallery and visitor attraction, was also built from a volcanic bubble. Manrique rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and his guests would also have enjoyed a drink in stunning surroundings. Another brilliant place to have a party. I wrote about it in this blogpost, and here is my favourite underground place to chill (if only).


Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week was a picture of the Wombeyan Caves and it will have led contributors down all sorts of rabbit holes in a bid to match the theme. Why not join the rest of the troglodytes and see what they found?


21 comments:

  1. Really interesting! I didn't know that about Nottingham - wow!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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  2. Another great piece M, I didn't know about the caves in Nottingham, but have been up close and personal with some of the ones here.

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  3. Yes, the Nottingham caves are fascinating. One special place is the Church Rock Cemetery on Mansfield Road, the mixture of caves and tombstones give a uniquely biblical atmosphere. It somehow reminds me of the place where Ben Hur found his mother and sister.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7370920@N02/5822911422/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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  4. Most intriguing. I wonder how he managed to get a palm tree to grow underground?

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  5. I had no idea about the Nottingham caves, Nell. Thanks for exposing the detail in your own inimitable, documentary style.

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  6. Living in a cave does not interest me. But knowing of a world going on underground is so intriguing. It sounds like the stuff of fiction, but you tell me it's real.

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  7. I wrote about Nottingham Castle and Roger Mortimore last year in the A-Z Challenge. The cave survey is well worth following.

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  8. You live in a fascinating place. The Jameos de Agua is a brilliant concept. In Nottingham and other cavey places I wonder about ownership of these underground spaces. People apparently just moved into them? "Playing mole" has no appeal for a phobic, even a cured one, like me. I'll stay above ground at all costs.

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  9. Those caves sound interesting. Would really enjoy living there during tornado warnings.

    Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a cave because we have a berm on the north side of the house and the only windows are on the one south side. I forgot that for this post though.

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  10. I have never actually visited "The Trip To Jerusalem" which is quite a confession for a supposed pub-lover like me to make. The next time you and John are spending some time in Nottingham let me know and I will pop down and buy you a drink there. The Manriques house is a different matter - I remember my trip there with great fondness.

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  11. Well, isn't this amazing. I feel sure we went to Nottingham but I have no memory of this so maybe we didn't...maybe I just thought we did. I must go back to old Blighty one day...so much I haven't seen.

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  12. Such an interesting place, and it's so funny how some of these places go unbeknownst to so many. Another thing I enjoy about blogging is all learning adventures it offers. We have a cave in Stillwater, Minnesota that looks a tiny bit like this. Thanks Marilyn for such an interesting theme this week.

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  13. Very intriguing about two kinds of caves...and I'm also claustrophobic as I found out when I tried to spend a night in a huge cave one time...stayed awake and meditated a lot! Most of the caves in southeastern US are limestone formed by underground rivers.

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  14. Interesting and fascinating. Yes I would like to see them.

    There are supposedly tunnels under the nearby town gold town of Beechworth. It is said that men would visit the pub and go by tunnel under the road to visit the ladies of the night.

    However the public are not permitted to see them unfortunately.

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  15. What a tour! Thanks! I didn't realize there were so many tunnels.

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  16. I had no idea these caves existed. It's fascinating. And now I think I might know why my pen pal in the 1960s stopped writing. Sink hole.

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  17. That video was fascinating even if cave living would be a tad too rustic for me. Got to admire the technology involved in the rendition. Manrique was oddly familiar and after researching, I remember seeing some of his paintings before.
    Great post!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  18. What an interesting and well put together post! I live in Southern Spain, there are lots of caves here too. I even know an expat who lives in a cave house:)

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  19. Alicante castle has a tunnel down to the port. It was built by the British in the Peninsular War.

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  20. In Holland everything is clay, so there are no caves over here. I remember the caves in Granada with the flamingo players.

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