The Mendips are a ridge of carboniferous limestone hills that run from Bristol in the west to Frome in the east of Somerset. They contrast sharply with the flat Somerset Levels which flow out south from the base of the Mendip Hills. The limestone has been valuable as a commodity in the past and there are many quarries dotted around the Mendips as well as the magnificent caves carved by water seeping through them for thousands of years at Cheddar and Wookey Hole.
Outdoor activities are popular in the Mendips. There are plenty of caving and climbing opportunities and certainly gives you a different perspective of the area. There are plenty of walks crossing the hills and walking the hills will give you the best views of the area. If you fancy less strenuous walks you’ll find riverside walks and gentle strolls down in the valleys. Mountain biking trails have also been identified throughout the Mendip Hills with a variety of difficulty gradings so there’s something to suit everyone.
The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Mendips are a limestone ridge of hills that gives North Somerset much of its character with rolling green countryside dotted with flower rich grasslands, ancient hedgerows and woodlands. This landscape is fantastic for all sorts of wildlife including a huge variety of bat species including the rare horseshoe bats. The Mendips are a focal point for enjoying the countryside in North Somerset whether it be walking or outdoor activities. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) activities are managed to conserve the character and protect the landscape and wildlife of the area. The boundary of the Mendip Hills AONB actually runs from south of Weston-super-Mare across to Chew Valley Lake and Chewton Mendip.
Check out the Mendip Hills AONB website for an interactive map showing viewpoints and places of interest within the AONB area – excellent for making sure you get those stunning photos. You can also download maps and walk or bike cards from their website to help plan your outdoor pursuits in the Mendips. The AONB Service also organises a range of courses and guided walks.
Chew Valley Lake Birdwatching & Fly Fishing
Chew Valley Lake is a popular, easily accessible visitor attraction in the Mendips. It is the fifth largest reservoir in the UK and was created to provide Bristol with drinking water in the 1950s. It is fringed with common reed and is a popular bird watching haunt. In fact it receives national and international protection due to it being an important staging post for migrating waders, terns and warblers. You’re likely to see a good range of wintering wildfowl too such as shoveler, gadwall, teal, tufted duck, goldeneye, wigeon, snipe, lapwing and redshank. The Glebe Trail here is an easygoing walk that is accessible for prams and wheelchairs. Chew Valley Lake is also a world renowned trout fishery where fly fishing is popular. Tickets are available for either boat or bank fishing.
Adventure Activities in The Mendips
Cheddar Gorge in the Mendips is one of the few places in the country where you can just turn up and go rock climbing, abseiling or more adventurous exploration of Cheddar Caves by caving beneath the Mendip Hills. The Mendip Hills provide lots of opportunities for adventure activities. The limestone that underlies the Mendips is easily eroded by water so caves and potholes form easily. Many of these have been explored by local cavers – many of whom now offer their expertise as part of adventure activity courses or team building events. The sides of the gorges in the Mendips provide some excellent climbing opportunities. You can try it out as an introduction and progress onto steeper climbs all within the Mendip area. There is a whole host of outdoor activity companies operating in the Mendips area.
Mountain Bike Trails in The Mendips Hills
There are several mountain biking trails that take you right round the Mendip Hills ridge. The Mendip Fat Tyre Trails are three circular routes graded easy, moderate or difficult/severe. They criss cross the Mendip Hills so you can do different parts to suit your ability or link them up for longer rides. You can download bike cards and biking maps from the Mendip Hills AONB website.
West Mendip Way
The West Mendip Way is a long distance walking route starting in Uphill near Weston-super-Mare, taking you through the southern scarp of the Mendip Hills overlooking the Somerset Levels, through Cheddar Gorge, down to Wookey Hole and ending in Wells. The route is 28 miles long taking you through some of Somerset’s most stunning landscapes. Some people base their holiday around completing the whole walk over a period of days or you can just pick different sections to complete during your stay in the Mendips. You sure to find comfortable holiday accommodation along the way. There are plenty of other shorter walks through the Mendips, many start off from around the Charterhouse Centre – an outdoor centre and the base for the AONB Service near Blagdon. These take you through Blackmoor and Longwood Nature Reserve and up to the highest point in the Mendips, Beacon Bath on Blackdown.