Burrington Combe, Somerset: One striking rock formation bears deeper scars than most, powerfully suggestive of the massive geological forces that formed this landscape
At Burrington Combe, towards the north-eastern edge of the Mendip range, the road winds between cliffs of fissured limestone. One particularly striking rock formation bears deeper scars than most, powerfully suggestive of the massive geological forces that formed this landscape of rocks, caves, gullies and underground streams.
Across the road is a space where worshippers used to gather to sing “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” since it was in the deepest of those scars that the writer of that hymn was believed to have sheltered from a storm and composed the words. The fact that the story is now generally regarded as improbable does not lessen the elemental grandeur about the place. Only a few yards away I peered down the entrance to a cave discovered in 1797 where close on 100 skeletons were found, fragments of which are judged to be 10,000 years old.
I followed directions along a footpath that climbs through wooded slopes towards Beacon Batch, on the top of Black Down, the highest point on the Mendips. The stony path was slippery in thin drizzle. Amid scrub and bramble were more great sloping slabs of rock diagonally scarred and sometimes mossy, and at the entrance to a cave called Sidcot Swallet, I read a printed warning from Mendip Cave Rescue. I had gone only a little way up but, remembering a local who, weeks ago, had said of the dry bed of a nearby stream “give her a couple of months and she’ll be a raging torrent”, I made the excuse to myself that weather would blank out the famed views from the top and turned back.
The lumbering lorries that I squeezed past on the homeward road reminded me that while Romans mined the Mendips for lead, it is carboniferous limestone for road-building aggregate that is now extracted from these hills.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/338fe7ab/sc/38/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cenvironment0C20A130Cnov0C110Csomerset0Erock0Eof0Eages0Ecleft/story01.htm