Caves under Dudley Zoo could be opened to the public

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 a lot of restoration and we would have to do a study on the bats inside.

"But we hope that one day it could be opened up for people to explore, adding another attraction to the zoo. 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 and the cave itself is about 180m wide, 20m tall. Inside are brick buildings used for storage during the war.

On Twitter, Ms Norman also posted a picture of herself in the cave.

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.

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