ARRIVAL AT THE CAVES
The group had been travelling for many days. They were tired and hungry. The woods in the Ilsham Valley offered lots of food such as berries and other fruit, nuts, wild plants and their roots, beetles and earthworms, and possibly a few small animals to hunt and kill. The people were also to find shelter in the caves of Kents Cavern.
When they first saw the entrance to the caves they were very nervous of going into the dark opening. They slowly gathered in front of the hole in the hillside. They searched for strange marks or footprints, in the soft earth at the opening to the caves. They crept forwards. Just inside there was barely enough light to see their way, but the daylight coming in behind them threw huge shadows onto the wall in front of them. Until they realised it was just their own shadows they were very frightened. Before going any further they decided to go back outside and start a fire. Some of the older members of the group would wait outside with the children, whilst the rest made sure that the caves were really safe. Those of the group who were going back into the caves each took a burning branch from the fire to light their way.
Slowly, feeling their way into the narrow opening they re-entered the caves. Inside once more the firelight also caused great shadows to dance on the walls and the ceiling. It also allowed the people to see how big the caves actually were. Some of the explorers carefully sniffed the air. Apart from the smoke made by the torches they could also make out the strange sweet, sickly smell of something very old and rotten. They soon found the half eaten remains of a reindeer that had been dragged into the caves by some other hunting group, who were perhaps still in the caves!!
Finding the dead animal the people became very unsure about whether to stay in the caves. They stood very still, holding their breath and not making a sound at all. The dripping of water from the ceiling above made them imagine the scurrying of tiny feet, or the snapping of sharp teeth in the darker parts of the caves. But they heard no roars or growls, they saw no movements in the lower passages and they thought that perhaps they were alone in the caves after all.
The explorers called for the rest of the group to come in and join them. A big fire was built in the middle of the floor to light up the chamber in which they intended to stay for the night. It also began to warm up the chilly cave air. Some of the group threw pieces of food, which they had brought in with them, onto the fire. The air became full of strange smells. The people shared out the food they had earlier collected. Some chewed on the bones of a small animal they had cornered the day before. Others preferred the sweeter taste of the red berries they had collected just outside the caves, whilst one old man enjoyed the bitterness of a handful of nuts he had carried with him. The children tried a little of everything.
As their own bodies began to warm up the people too began to give off a recognisable smell. They tried to disguise this by putting a few green leaves onto the fire to make more smoke, hoping that any passing wild animals would not come into the caves to investigate the smell of possible food.
In the shelter of the caves the group slept safely for the night. Next morning they continued on their travels. They left behind the remains of the fire and some bones from the meal they had shared. One of them had dropped a small piece of stone, a flint, which they had used to make the sparks which had started the fire the night before. These things would remain hidden, buried in the floor of the caves, for a very long time until present-day explorers entered the caves and uncovered them.