Natural Beauty


Mendip Hills National Landscape

Mendip Hills National Landscape, BS40 7XR, Bristol


The Mendip Hills are one of England’s most attractive National 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, and impressive rocky outcrops.

Mendip Hills National Landscape
Rising from the Somerset Levels are the distinctive Mendip Hills, that with the lakes of Chew Valley and Blagdon, form the 198sq kms that is the Mendip Hills National Landscape. The magnificent Mendip Ridge stretches all the way from Brean Down in the west towards Frome in the east. The western half is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty due to the astonishing array of landscape features; the gorges, caves, valleys, lakes, woodlands and grasslands.
The Mendip Plateau is 325 metres above sea level at its highest point and there are many fantastic viewpoints along the warm southern slopes to explore, taking in the Somerset Levels all the way to the Quantock Hills Natural Landscape. The steep north slopes overlook the patchwork farmland of the Chew Valley and Yeo Valley, and their beautiful lakes, with views across the Severn Estuary to Wales. These impressive hills demonstrate geology ranging from Devonian to Jurassic and exposed rock outcrops are common. Across the top of the Mendip Plateau you will see dry stone walls criss-crossing the landscape, marking out the farmland and providing a home for wildlife, while making use of the surface rock in the area. The iconic Cheddar Gorge is situated along the edge of the National Landscape and is known as the highest inland vertical cliff in the country, but there are many other fascinating geological features to be discovered.
The Mendip National Nature Reserve, part of the King’s series of NNRs, follows the southern border of the Mendip Hills and many of the network of site are within the boundary of the National Landscape. There are also many Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Wildlife makes its home in many and varied features of this incredible landscape; adders love the dry stone walls, greater horseshoe bats hibernate in the caves and the Cheddar Pink flourishes on the cliffs above the village. Dormice love the hedgerows, and the flower-rich grasslands are home to butterflies, beetles and skylarks. The elusive water vole makes its home, or burrow, close to the beautiful lakes of the area. In fact, Chew Valley Lake has been designated a Special Protection Area for bird species due to its international importance.
The features of the area have provided inspiration for people throughout history; Aveline’s Hole is the oldest cemetery site in Britain, ancient burial mounds are dotted across the landscape, and the abundance of lead around Charterhouse meant the site became a strategically important for the Romans, who set up mines in the area shortly after their arrival. These days the main activity is farming, both dairy and sheep farming. Many of the farms and surrounding areas also rely on tourism and many host their own festivals and events, with vibrant communities supporting them. The tough landscape, and the challenges it offers, inspires sporting events throughout the year. There are many hiking, cycling and running events, as well as more specialist activities like climbing, caving, horse riding and gliding. The lakes host activities too; sailing, fishing and bird watching to name a few.

The Mendip Hills have been providing food and shelter for people since the earliest days of settlement in this country and are still, slowly, giving up their secrets. Scientists recently reconstructed the head of a man who lived here some 10,000 years ago and whose remains were found in a cave at Cheddar. Cheddar Man is the oldest almost complete skeleton of our species, Homo sapiens, ever found in Britain.  

You can let your imagination run free in these hills with their stories graphically written in stone. There is the stone witch of Wookey Hole, the hymn-inspiring ‘Rock of Ages’ at Burrington Combe and the wonderful dry stone walls that decorate the wind swept hills.
From Britain’s highest inland limestone cliffs that form the world famous Cheddar Gorge, you can look down on the Vale of Avalon with its tales of Arthur and to the coast visited, so legend has it, by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was a metal merchant and the hills were mined for lead until the last century. They are still a quarried for stone and have more than 200 scheduled ancient monuments including prehistoric barrows and remnants of WW2.

On the hilltops there are hundreds of ancient monuments, while on the steeper slopes flower rich grasslands and wooded combes offer a variety of habitats for wildlife. The hill tops also provide spectacular views across to Wales, the Quantocks and Glastonbury Tor. Hidden beneath the hills are the famous Mendip caves - Cheddar and Wookey cave attractions, but the many less accessible caves make 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. Plenty of outdoor activity businesses are here for you to try out something new.

Our Greentraveller On-line Guide to the Mendip Hills Natural Landscape will allow you to discover the best of the region whilst minimising your impact on the landscape. From eco-minded B&Bs to farm shops offering fresh, local produce, to activity centres, we have uncovered the greenest businesses in the area.



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Somerset Levels & Moors


Mendip Hills National Landscape
Mendip Hills National Landscape
BS40 7XR
United Kingdom

T: 01761 462338


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