There is definitely something other-worldly about a visit to Stump Cross Caverns. Driving up onto the moorland, we entered what seemed like a different dimension: misty and cool after the clear of the valley.
Beneath the ground, the children could not help reaching out to the shining walls. They noticed the fairy doors, but were more interested in the nooks and crannies of the place., the formations that looked like villages and the tunnels reaching under the ground.
We have breathed in tales of fairies for hundreds of years. Ancient stories of lost knights and stolen babies, Boggart stories published by the Victorians, the more modern Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones,.. we have been fascinated by creatures of other realms.
A visit to Stump Cross celebrates all this. The cafe walls are painted with forestscapes that peel back onto mountain halls. Magical creatures painted by a local artist dance around a gallery on the other side.
The children enjoyed this, but they enjoyed the fossil hunt more. Sifting through the sand, finding the magic of ancient creatures turned to stone and gems formed underground. We bought a crib sheet and they recited the names of the treasures they found in the car.
"I wish I had a geode," said one child to another. And I realized the true magic of caverns. It is what the land creates that holds the fascination: the wonders of what lies beneath.