Wednesday, 14 September 2011
MEET THE WOOKEY HOLE WITCH!
THE CIRCUS STAR WHO’LL PUT A SPELL ON YOU!
As the nights draw in and Halloween looms, you may be wondering where to celebrate the time of ghosties, ghoulies, pumpkins, broomsticks, black cats... and witches. Where better than the 50,000-year-old tourist attraction Wookey Hole, where the caves boast their own breed of creepy cave spider... and a real live resident witch?
Luckily, witch in residence Sunny van der Pas is a witch of the friendly, rather than scary variety, and Terrance the spider who hangs from her pointed hat looks like a fake to me - although she assures me the spiders in the caves are real enough.
“I’m not certain, but I’m told they’re the only venomous spiders in England,” says Sunny, who looks pretty fit for her claimed age of 227, “But they’re absolutely beautiful.”
So are the caves, themselves, says Sunny: “Some of the chambers are 100-feet tall. They’re beautifully lit and look like cathedrals. There’s one shaped like a dome, which was created by a whirlpool and could never have been carved by man.”
As well as the caves, Wookey Hole boasts a dinosaur park, a paper museum on the site of Britain’s oldest paper mill, a Victorian penny arcade, a fairy garden and a Mirror Maze. There’s also a circus museum stuffed with showman’s wagons, circus freaks, costumes and memorabilia and, at weekends and during the school holidays, thrice daily circus shows in the Big Top Theatre. The shows are presented by Sunny who, being a witch, naturally casts a lot of spells to make things disappear and appear; and Bippo the clown, who is one of Britain’s most talented up-and-coming performers.
The rest of the cast are drawn from the students of the Wookey Circus School who perform all kinds or gymnastics and aerial feats.
The circus connection isn’t surprising, though, as Wookey Hole is owned by Britain’s most famous living circus man, Gerry Cottle, who bought the attraction after selling his share of the Chinese and Moscow State Circuses. Cottle’s idea at the time was to retire from circus. But, as they said in Cecil B DeMille’s film The Greatest Show On Earth, you can shake the sawdust off your shoes, but you can never shake it out of your heart.
For details of Wookey Hole opening times and bookings at the on-site 58-bedroom hotel, call 01749 672243 or visit www.wookey.co.uk.
If you want the full story of Gerry Cottle’s circus career and how he came to set up the Wookey Circus School... plus the story of how Bippo ran away with the circus as a 9-year-old... buy my book:
CIRCUS MANIA - THE ULTIMATE BOOK FOR ANYONE WHO DREAMED OF RUNNING AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS!
Circus Mania retails at £14.99, but you can save £5 by ordering direct from Peter Owen Publishers at the special offer price of just £10 postage free.
Send cheques to:
81 Ridge Road
London N8 9NP
Tel: 020 8350 1775