The Time Walking Cave
The good news is that for the first time our world has a creature with the intelligence to stop global catastrophes ~ us! The bad news is that instead of solving problems we seem to be the cause of one now looming. If we can understand what went wrong in the past we may yet be able to put our intelligence to good use and not only secure a future for seals but us as well. There’s no lack of ambition here!
As you travel through Time Walk, search out the 80 hidden fossils ~ tortoises at 250 million years ago, an Ichthyosaur above you at 200 million years, the Allosaurus skull (that one is not too hard to find – it’s very big!), an Archaeopteryx (the first flying dinosaur) and then compare the 90 million year old remains of a Mosasaur with its life sized replica. Throughout this immense amount of time our ancestors were living in the shadow of the dinosaurs… if those dinosaurs had been slightly better at catching those first shrew-sized mammals you would not be here reading this.
Animals in this section represent wildlife that has lived in Lincolnshire over the last 100,000 years:
100,000 years ago Britain was, like today, experiencing a warmer spell than normal (the last 2 million years has really been one long ice age interspersed with short warm periods). Sea levels were higher so "Mablethorpe" was underwater and the nearest beach was beside the “White Cliffs of Alford” – 10 miles away. The view would have been just like Dover today. Closer inspection of course would have revealed lots of differences: herds of elephants at Ulceby Cross, hippopotami wallowing in the rivers and monkeys in the trees. Strangest of all, there were no humans. Perhaps global warming had been so rapid that the plains around Britain were flooded before our relatives could cross but at least one animal was here then and today: the badger.
Both of our badgers were admitted to the sanctuary because of road accidents. The female was blinded after being in a collision with a car and in a separate incident the male was found trying to suckle from his dead mother (who had also been hit by a vehicle). Finding suitable release sites for them is now very difficult so they have been given sanctuary here.
70,000 years ago temperatures were falling and as ice sheets grew the seas retreated. Our Neanderthal cousins were able to return to Britain along with cold adapted creatures such as woolly rhinos, mammoths and snowy owls. However, there is evidence that animals associated with warmer locations, such as porcupines, were also living this far north.
30,000 years ago another warm adapted creature, not long out of Africa, also arrived: Homo sapiens. It may not be coincidence that at just the moment our ancestors came on the scene, the Neanderthals, mammoths and rhinos died out.
20,000 years ago an ice sheet blanketed Lincolnshire as far as Boston. It was much too cold for anything to survive and even the snowy owls would have been driven far to the south. Our ancestors certainly were: the nearest humans at this time lived in France.
The ice sheet still has an effect today: at the point where the glacier stopped it left a dry ridge. First travellers would have followed this and parts of the road to Boston still sit atop this slight rise above the fens. Now you know why at least some of Lincolnshire’s roads are so twisty!
9,000 years ago people, lynx, foxes, badgers and wildcats all made the crossing over the "North Sea" plain before it was submerged by melting ice. It was at this time that wild horses, the ancestor of the domesticated pony became extinct in Britain. Our own ancestors also found life difficult and they started to clear the woodland so that they could catch enough food. It was understandable at the time but those beginnings of habitat destruction would eventually lead to the extinction of a host of creatures including eagle owls and lynx. Now we should know better.
1,000 years ago the Normans brought rabbits to Britain so what you might think is a successful British animal is in fact a recent arrival whose natural home is in Spain. It was also about this time that lynx became extinct in Britain.
200 years ago the last of the wildcats died out in Lincolnshire. Even if their preferred habitat was restored it is doubtful if they could ever make a comeback: the inevitable interbreeding with domesticated cats (which originated from the African wildcat) would mean that a purebred strain could not survive.