The Mendips Cheddar Reviews
The Mendips Feb 06, 2010
The Mendips are a range of hills to the south west of Bristol, and most of the area is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.
Most of the nature reserves are free; there are rights of way across the other fields but please bear in mind that English trespass law is quite strict, and stick to marked rights of way unless you know you are on National Trust or other land where people don't mind you wandering about. Cheddar gorge has an admission fee for the caves and lookout tower, but the gorge itself can be driven or walked up for free.
The Mendips are a limestone ridge rising above the Somerset levels, and they are exactly the sort of countryside that England does extremely well. Although Cheddar gorge itself is steep sided and impressive, the rest of the land is gently rolling and you can make it up and down most of the hills in an hour or two. Because the rest of SOmerset is so flat, the tops of the hills have spectacular views and on a clear day you can see the whole way to Wales. With typical aplomb, the day I was there was cold and overcast, but even then I could see a long way.
The landscape has some rare flowers, if you know about that sort of thing, and some rabbits. There are many really pretty villages from teh middle ages, almost all of which have pubs that serve nice things to drink, and some of which have good restaurants.
Cheddar is a bit commercial, but then there are very few places in the UK where a 50m gorge is accessible from a major city. Other atractions include lots of nature reserves, some caves, some cheese factories, some cider orchards (less good if you have to drive; American readers should note that when a Brit says "cider" they mean "hard cider" and if they say "scrumpy" they mean "you didn't need to be able to walk, today, did you?").
The Mendips are lovely, and an easy trip from Bristol. They are a good place to have a walk to clear a hangover or if you really need a fix of the countryside.
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