Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Chislehurst Caves

And yesterday we went to the Chislehurst Caves.

The guide has a story about a guy who attempted an all-nighter in the most haunted section of the caves and how he was stamped on in the dark by the ghost of a horse- or maybe it was a faery horse- the guide wasn't clear. Otherwise there's a white lady. They get around.

Horses are a theme. There's a story we weren't told by the guide but I found on a website about supernatural riders emerging on a certain night of the year and taking off on a wild ride that carries them along the ridge of the hill and through the walls of cottages. Chislehurst is a tame-seeming, wealthy London suburb and it's nice that these rags of high strangeness still cling to it.

An archaeologist called Nichol wrote a paper in 1901 that argued the caves were originally the work of the druids- and I have a postcard showing a sacrificial altar with a see-through druid in front of it that riffs on his suggestion. The "altar" does exist and we saw it but we have only Nichol's word for it that the tilt from left to right is to allow the blood to run freely. The checkable history of the caves is all to do with 18th and 19th century mining- for chalk and flint- and various 20th century uses including munitions store, mushroom farm, bomb shelter, film set and rock venue. Hendrix played the Caves and then hi-tailed it out of there like a scalded cat because he was freaked by stories of white ladies and phantom horses- or so says the guide....

You get an hour's tour for your money and you do it by the light of paraffin lamps and you get to hear a lot of tall tales. The Caves are impressive in themselves (there are something like 22 miles of them)- and when the guide shines his light down the tunnel with its high arched roof it's not difficult to imagine the druid priests processing along it with their beards and sickles and long white robes even if they never did...

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