If you were out and about on the Mendip Hills this bank holiday then you may well have spotted staff and volunteers from the Mendip Hills AONB Unit who were taking part in The 2019 Mendip Hills AONB Big Visitor Count. Together we counted 2,589 visits at 16 locations, across a 4 hour period between 10am and 2pm.
We were at sites across the Mendip Hills, from Bleadon Hill and Crook Peak in the west to Ebbor Gorge and Dear Leap in the south-east. With 12 more sites in-between, including the nature reserves on the plateau, the lakes, forests and, of course, the iconic Cheddar Gorge.
As expected, the most visits were recorded at Chew Valley Lake and Cheddar Gorge, with high numbers also seen at Kings Wood. Significant numbers were also recorded on footpaths high up on Mendip – on the plateau and at Crook Peak and Black Down. The two locations with the fewest visits included Deer Leap and Bleadon Hill – at both ends of the AONB.
Organising and running a visitor count on this scale is no easy task and it wouldn’t have been possible without our volunteers. Whilst, sitting enjoying the fabulous views from Crook Peak or looking at the bluebells in Kings Wood is a lovely way to spend time, our volunteers did it for four hours, meticulously recording data for the visitor count. Most important of all, when they volunteered they didn’t know if they were going to be sitting in the rain for four hours!
Kelly Davies, a research volunteer with the AONB Unit who coordinated the survey said, “I really enjoyed helping prepare the survey but also with the visitor count on the day. I spoke to a wide range of people including walkers out practising for the Mendip Way Challenge, mountain bikers enjoying the dry conditions and horse-riders enjoying a leisurely ride to the pub for lunch! The last group of people that I counted was a family walking up the combe to play in the stream. A great way to spend a day.”
Jim Hardcastle, Manager of the Mendip Hills AONB said, ” We really need to understand the visitor pressure on sites in the Mendip Hills. It’s too easy to say that ‘it’s really busy’, we need evidence. We appreciate that that this count only forms a baseline and the real value will come when we repeat it each year and can compare numbers. We’ll also combine this with data from other sources to help inform the management of the AONB for wildlife and visitors alike, helping to identify issues and opportunities to better conserve and enhance our beautiful landscape. All the statistics will be sent to our partners and then placed on our website, eventually this will form part of the State of the AONB report published prior to each management plan.”
The current State of the AONB Report is available here.