An apparently ordinary rabbit’s hole in a farmer’s field leads to an underground sanctuary once said to be used by the Knights Templar – a medieval religious order that fought in the Crusades.
The Caynton Caves, near Shifnal in Shropshire, appear to be untouched structurally and date back 700 years. They are less than a metre below the surface.
Michael Scott, from Birmingham, went to photograph the caves after seeing a video of them online.
He said: “I traipsed over a field to find it, but if you didn’t know it was there you would just walk right past it. Considering how long it’s been there it’s in amazing condition, it’s like an underground temple.”
The tunnel leads to a network of walkways and arches carved out of sandstone, as well as a font.
Mr Scott said the cave was “quite cramped” and those nearing 6ft (1.8m) tall would have to bend down to fit in. Some chambers are so small that those exploring have to enter them on hands and knees.
“I had to crouch down and once I was in it was completely silent. There were a few spiders in there but that was it. It was raining so the slope down was quite sludgy but inside the cave was bone dry,” he added.
The Templars were a Catholic military order founded in the 12th Century to guard pilgrims on their way along the dangerous roads that led to Jerusalem.
Its members were effectively armed monk-like knights who were granted certain legal privileges and whose status was backed by the Church. They were reputed to be the possessors of great wealth and power.
In 1095, Pope Urban II promised the knights of Europe forgiveness of their sins if they went on a Crusade to win back Jerusalem for Christianity. Many responded by “taking the cross” and showed this act by cutting out red crosses before sewing them into their tunics.