Greentraveller's Guide to The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Written by Paul Bloomfield
Artwork for Greentraveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards
Foreword by Councillor Dawn Hill, Mendip Hills AONB Retired Partnership Chair
The Mendip Hills are one of England’s most attractive landscapes. The distinctive limestone ridge rises from the flat Somerset Levels and Chew Valley just south of Bristol. The windswept plateau is punctuated by spectacular dry valleys and gorges, ancient sink holes and impressive rocky outcrops.
On the hilltops there are hundreds of ancient monuments yielding evocative tales of ancient peoples, while on the steeper slopes flower rich grasslands and wooded combes offer a variety of habitats for a wide diversity of wildlife. The hill tops also provide spectacular far reaching views across to Wales, the Quantocks and Glastonbury Tor. Hidden beneath the hills are the famous Mendip caves - Cheddar and Wookey cave attractions but there are many less accessible caves, together with on going cave exploration making this a popular area for caving. The area also offers sailing and fishing on the reservoirs, cycling, horse riding, walking and host of other activities that are referred to in this Guide.
I have lived in Cheddar for over 40 years and walk every day in the Mendip Hills with my dogs. Charterhouse is a particularly special place to me– remnants of the Roman and Victorian lead mining – ‘gruffy’ ground, lead slag and lead flues now provide an important wildlife habitat. The tranquillity in the early morning and the opportunity to spot a variety of birds, adders and other wildlife here in the heart of the AONB is second to none.
The Mendip Hills AONB Partnership works to conserve and enhance this special landscape, and we have produced a visitor guide on what to see and do in the area.
I hope you take the opportunity to explore and enjoy the AONB, whether a local
resident or visitor.
What our writers discovered in the Mendip Hills AONB
The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, just south of Bristol, is a magnificent, varied landscape, a dramatic scene of open wild plateau and undulating hills interrupted by deep gorges, prehistoric hilltop settlements, serene lakes and dense woodland. Beyond the well-known attractions of Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole the area remains relatively unaffected by high tourist numbers, making it a haven for walkers, cyclists and lovers of the great outdoors. With everything from eco-minded B&Bs and farm shops selling fresh, local produce to activity centers and Archeology festivals, the Mendip Hills has something to offer everyone.
Paul Bloomfield test-tramps a new series of wildlife walks in the Mendip Hills that are designed to showcase the natural treasures of this easily accessible area, ranging from just a couple of miles to more testing leg-stretchers.
As part of our celebration of the most beautiful protected areas in the UK, we have produced a video promoting the Mendip Hills in Somerset, highlighting the stunning scenery, as well as fantastic places to stay, eat and things to see and do in this glorious part of England.
Stay, Eat, See & Do
Our pick of places across the Mendip Hills AONB
Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay
Blue = Places to eat
Yellow = Attractions
Purple = Activities
Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map
- Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in the UK; its cliffs are also the highest inland limestone cliffs in the country
- The limestone caves in the Mendips, which were formed by water erosion, are a national centre for caving and cave-diving
- Cheddar Pink is the county flower of Somerset and only grows in the Mendip Hills and, most profusely, in Cheddar Gorge
- Approximately 4 million gallons of water run off the Mendip Hills daily, supplying water to over 1 million people
- The Strawberry Line recreational route follows the old railway line (closed 1965) that transported strawberries around the country from the fields on the southwesterly Mendip slopes
- The Roman invasion of Britain in AD43 was partly inspired by the mineral wealth of the Mendips. The Romans established a mining settlement at Charterhouse and the Romans used the lead to line the Roman Baths in nearby Bath
Map of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, England