Caves of the Mendip Hills

Caves Of The Mendip Hills

Caves of the Mendip Hills

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The Caves of the Mendip Hills are formed by the particular geology of the Mendip Hills, with large areas of limestone worn away by water makes it a national centre for caving. The hills conceal the largest underground river system in Britain.


The hills consist of anticlines of Carboniferous Limestone lying over Devonian Old Red Sandstone. When a surface stream running down one of the impermeable Sandstone peaks reaches the layer of Limestone it sinks below ground through a "swallet", (also known locally as a "slocker"), continuing on its way down towards sea level by enlarging existing cracks in the rock to form caves, and reappearing at the base of the limestone outcrop. As the water changes route within the hill, finding a more direct route, some caves (or parts of caves) are left dry.

There is characteristic type of Mendip cave, in which there is an initially steep descent, and then a more level stretch ending in a "sump" as the cave reaches and descends below the prevailing water table. The passages below the water table (which may be accessible by cave diving) often have a loop formation caused by the water flowing down a bedding plane and then rising up a fracture in the rock. (with some notable exceptions, such as......
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