Cocoons of glistening ice in Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland; geometric Fingal’s Cave in Scotland; echoey mouths of darkness in Mexico’s cenotes. All over the world, caves have inspired awe, as well as providing shelter.
This week, a slightly lesser-known site, Margate Caves, has reopened after being closed to visitors for 15 years. Campaigners have been working to save it from redevelopment since 2008, raising funds to preserve, restore and reopen it.
The caves were formed from a chalk mine dug in the 1700s. The stone was extracted by hand using iron picks, whose marks can still be seen on the cave walls. Around 2,000 tonnes of chalk was hauled out and used to make bricks and cement for local building work. Once this was completed, the caves were sealed again and left undisturbed until the 1800s when, so one story goes, they were rediscovered by accident by a gardener working for the landowner, one Francis Forster.