Cheddar Caves to close indefinitely as pandemic shuts 300 million-year-old gorge

The latest headlines in your inbox twice a day Monday – Friday plus breaking news updates

A beloved tourist attraction in Somerset is to close its doors “for the foreseeable future”, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to eat away at jobs.

The future of Cheddar Caves and Gorge has been plunged into “great uncertainty”, the site’s parent company said as it confirmed the loss of 40 jobs.

Longleat Enterprises suggested it was unlikely the popular spot – which features a series of caves, a museum and cafe – would re-open within the next 12 months.

In a statement, the firm said: “Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cheddar Caves and its attractions will be closed for the foreseeable future.

“The effect of the pandemic on our operations has been profound.”

It continued: “Sadly, we do not envisage the attraction being viable for the remainder of 2020 and there is great uncertainty as to the trajectory of the virus in 2021 and the associated guidance and rules.

“With great regret amid the ongoing uncertainty and long timescales involved we have to consider making redundancies, which will affect the vast majority of our staff working at Cheddar.”

At almost 400 feet deep and three miles long, the gorge is England’s biggest.

It is most famous for being home to Britain’s oldest complete skeleton – known as Cheddar Man – which was buried in Gough’s Cave some 9,000 years ago.

The gorge itself is estimated to be 300 million years old.

It is generally open to the public, however, some attractions within the reserve, including cave tours and rock climbing, have been closed as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The attraction had planned to reopen some of its activities on July 27, but announced on the day that it was unable to due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

It is the latest of a string of companies suffering job losses as a result of declining business during the pandemic.

Earlier this month, analysis by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) found it was likely the UK will be hit by around 450,000 redundancies in the coming months.