Cheddar Gorge strikes back against Longleat's cable car critics
Cheddar Caves spokesman Hugh Cornwell responded to today's CPRE comments and reports with this letter to the Cheddar Valley Gazette:
“Longleat Estate share the views of the CPRE, the AONB, the National Trust and others that Cheddar Gorge is the finest limestone Gorge in Britain, that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its rare calcareous grasslands, that it is a Special Area of Conservation for bats, amongst other endangered fauna, and with six caves that are Scheduled Ancient Monuments it is definitely a prehistoric site of national importance.
"However one cannot wish the ends, “protecting this special place called Cheddar Gorge for future generations to enjoy”, without willing the means of doing so.
"The soaring limestone buttresses of Cheddar Gorge are constantly being destroyed by ivy and tree root penetration.
"The calcareous grassland, the product of 500 years of sheep grazing, is a mere remnant of the species rich grasslands that thrived in Cheddar Gorge only 60 years ago.
"We have increased the endangered Greater Horseshoe bat population from 40 youngsters in the Winter to a year round breeding colony of over 600 individuals, but many other creatures remain under threat.
"Our Museum of Prehistory celebrates the arrival of our Horse Hunter ancestors 14,700 years ago and we are pleased that the study of Prehistory is back on the school curriculum.
"However looking after Cheddar Gorge, and cherishing its values, costs money.
"The Government, at a time of national austerity, has more immediate calls on tax payer funding to provide education, health care and decent pensions for British people, rather than spending money on re-establishing rare grasslands and protecting karst limestone cliffs from erosion. So we have to look to ourselves to earn the money.
"Local Cheddar people all know that tourists have been visiting Cheddar Gorge since the days of the Grand Tour in Georgian times 200 years ago, and that tourism, the income and the employment that it brings, is vital to Cheddar and the wider economy.
"Many local people, directly or indirectly, rely on tourism for their income – just as Longleat Estate does. They also know that Longleat Estate has a long history of re-investing in both tourism facilities, the Museum, the buses, car parking, etc., and in conservation - having spent £2 million in recent years on conserving the 450ft high cliffs.
"Improving the Cheddar Gorge tourism product, for the needs and expectations of the 21 century visitor, as a means to protect the natural beauty and wildlife of Cheddar Gorge for future generations to enjoy, is what we have been doing and what we would like to continue to do.”
Cheddar Gorge & Caves