WEST Wycombe tourist attraction the Hellfire Caves has reopened to visitors for the first time since Covid-19 forced its closure back in March 2020.

There have been no guests wandering the chalk tunnels for more than a year, which has left staff members with plenty of opportunities to make improvements to the caves in that time.

The website has been remodelled and can be found at www.hellfirecaves.co.uk, featuring a new online booking facility that staff say will help to keep visitors safe by monitoring visitor numbers within the caves.

The lighting system has been updated throughout the caves - and now features a colour changing experience.

There is also free guest WiFi in the courtyard and within the caves which will enable some spooky social media opportunities.

A new menu is also available in the café which offers hot and cold drinks, paninis, wraps, cream teas, cakes and snacks.

And after filling up at the cafe, children can complete a treasure hunt and win a prize.

The caves grand reopening on July 24 also marks a very exciting year - because they are celebrating 70 years since becoming a tourist attraction.

Since early times there had been an open-cast quarry on the side of the hill for mining chalk for the foundations of houses in the village and for roads; it is shown in one of Hannan’s paintings of the 1740s.

Sir Francis Dashwood, the second Baronet, set about extending this quarry in a bid to relieve serious local unemployment caused by three successive harvest failures in 1748, 1749 and 1750, and to provide material for a new main road between West Wycombe and High Wycombe.

The Dashwood Mausoleum was added at the top of West Wycombe Hill a few years later and still provides spectacular views over High Wycombe to this day.

But staff say they are “not entirely sure” of the reasoning behind his decision to dig a long winding tunnel a quarter of a mile into the hill with all sorts of chambers and divided passages leading off it and a huge room half way down.

They said: “One can only presume it was an element of mischief and a fun project to undertake.”

The caves are a stable temperature, shielded from the elements - which makes it an ideal destination on a hot summer’s day.

Visit www.hellfirecaves.co.uk/visit to book your tickets now. Family tickets are priced at £24, adults at £8.50.