For thousands of years ochre and iron ore has been mined at Clearwell Caves. You can still meet a Freeminer here; for over a thousand years, Freeminers have held an ancient birth-right that exclusively entitles them to mine for iron ore, coal and stone, throughout the Royal Forest of Dean area.

Clearwell Caves are a now a working mining museum where you see the impressive and atmospheric caverns the iron miners made. There are displays throughout telling the miners' story from the Stone Age up to the present day. Iron ore from the Caves has made tools, weapons and machinery over the centuries, but iron ore also occurs as ochre powders that is used to make artists' pigments. Red, yellow, purple and brown ochre are still mined here today. The iron mines are an important part of the Forest of Dean's story. Until recently, the Caves were operated by father and son team Jonathan and Ray Wright. Recently, the founder of Clearwell Caves, Ray Wright, passed away peacefully on 7th August 2015. Ray began opening the Caves in 1968 and had remained involved throughout. Ray was secretary to the Royal Forest of Dean Freeminers' Association for over 30 years, he was one of four Forest of Dean Verderers, he had been chairman of the Wyedean Tourism Association during the 1980's. Clearwell Caves are a tribute to Ray's vision and are now the result of his and Jonathan's knowledge of Forest of Dean, it's history and culture; they feel passionately that the iron mines should be accessible for future generations to enjoy. Jonathan continues to operate the Caves today.

Quick list of reasons to visit:

  • Fun for all the family
  • A great underground experience
  • Atmospheric mine workings with nine impressive caverns
  • Fascinating displays throughout
  • Visitor centre with Phyllis Lewis 'Forest Story' ceramic figures collection
  • Ochre workshop - see where artists pigment is prepared
  • Blacksmith workshop, occasional working blacksmith - 'Missfire'
  • Fantastic things happening here - keep looking at our events page
  • Guided tours for pre-booked groups
  • Wide range of caving activities - see events page and Deep Level Caving
  • Activities during children's holidays
  • Halloween events for children and adults
  • Spectacular family Christmas Fantasy event
  • Free surface facilities including:
    • Free car and coach parking
    • Gift Shop with excellent souvenirs, gifts, crystals and minerals
    • Great cafe
    • Free - children's play area
    • Free - picnic areas
    • Free - miner's smallholding
    • Surface walks around Clearwell Meend (large common) and into historic and picturesque Clearwell village, with beautiful church and Victorian village well (Clearwell Castle - is a wedding venue, not open to visitors) 3 good pubs, 2 good hotels, excellent food served at 3 premises
    • Dogs on leads are welcome around the site and surface facilities (not underground - except assistance dogs). Nice walks over the common. Shaded car parking.
    • Pushchair accessible.

When visiting please wear stout footwear such as trainers or wellies with reasonable grip. Children must be closely supervised at all times. Access in the Caves is steep in many places. Disabled access, please ring in advance for more information. Disabled parking near Caves entrance, where the visitor centre and gift shop, cafe and picnic area are accessible. Please telephone for more information.

Ray Wright

Ray Wright in the early 1970's