Our Work

The Work of the Mendip Hills AONB Unit

Mendip Rocks! 2019

The ninth Mendip Rocks! programme will run this year from 10th August to 20th October. The annual season of events will celebrate the 450 million year geological history of the Mendip Hills and is provided by the AONB Unit, Somerset Earth Science Centre and The Mendip Society.

This seasons 25+ events included: cave visits, guided walks, tours of working and disused quarries, arts workshops, geological field visits and much more.

To view the full programme please click here. (PDF Download 2,336KB)

News from Last Month

Glover Review
The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty welcomes the findings of the Designated Landscapes Review. We are pleased that the Review team have recognised the value of the AONB designation and the hard work that AONB staff and members carry out to conserve and enhance these special areas.

The central proposition that AONBs are strengthened with new purposes, powers and resources, and renamed as National Landscapes is a powerful and fundamentally important step in ensuring the benefits of the AONB designation are optimised.

Cllr Nigel Taylor, Chair of the Mendip Hills AONB Partnership said, ‘As Chair of the Partnership we’re extremely grateful to the Glover review panel for all their hard-work and for this timely review given the nation’s concern over climate change and the threat to our wildlife. A review of AONBs is long over due and here on Mendip we’ll be looking at the document as a way of recognising the role of the Partnership while reinvigorating it. Reading the review we find many sensible proposals that have a direct relevance to the Mendip Hills AONB. The document ranges from improving boundary reviews, to fundamental name changes and much forward thinking to ensure the relevance of the AONB designation for years to come. This should be recommended reading for all Local Authorities and our partners.’


Landscapes for Life week and the National Moment
Hearts were formed across the country in our most loved landscapes on Saturday 21st September at 2pm. For the first time ever people in all the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are forming hearts to show how much they love their landscapes. In the Mendip Hills AONB we created a heart from people and rocks in Cheddar Gorge. A video capturing all the ‘hearts’ will be released this week, including ours in Cheddar Gorge.

The heart shape has been chosen as it represents not only the love for these areas but also that AONBs and National Parks were originally thought of as the ‘Natural Health Service’. The legislation that allowed the creation of these protected landscapes, the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act was agreed in 1949, the same year as the National Health Service. The two acts were seen as complimentary; preventing illness through recreation and then curing them if did get ill.

Walling Win for Mendip Hills AONB Volunteers at 150th Mendip Ploughing Society Match
Volunteers from the Mendip Hills AONB Unit came first, third and fourth at the 150th Annual Mendip Society Ploughing Match dry stone walling competition on Wednesday 25th September.

The volunteers provide a skill and a service that is essential to preserving the art of dry-stone walling and have all been trained by members of Dry-Stone Walling Association to the ‘Mendip’ standard. They have been working all over the AONB to mend Mendip and this gave them the chance to showcase their skills in a competition. The AONB Unit, along with Yeo Valley, sponsored the walling competition in the Ploughing Match.

Volunteer Ranger Open Evening Fully Booked
An open evening for people interested in becoming one of our prestigious Volunteer Rangers was fully booked. Thirty people attended the session to learn about the role, the selection process and the training and kit we provide. Our volunteer rangers play an essential role as eyes and ears around the AONB while leading walks and activities, checking routes and visitor areas. If you would like more information take a look at our volunteering page.

What’s coming up?

Mendip Hills Fund
The deadline for applications to the Mendip Hills Fund is the end of October. This year we will have £12,500 to award to local projects that conserve and enhance the environment or communities of the Mendip Hills. All the details on how to apply can be found here.

Wildlife and Rural Crime
The Police & Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens will be visiting the AONB Unit to hear first hand the issues that are faced in the area ranging from anti-social driving, car crime in visitor hotspots and poaching.

Trial for Defra’s New Environment & Land Management (ELM) Scheme
Along with The Trail Trust the Mendip Hills AONB has been successful in passing the first round as a trial area for a new way of delivering farm payments. The proposal is based around establishing the subsidies required for new green infrastructure access routes. A set of objectives now need to be agreed with Defra before work can begin.

Mendip Way Project

The Mendip Way is a 50 mile long-distance footpath crossing the Mendip Hills from Uphill to Frome that is sometimes referred to in two sections:

The West Mendip Way that is largely in the Mendip Hills AONB starts near the Bristol Channel at Uphill and climbs the Mendip Hills escarpment onto the Mendip plateau and across the top of Cheddar Gorge and down to Wells.

The East Mendip Way continues from Wells to Frome passing to the north of Shepton Mallet and close to some of the limestone quarries.

Mendip Way Map

The AONB Unit is working with partnership with the Mendip Society, Rotary Club and Mendip Ramblers to enhance the Mendip Way through route improvements, improved information, signage and promotion.

Completed Works:

The whole route has been waymarked with new signs.

A comprehensive route survey has been carried out identify additional signage and access furniture requirements.

Full route guide with description and directions in 2 versions eastwards and westwards) have been written.

GPX data has been gathered for use in downlaodable route guides.

Next steps:

Mendip Way pages on the AONB website including downloadable route guides and further information for visitors.

Continue marketing the route.

Carry out further route improvements through volunteer task programmes.

Supporting local tourism businesses – raising the profile of the Mendip Way and enhancing the experience for walkers on the route will attract more visitors to the area and encourage longer length of stay. The project will aim to improve the tourism offer and support rural economic growth. Ideas to be explored with businesses include:

• Using the website to link the route to attractions, accommodation and local food providers.
• Networking accommodation providers to offer luggage transfer and other visitor services
• Offering bespoke Mendip Way holidays offering guided walks and other activities.
• Promoting family friendly accommodation and activities for family members not walking the full route

Discovering Black Down

This was a three year project (2013-2016) funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project was designed to raise awareness of the wildlife and archaeological value of the Black Down and Burrington Commons through activities, events and training.

In recent years erosion and damage to specific features and the site in general has occurred through a combination of recreational use, sensitive site conditions and weather.
The legacy of Discovering Black Down will be to ensure local community and user group volunteers continue to play an active role in the care and conservation of this area’s heritage.

The project has now come to a close but the web site Discovering Black Down will remain available.

Download the Discovering Black Down app for maps, memories and lots more