Edit from 2017- Since this post, my readers kindly donated money for me to get an actual camera, so click here for my better photo quality visit.
Out in the wildnerness of South Shropshire, we made a startling discovery.
I've lived in Shropshire for most of my life and the majority of wall scribbling has been idiotic name tagging. But this is actually artistic. It's a shame it's out in the middle of nowhere where few people will see it. But that wasn't why we were here.
We were on the trail of a quiet, inconspicuous hole in the ground that to the casual observer looks like a slightly large badger set, which is probably exactly what the people who dug it intended.
This was allegedly dug in the 17th Century by followers of the Knights Templar in order to have a secret place to worship. It's also been described as a grotto, and rumour has it a land owner hid his slaves down there when slavery became outlawed. During the 1980s it was apparently used as a worshiping place for a black magic cult.
According to the local media, the land owners then found the place completely vandalized and full of alcohol bottles, and discarded robes, which some cult members with their faces painted red later came to retrieve. The owners then installed CCTV and sealed the entrance.
Of course, the lack of CCTV and the blatantly open entrance would indicate that the media is telling porkies again, and that would indicate that the story of this caves origins and subsequent mis-use at the hands of red faced robed cult worshippers is dubious too, no doubt designed to hype it up.
But regardless, lets take a look inside... (please remember, we don't vandalize, steal, or force entry.)
Wow. Of course I might be wrong with my doubts. A lot of effort went into making this place, thats for sure. It was very cavernous, and completely pitch black. The candles were a modern addition placed there by previous visitors, although the ledges in the walls seemed purpose built for candle placement, which would of course be the only means of lighting this place before electricity. And while we were here, something delightful happened- other people also came to see the cave! This was a family of five, the father of which said that he'd come here when he was younger. And we had a delightful moment of mutual fright as we heard their voices outside the cave and panicked, and they heard us inside the cave and similarly panicked.
But we got along, and set about lighting the candles just to get the full experience, and also to help us see!
Here is an Easter Island style head carved into a pillar, with a stone placed in its mouth.
One of the others accidentally photobombed this but as you can see my camera had trouble focusing in the darkness, and this is actually the best photo of this passageway.
This face seems a lot more amateur than the rest of the caves design and was likely put there by visitors at a later date.
This eye wall sculpt is particularly nice.
As you can see, the place has fallen victim to all kinds of vandalism and so it can be hard to discern what was originally carved into these walls and what was added later.
We joked that this one might be a self portrait of the mysterious "Steve."
Here's a little arachnid resident of the cave. The cave was actually full of spiders, leading us to joke about it being a shrine to the Spider God.
Getting onto some of the more notable features of the cave, this silver splodge with circular indentations really caught our attention, as the circles are completely smooth, and this made us suspect that at some point in the past it may have been used to hold stones in various rituals, perhaps even rune stones. Rune stones are frequently laid out in formation during the readings, and this being on eye level would provide an adequate place for rune stones to be placed since the low light would make placing them flat on the ground in such a confined space tedious. What I didn't notice at the time was the K-shaped symbol above it. Luckily, I also snapped a shot from a little further back so we can see it better.
At the furthermost point of the cave was a circular chamber with a single chair opposite the chamber entrance. I found it strange that a place where people gathered in numbers would have only one seat, but for religious ceremonies it could possibly be for the leader or maybe even a percieved deity.
This four leaf clover carving was prevailant throughout the complex, which to me suggests it's symbolic of something. Of course, since numerous cults have apparently used this for various different purposes, this could mean anything to some and nothing to others.I've been unable to find any significance behind it.
The real beauty is coming up.
This is apparently a sacrificial stone, and would have been the focal point of many a ceremony or ritual. It was right next to the runestone layout.
I'm actually really disappointed by how badly the camera focused on this one, as there is something there between the two pillars. But we took this shortly before departing and I stupidly didn't check the camera. But there appears to be a symbol on the wall of three circles surrounded by a faint ring above further indentations reminiscent of a fireplace.
And again, this was the circular cavern, but my camera didn't focus. Luckily there isn't much being missed by the lack of focus on this particular piece.
But in conclusion, only the makers could possibly know what the purpose of this cavern was. While I'm definitely inclined to believe it was used for some religious ritual purposes, I have no doubt that the media over hyped the story. The cavern itself has a very calming atmosphere, which is exactly the opposite of what you'd expect from any places of negative intent such as, for example, devil worshipping. Its origins are perhaps more questionable than the usage, because while sacrificial stones are unquestionably indicative of rituals, the question remains, who put it here?
Who went through all that effort to dig this place? Was it really followers of the Knights Templar? Or something else entirely?
And what of even further implications? If this place is hidden in a discreet hole in the ground in the middle of woodland, only a few miles from where I live, how many others are out there, centuries old and waiting for discovery?
If anyone out there knows any significance behind the symbols, particularly the four leaf clover, please get in touch.I will be returning when I have a better camera, thats for sure.