Here in the UK, every November 5th, we celebrate Bonfire Night, dating from 1605 when a terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James was foiled. James I ordered the original celebrations to show his strength to all who might betray him, to show that the English (and Scottish) monarchy were indeed a force to be reckoned with.
It may seem a little perverse to still salute a 400 year old ‘cock up’, particularly as we are not as Royalist as once upon a time, but as you may know, we love a reason to get together. This year, Steve and I went to see our dear friends Lynne and Pete in Somerset, and had a jolly old day out in Cheddar (yes, where the cheese comes from). Along with their little Jack Russell, Scrumpy, we we had a good old West Country wander involving caves, cider, fresh air and of course, a fabulous bonfire party.
Cheddar Caves and Gorge are truly spectacular. Not only is the gorge crammed with curios, cheese shops and tea rooms (and crazy golf!), but it offers one of the most amazing natural wonders you can find. The caves meander along the ancient river bed of the still winding trickle and were formed in the main part by the last ice age. The limestone has been carved throughout the centuries by running and flooding water to create an incredible grotto like wonderland which was uncovered at the beginning of the twentieth century.
It was also home to ‘Cheddar Man’, thought to be the oldest known remains being approximately 9000 years old. My favourite fact of the weekend? Apparently Cheddar Man’s DNA was tested only to discover a direct descendant still living in the local area! Brilliant! And if you do find yourself a wandering the gorge any time, I would highly recommend the cream tea at The Wishing Well – be prepared to take your cake stomach with you!
We climbed Jacob’s ladder but sadly the weather and light got the better of us and the cliff top walk has been reserved for another day. One of the bonuses of Cheddar Gorge’s ticket is it’s open ten year use. That’s right, fail to get in all the activities in a day then you can simply keep your tickets until you are next in the area; smashing! As if Steve and I needed an excuse.
As for the bonfire celebrations, we went to a tiny Somerset village called Priddy. The local committee had arranged and put on their annual bonfire event with fireworks, bouncy slides, barbecue and the finest hot mulled cider (too good – I may have had a couple). All visitors paid a charitable donation on entry, hopefully making plenty as over a thousand people must have gathered on the field. The atmosphere was wonderful, warm and comforting with the sound of children’s laughter bouncing around. The cold stayed mostly at bay, as did the rain and we were able to enjoy the silliness that the season allows.
It was all so terribly quaint, children made guys which were judged for prizes of sweets. Children and adults engaged, tossing their varied horror-film guys into the flames of a slightly sodden bonfire (I was amazed it took light!) while others mingled together by the bar or on the small selection of fair ground rides. For us, we stood hugging our cups of hot cider and ate home made flap jacks under the scent of deep autumn; mud and smoke and cold. It was wonderful – so very far from the original idea of Bonfire Night, but a great opportunity to celebrate a coming together of friends, of family in a spirit so often lacking in every day life. Happy times!
I am now going to attempt to incorporate a slide show of my weekend – here goes nothing . . .!