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Monday, 23 December 2013

Clearwell Caves celebrate christmas in style


Clearwell Caves are a popular family attraction in the South West - not just for tourists, but for more local families too.  The show caves are made up of a series of interconnected underground caves and caverns, mined for iron ore in days gone by.  At Christmas time they put on an incredibly elaborate display, telling a story as you travel from one cave to the next, with a quick Father Christmas break part way through.  

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I can barely imagine how long it must take for the story to be put together - there are lit trees, voile and twinkling light streams, hand stitched figures, boards telling the story at each stop - they must prepare all year round!

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This was the story of the perfect christmas tree - a family choose a tree from the forest, but can't dig it up.  Cue lots of innovative ways to get the tree, including grandad harnessing lots of his pigeons and attaching them to the tree; dogs digging at the roots; and a family friend trying to use his hot air balloon to drag it out of the ground.

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 There is so much detail in every scene - tiny buttons sewn on to coats, beautiful handmade felt creatures; sequins attached to tiny birds, gifts wrapped and carefully placed around the caves; little rabbits hiding in the background...

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As the story continued, each scene carried on from the previous one, showing the next piece of the action.  By keeping the storyboards short and to the point the children weren't overloaded, and spent their time concentrating on the scenes instead, spoting many details that I would most likely have missed!

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Frustrated by all these thwarted plans, the father angrily decides he will blow the tree out of the ground, but his daughter suggests that instead of taking the tree home, they could instead bring christmas to the tree, so this is what they do. 

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The family place their beautifully wrapped gifts underneath the tree, and decorate it with ribbons and baubles.  They invite all those who had tried to help them uproot the tree to gather around the bejewelled tree to celebrate - grandad and his pigeons;  the gentleman with the hot air balloon; the lady and her dogs who tried to dig it up.

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Everyone visits the tree, and all agree it was much more perfect where it was, in the forest, than if it had been taken back to the family's home
 - a lovely way to end the story.
With a tiny addition of a view of their home, conquered by mice eating their christmas cake, and endlessly taunting the family cat!

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A beautiful place to visit at any time, but especially when the christmas event is on.  With a family friendly cafe, plenty of (admirably organised) parking, and enthusiastic staff, I'd highly recommend a visit - we all had a wonderful time!

If you're sat there thinking well that's lovely but what about the pushchair then worry not -  it's wheelchair (and pushchair and walking frame and walking stick) accessible too!  You need to be prepared for the ground within the caves to be a little uneven, and I think a couple of slopes are probably too steep to be able to comfortably self propel, but the majority of it is very do-able - a pleasant surprise!

And an extra thank you to the staff in the cafe, who didn't  so much as raise an eyebrow at us rearranging the furniture to accommodate Smiler's wheelchair, and served him an extremely generous slice of cake when he asked for pink marshmallows, pink, big please, big pink please!


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