The Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills is a karst region, comprised of carboniferous limestone with many cavities, such as the famous Cheddar Gorge. It is therefore an area popular with geologists and climbers alike, although many other visitors are also drawn to the hills simply to admire their beauty. The highest section of the western Mendip Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and so is protected in the same way as a National Park. The AONB covers an area of approximately two hundred square kilometres in total.
The Mendips are situated high above the Somerset countryside, to the south of Bristol and Bath. They reach between Weston-super-Mare in the east, to Frome in the west, overlooking the Somerset Levels in the south and the Avon Valley in the north.
The hills are also used for leisure activities and outdoor sports such as climbing and caving. The natural limestone geology provides cavities and cliffs in the rock formation that are perfect for these sports, such as the geology found at Cheddar Gorge, as mentioned above. There is a public footpath around the tope of the gorge that can be joined at Black Rock, Lion Rock or Lippiat Lane. Shops, pubs, tea-rooms, toilets and other facilities are available at the bottom of the gorge as well.
The area is also very popular with hill-walkers and those with an interest in natural history. One organisation associated with rambling and walking is The Mendip Society, a registered charity. The Society run a varied programme of walks, talks and visits and help to keep open the rights of way in the hills.
Other areas of interest for ramblers and visitors in general are Dolebury Hillfort, an Iron Age hillfort with interesting field systems and grasslands, along with Blackmoor Reserve, an old lead mining area with visible industrial archaeology. There are several other places in the Mendip Hills to examine old lead mining works, such as Charterhouse and Velvet Bottom.
Chew Valley Lake is also worth a visit, with its nature trail to view the wide variety of wildlife, its visitor centre and tea-room. Another great place to spot wildlife and to view archaeology is the largest area of open land in the AONB around Burrington Ham, Black Down and Roberrow Forest. The trigonometric point at Black Down is the highest point on Mendip offering superb views across to Wales.
The Mendip Hills, therefore, offer stunning scenery with unique landscapes and activities for everyone to enjoy. They are just one of many interesting visitor attractions in the Mendip Area of Somerset.