A guide for people who own caves in Nottingham is being drawn up by the city council.
The guide will feature detailed advice on how to manage the cave, information about developing caves, and ways to promote their use.
Nottingham City Council is spending £10,000 drawing up the guide.
It is hoped it will be published later this year, and workshops will be held to help people learn more in the new year.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]There are at least 850 man-made caves in the city, with more still being discovered.[/perfectpullquote]
Over the years they have been used as dungeons, bomb shelters, homes, tanneries, secret hideouts and storage.
Owners of caves include pubs such as Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and the Bell Inn.
Karl Gibson is the landlord of the Old Trip, and said he welcomed the plan.
He said: “It’s what we’re built on. It’s what we’re famous for, and if anything it’s something that we have only started shouting about in recent years.
“It’s only with things like the cave festival that we have started talking about it.
“I think it’s our unique selling point, but people don’t really know about it until they get here.
“Once you explain a bit of the history about the caves, and what they’ve been used for, it makes the story so much better. Once you can see the caves, you can see how important they are.”
He said when it comes to looking after the walls of the caves, they were very sturdy, but on rare occassions after very heavy downfall, small bits of the cellar will come away and fall to the floor.
He said: “It wasn’t always like that, the legend was that you had to cover up your pint because the sandstone would fall in it.
“I still get people coming in saying back then they used to get sandstone in their pints.”
But he said the walls were much more stable now, in part because they had been specially treated, but also because heavy rainfall was much less frequent now.
Cave expert Scott Lomax is the city’s archaeologist, and has been studying Nottingham’s caves for a decade.
He said: “Nottingham has more caves and more diverse types of cave than any other town or city in Europe.
“We have got about 850 caves recorded in our database in Nottingham, which date back to medieval, post-medieval and modern times.
“They are such an important part of the city’s history, because they reflect what has happened in the city.
“We know there are caves from the year 893, but some of them were created in the 20th century. A lot have been extended over time.
“A number of cave owners would like to be able to make use of their caves and the guide will also provide useful advice to help them achieve this ambition.
“Over the past few years significant changes have been made in terms of protecting and enjoying the city’s caves, and initiatives such as the caves guide will bring further success in this area.”
Dawn Suchoruczka is the owner of the Hand and Heart, which is built into a cave.
She said: “I think it has a certain magic, something unusual, people who come to Nottingham know we are the city of caves.
“It’s something for tourists and locals alike.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “Nottingham’s extensive network of caves is a unique heritage asset of national significance which needs to be safeguarded for future generations.
“We are commissioning a technical guide to help owners and managers of caves in the city understand how best to conserve, develop and use them creatively and appropriately.
“A Historic England funded project has surveyed and explored the significance of the caves as a heritage resource, as well as helping the city council to develop a supplementary planning document to manage change to caves within the planning process.
“This new technical guide will be a companion document to the planning document, informing owners, managers, developers and their professional advisors about opportunities for how to use caves and how to look after caves.
“It will span archaeology, structural engineering, geology, planning, and architecture and will give a structured approach to site investigation, heritage assessment and risk management to support sustainable development.
“The document would be produced by the end of the year with workshops to disseminate the information next year.”
An invitation to tender released by the council says: “The audience for the products is primarily cave owners and managers but it is also hoped that it would engage with the public.
“This commission is to produce a technical guide for cave owners clarifying the appropriate development, conservation, and creative uses of caves.
“This would provide a framework for developers and their professional advisors – giving a structured approach to site investigation, heritage assessment, options appraisal, and risk management to support sustainable development.
“The technical guide spans archaeology, structural engineering, geology, planning, and architecture.”