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The Mendips

Wells lies sheltered beneath the southern slopes of the Mendip Hills, which have been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Just 20 miles to the south of Bath and Bristol, The Mendips, as they are commonly called, stretch for about 50 miles, from the coast at Weston-super-Mare almost as far as Frome in the east, and the gently undulating carboniferous limestone plateau rises to more than 300 metres at its highest point.

Most of the plateau is agriculturally improved pasture where you will find scattered farmsteads, with picturesque stone-walled villages nestling along the spring line below the steep escarpment slopes.
The erosive power of water over millions of years, from the Ice Age onwards, has created a series of valleys, the most famous of which is the breathtakingly imposing Cheddar Gorge, Britain’s largest limestone gorge.

Formed in similar fashion are the dramatically fascinating underground caverns of Wookey Hole and Cheddar Caves, which have also become popular tourist haunts.
The Mendips also offer, at least on a clear day, magnificent panoramic views over Exmoor, the South Wales coast and Salisbury Plain.

Here, in some of the finest countryside in Britain, you will also find an ideal location for watching a vast variety of wildlife, and if you have a particular interest in butterflies and wild flowers then you are in for a treat.

The area is also steeped in history, recording the passage of time, starting with the pre-historic at Cheddar, through to the Iron Age at Brent Knoll and the modern day military base at Brean Down. The latter area, which is at the
far end of The Mendips and reaches out into the Bristol Channel, is a fantastic place for families, a vast expanse of sand appearing when the tide is out. You can also discover the fort and watch the sun set over the sea.

Not quite so well known, but nevertheless eye-catching, are Crook Peak, Wavering Down and Shute Shelve which rise up from the Somerset levels as a hump-backed series of hills. Crook Peak is the most easily identified because of its conical shape and proximity to the M5.
Stand at its summit and you feel as though you are on top of the world.
Burrington Combe is well worth a visit. Legend has it that this is the place, while sheltering under a rock during a thunderstorm in 1763, that Augustus Montague Toplady was inspired to write the words of the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ and there is a metal plaque marking the site. Listening to the dawn chorus at Kingswood is also an unforgettable
While beauty abounds, The Mendips have so much else to offer, such as outdoor activities ranging from walking and cycling to the more adventurous mountain biking, off-roading, caving, climbing and horse riding, and there are numerous well-qualified organisations to give you help and advice.

The historic environment of this area is the subject of an on-going landscape-based research by English Heritage, in partnership with the Mendip Hills AONB project. Through better understanding it is hoped that more sustainable management of this historic landscape can be achieved.

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