Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Beside Mother Shipton's Cave is Knaresborough's famous Dropping Well, 'England's oldest visitor attraction', which has been drawing curious crowds since 1630. A fine example of what is known as a petrifying well, its ability to turn objects into stone was at one time thought to be the result of magic or witchcraft. Now we know that it is a geological phenomenon. Water seeps from an underground lake through limestone rock along aquifers, picking up mineral deposits along the way. It rises to the surface in a spring which cascades down the rock face, leaving behind the mineral deposits, which form new layers of stone. (It's the same process that produces stalagmites and stalactites in underground caves, but it is rarer that this happens above ground). Anything left in the water's path becomes coated with stone, and so for hundreds of years people have hung objects under the flow. Teddy bears, hats and shoes can be seen and many celebrities have donated items to be 'petrified' - some can be viewed in the museum nearby. Apparently it takes 3-5 months for a small teddy bear to turn to stone. Nowadays the rock face is scrubbed regularly to try and prevent the mineral deposits becoming too heavy and breaking the rock.