Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheddar Gorge, England - September 1, 2010

Perhaps the most well known cheese in the entire world is that English cheese named after the small Somerset village of Cheddar. The name also refers to a part of the production process known as cheddaring. Henry II's Royal Accounts record the purchase of 10,000 pounds of Cheddar in 1170. In reality, cheese was a way of using up excess milk and one great advantage of hard cheeses over soft, is that they keep better.
For centuries however, cheese remained something of a luxury item for most people until Joseph Harding invented the cheese mill in the 19th century and industrialized the overall process. Harding was a vigorous promoter of Cheddar and helped to introduce Cheddar-making into Scotland as well as training American cheesemakers.
The Village of Cheddar has a long and ancient history, having been an important Roman and later Saxon center. Popular tourism began with the opening of Cheddar Valley Railway in 1869/1870 which became known as the Strawberry Line, because it passed by many strawberry-growing fields on the Cheddar side of the valley. The railroad line was closed in 1965.
Cheddar Gorge is a limestone canyon to the east of the village and is the site of the Cheddar show caves where, in 1903, Britain's oldest complete human skeleton was found. The caves, produced by underground river activity, contain stalactites and stalagmites. The gorge has become a tourist destination attracting about 1/2 million visitors each year. The maximum depth of the gorge is about 450' with a near-vertical cliff-face to the south, and steep grassy slopes to the north. Formed by meltwater floods within the last 1.2 million years, the gorge remains susceptible to occasional flooding and in 1968 water flow washed large boulders down the gorge damaging the Cheddar Cafe and washing away some cars.
More pictures here.

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