Archaeologists discover bomb in beauty spot wall
Mystery surrounds how an unexploded bomb was left secreted in a Cheddar Valley beauty spot for the best part of 70 years.
Bomb disposal experts had to carry out a controlled explosion after keen amateur archaeologists made the shocking discovery of the Second World War mortar bomb last Tuesday.
The group of four from Charterhouse Historic and Environmental Research Team (CHERT), led by archaeologist Steve Tofts, was carrying out surveying work near Cheddar Gorge.
Eagle-eyed CHERT member Brian Corney looked into a crevice and spotted something he assumed to be a old bottle.
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"We were measuring the Velvet Bottom dam walls, a legacy of the lead mining industry that is suspected to be of Victorian construction," he said.
"I thought it must be a bottle that some Victorian navvy had left before he'd finished his day's work.
"But as I pushed away some of the earth surrounding it, I realised it was metal and spotted the fins at the bottom.
"I could see the cap was red and the rest of it was khaki in colour, and I was pretty certain then it was a bomb."
The discovery was made in the area where there was a great deal of Second World War military activity – including the decoy town Black Down.
In typical British spirit, the archaeologists went to the pub before contacting the police and Mr Corney accompanied an officer to the spot.
"The officer took pictures of the bomb and then sent them onto the bomb disposal team at Tidworth, who identified it as a Second World War device," said Mr Corney.
"I then got the call to meet the bomb disposal squad at Velvet Bottom the next morning."
Police officers cleared the area – moving on a group of unsuspecting bird watchers – before the bomb disposal unit were allowed to continue with their work.
"We were moved 100m away and the sergeant from the unit identified it as a mortar bomb," he said.
"Everyone was very relieved to see the safety pin was still intact.
"It had 8oz of plastic explosive still inside and the sergeant had to use another 8oz of plastic explosives to blow it up.
"It made a fair pop and created a small crater."
Mr Corney said the circumstances in which the bomb was found raises questions about why it was left behind up to 70 years ago.
"It really did look as if someone shoved it in the hole in the wall, perhaps to come back for later," he said.
"Who knows, perhaps some Dad's Army-type out one night 'lost it' intending to come back for it another time.
"I suppose it is just lucky that no-one found it and interfered with it.
"We'd love to hear from anyone who knows anything about how it ended up here."
This week the CHERT members concluded their survey – with caution. But they hope the find may prompt readers to come forward with any information on the lead mining on the Mendips, particularly regarding the dams.
Anyone with information can contact CHERT by sending an email to BrianCorney@aol.com.