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Prehistoric caves below Dudley Zoo could be opened as tourist attraction

By Alex Ross | Dudley | Dudley entertainment | Published:

It is rich with fossils dating 400 million years and was underground storage for military clothing and ammunition during the First World War.

Dudley Zoo

Probably no surprise then that tourism bosses are investigating opening a attraction at caves underneath Dudley Zoo.

Stores Cavern, created by limestone quarrying from 1750s to 1850s, was visited by Dudley Council chief executive Sarah Norman this week.

The caves feature silurian limestone which provide a unique look at the prehistoric seabed below Dudley's Castle Hill.

In more recent years, during the First World War, the site was used to store army clothing and ammunition.

Zoo director Derek Grove said opening up the caves to the public could form part of plans for an education centre next to the car park.

Existing maintenance buildings would be pulled down and replaced by the facility, which would be next to one of three tunnel openings to the cave.

He said: "We are at the stage where we are exploring what we can do with the caves.

"The tunnel would require alot of restoration and we would have to do a study on the bats inside.

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"But we hope that one day it could be opened up for people to explore, adding another attraction to the zoo."

He added: "The bonus about having the education facility outside the zoo boundary is that it could remain open out of hours and children would not have to climb the hill to get to it."

The tunnels to the cave are about 100m long.

The cave itself is about 180m wide, 20m tall.

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Inside are brick buildings used for storage during the war.

On Twitter, Ms Norman also posted a picture of herself in the cave. She said: "My next treat for the day - visiting The Stores, a huge cavern underneath Dudley Zoo.

"Exploring the potential to open as a visitor attraction."

She added: "These caves have great potential as an education resource and visitor attraction."

Councillor Ian Kettle, Dudley Council's cabinet member for planning and economic development, told the Express & Star: "We have been carrying out some very early investigation work into the caverns underneath Castle Hill to look at potential uses in years to come.

"No formal plans have been drawn up, but we are always looking for opportunities at such an important tourism site as Castle Hill.”

The move comes three years after plans were dropped for a visitor attraction linked to the caves.

The £3million education and conference centre, named the Trilobite Building, was designed for the site of the Hippodrome.

It would have included a link to the limestone Stores Cavern.

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
@alexross_star

Chief Reporter at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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