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Goatchurch Cavern
Goatchurch entrance kids.jpg
Location Burrington Combe
Depth 55 metres[1]
Length 750 metres[1]
Cave survey M. Rennie 1959
Geology Limestone
Number of entrances 2
Difficulty mostly easy
Hazards slippery surfaces
Access Free

Goatchurch Cavern (grid reference ST47585823) is a cave on the edge of Burrington Combe in the limestone of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England.

The cave is especially popular for training people who are new to caving. This is due to its easy access and wide range of terrain that does not necessitate the use of special equipment such as ropes or ladders. The two entrances to the cave add interest as cavers can do a round trip. Many of the surfaces within are polished, as a result of numbers visiting over many decades and are slippery.



The earliest written record of this cave was in 1736 when John Strachey of Sutton Court at nearby Stowey made reference to "guy Hole" or "Goechurch". In 1829 John Rutter wrote about the large cave and in 1864 William Boyd Dawkins referred to it as "The Goatchurch" although he also used the name "Goat's Hole" in 1874. It is possible that the local dialect corrupted "Guy" into "Goat" to provide the current name.[2]

It is thought that Goatchurch Cavern was explored by lead miners in the 19th century.[3] Around 1901 the owner unsuccessfully tried to turn it into a show cave.[4]

Notes of exploration in the 1920s record finds from the Pleistocene period including bones of mammoth, bear, hyaena and cave lion.[5] During November 2003 inscribed marks were noticed in Goatchurch Cavern while cleaning away graffiti. Three finely cut marks were uncovered, resembling the letter W with a patina darker than in nearby graffiti dated 1704. These have been identified as ritual protection marks, possibly dating from the period 1550 to 1750. The term ritual protection mark was preferred to the description "witch marks".[6]


The cave is historically understood to be approximately 750 metres (2,500 ft) long, although 1500 m (4900 ft) of surveyed passage has been measured (UBSS, unpublished survey, pending: 2007) and reaches a surveyed depth of 61.5 m (202 ft). It has two entrances and a complex network of predominately dry passages terminating, for most visitors, in a thin phreatic tube known as 'The Drainpipe' or 'The Bunny Run'. This is a long tight wriggle through 30 ft (9 m) of passageway that is only practically navigable whilst travelling forwards, something that is of relevance due to the Drainpipe terminating in a small blind-ending boulder chamber; meeting another caver halfway is not a pleasant experience.

A survey was conducted within Goatchurch Cavern to investigate the effect of seasonal variations on the recorded radon concentration, from which an average summer to winter ratio of 4.79 was determined. Radiation doses to users of the caves were estimated and for occupational cavers doses of in excess of 16 mSv were found to be likely.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Goatchurch Cavern". Mendip Cave Registry. Retrieved 2009-09-28.  
  2. ^ Witcombe, Richard (2009). Who was Aveline anyway?: Mendip's Cave Names Explained (2nd ed.). Priddy: Wessex Cave Club. pp. 80-81. ISBN 978-0950043364.  
  3. ^ Johnson, Peter (1967). The History of Mendip Caving. Newton Abbott: David & Charles.  
  4. ^ Barrington, Nicholas; William Stanton (1977). Mendip: The complete caves. Cheddar: Cheddar Valley Press. ISBN 9780950145914.  
  5. ^ Irwin, David; Anthony Knibbs (1977). Mendip Underground: A Cavers Guide. Somerset: Mendip Publishing. ISBN 0953610306.  
  6. ^ "Goatchurch Cavern marks". Apotropaios. Retrieved 2007-01-27.  
  7. ^ Sperrin, Malcolm; Gillmore, Gavin; Denman, Tony (2001). "Radon concentration variations in a Mendip cave cluster" (in English). Environmental Management and Health 12 (5): 476–482. doi:10.1108/09566160110404881.  

See also



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