Situated within the Mendip Hills is a cave where, in 1903, Britain’s oldest complete human was found. He became known as Cheddar Man, and apparently died a violent death over 9000 years ago. Research has shown that tribes of hunter-gatherers first moved into Britain after the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age, approximately 14,700 years ago. Some settled around the Cheddar area, making use of the natural shelter provided by what is now known as Gough’s Cave. Nomadic by nature, they spent their lives hunting the herds of wild horses roaming Europe. In 1997, scientists managed to retrieve DNA from one of Cheddar Man’s tooth cavities and attempted to match this to samples taken from students attending Cheddar College. In an amazing twist, a local man, who taught history at the school, was found to be a direct descendant … across more than 90 centuries and 300 generations. Today, Cheddar Gorge and the caves are some of the most visited attractions in Somerset and provide a direct link back to both the dawn of man and the creation of Britain’s largest gorge. HOW WAS FIRE CREATED AT GOUGH’S CAVE? The ability to create fire to both cook food and create warmth dates back approximately 175,000 years ago. Tinder Fungus refers to a number of species of fungi that catch and hold coals very well. They are used for holding a coal for an extended period of time, to avoid having to go through the effort of restarting a fire. Simply pry off a chunk of the smoldering Tinder Fungus with your adze and blow it to relight some tinder. The hot coal added to dry grass soon ignites and creates a fire. There are a number of attractions within Cheddar Gorge and half a day should be allowed to fully explore the area. Pay-and-display parking is available beside the road, as it winds up through the gorge. A great way to see the gorge itself is by open-top bus tour, which departs regularly from outside the main Visitor Centre. This fully guided tour provides a fascinating commentary on both the creation of the gorge and the many industries that grew in the area. If you’re feeling energetic, a spectacular view of both the gorge and surrounding area waits at the top of a 322-step climb to Lookout Tower, which provides panoramic views across the Levels in one direction and to the Roman lead mines at Charterhouse in the other. Gough’s Cave and the adjacent Cox’s Cave are open daily and a guided audio tour will show you exactly where Cheddar Man was discovered, along with some spectacular calcite structures and incredible mirror pools. At the same time, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about another interesting facet of these caves — the story of their discovery and expansion in Victorian times. The Museum of Prehistory tells the amazing story of prehistoric man in the area and their fight for survival following the last ice age.