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

Top of the Gorge Festival
The tough Mendip weather wasn’t going to stop hundreds of people attending the National Trust’s Top of the Gorge festival of adventure this year. A record number of entries took part in the mountain biking, road cycling and running races over the weekend in some challenging conditions. The festival built on the success of last year’s event with all the booked elements seeing more people enjoying a real festival atmosphere around the stage and food areas when it wasn’t raining!

Gorge Championships 2019
As part of the Top of the Gorge Festival, the AONB Unit supported by Cheddar Gorge and Caves hosted the Gorge Championship; our rock-based sports day designed to encourage more kids to get out and discover some Mendip adventure. Cheddar First School won the 2019 trophy to kick off the Top of the Gorge adventure festival. Following the success of last year’s Championships we saw nearly 70 children from 5 local schools competing for the trophy.

Young Rangers Recruitment
We had 18 applications for our next Young Ranger intake for September 2019 with 15 young people being selected to start as the next wave. They will be with us for the next 2 years taking on a variety of challenges while discovering how a modern protected landscape works.

Mendip Hills Fund
The Mendip Hills Fund enjoyed a boost as Cheddar Ales launched their re-branded Hard Rock beer at the Top of the Gorge festival. They will be donating 20% of the profits of Hard Rock to the Fund.

What’s coming up?

Landscapes for Life Conference
The Chair of the AONB Partnership Cllr Nigel Taylor with three members of the AONB Unit will be attending this years National AONB Landscapes for Life Conference. The conference comes at a crucial time with the government’s review of protected landscapes due to report back at the end of this summer. Julian Glover who is leading the review will be at the conference and sharing some of the panel’s initial thoughts.

Europarcs Trip for Young Rangers
Two of our current Young Rangers will be heading off to Estonia to take part in the Europarc Junior Ranger Camp, joining dozens of other junior rangers from across Europe. They will spend a week sharing ideas from their own protected landscapes seeing how working together helps the environment.

Practical Tasks
Next month’s practical tasks will see our volunteers continuing rebuilding iconic drystone walls and further bracken crushing with Somerset Wildlife Trust.

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