THE CAVERN GROTTO
TIME: 1 hour, return or round trip.
DISTANCE: 1.5 km.
TERRAIN: Undulating well-marked path. The circular return leg has a bit of a climb up reinforced steps.
The starting point is behind the children’s dining room. The path leads through the pine trees. Beyond the pines head for a big cypress tree growing next to an underground stream sink-hole. Pass this tree on the right. The path goes over a rock, through a kissing gate, and five minutes further on reaches the Grotto.
This is a good place to see “house plants” that are kept indoors in pots in colder countries. This is their real home. Begonia, Impatiens and Streptocarpus, all popular in Europe, are native here. They make good pot plants because they flower well in partial shade, provided they get lots of water. Another famous pot plant living here is the maidenhair fern. Look also for liverworts that make a damp “wall-hanging”. They are the oldest of all land plants. They represent the epic stage where plants first colonised land around 480 million years ago. They have since been pushed aside by more modern plants, and hold on only in deep damp shade or where water drips continuously.
You can return on the same route, but there are two alternatives. Cross the stream at the Grotto, taking the path uphill. It’s a bit steep, but reinforced where it matters. At the top the first option is to go left, along First Ridge. Leopard footprints have been seen on this path, and there are lovely views. Go through the fence above the stables and follow the log path home. The second alternative is to turn right at the top, re-crossing the stream above the waterfall. The path goes through a small forest, and then up to Cowslip dam. From here the jeep track leads back to The Cavern.