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Cheddar Complex Nature Reserve

The three Somerset Wildlife Trust reserves that make up the Cheddar Complex (Velvet Bottom, Black Rock and Long Wood) offer a chance to explore the desolate beauty of the Mendip Hills. The remote landscape is fractured with traditional stone walls and offers panoramic view across the Levels and Moors. The area is famous for its caves and the spectacular Cheddar Gorge, which runs close to the reserves.

Nearby Reserves

Draycott Sleights
King's Castle Wood
Harridge Woods

Wildlife

What to See

 

Roe Deer

 

Nuthatch

 

peregrine90

 

Common Rock-rose

 

At Velvet Bottom keep your eyes peeled for the archaeological footprints left behind by lead mining and the plants that grow in the lead spoil such as sandwort and alpine pennycress. Adder, common lizard, slow worm and grass snakes may be seen basking in the summer sun.

Long Wood is the most stunning ancient bluebell wood in the Cheddar complex. An easy walking trail will take you through spectacular displays of bluebells and the trail is dotted with other woodland flowers including orchids, wood anemone and yellow archangel, with the pervasive scent of wild garlic in the air in the spring.

Members of the tit family are the birds you’re most likely to see here, but both green and greater spotted woodpeckers and buzzards are often heard. Look out for the ‘badger gates’ in the walls which allow the badgers to move around and follow their tracks around the reserve. A stream runs through the north of the reserve before disappearing underground into the main cave, Long Wood swallet. Alongside the Mendip Way, as it begins to climb towards Tynings Farm, the flowers on the ‘orchid slope’ are visited by many insects, including marbled white and meadow brown butterflies.

At the top of Black Rock enjoy views across Mendip’s spectacular Cheddar Gorge and look out for redstarts on their summer migration. Peregrine falcons breed locally and can be spotted hunting over the reserve. Greater and lesser horseshoe bats may be glanced hunting at dusk and there are important butterflies including dark green fritillary, dingy skipper and green hairstreak. Dormice can be found in the coppice woodland using the nest boxes we attach to trees, along with yellow-necked mice and pygmy shrew.

About

About

Velvet Bottom

For many centuries Velvet Bottom was mined for lead and is now rough grassland, with areas of woodland and shrubs. Here you can see the scars of Mendip’s lead-mining heritage: Look out for the circular depressions that are the remains of buddle pits where the lead ore was washed. Dam walls at the west end enclose the flat settling beds which are high in lead content. Re-smelting resulted in heaps of black, shiny slag which can still be seen. Shrubs grow where the soils are relatively free of lead. In the valley floor rabbits create short turf, ideal for typical limestone flowers.

43 acres (17.4 ha)

 

Black Rock


IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR BLACK ROCK

Between November and January tree felling and processing work will be taking place in Black Rock nature reserve. Please take extra care during this period and obey any safety signs on site as large machinery will be operating close to the paths. Please keep dogs under close control.

 

Black Rock is made up of woodland, limestone grassland and conifers which we are replacing with broadleaf trees. Over 30 species per square metre have been recorded on the limestone grassland, including the nationally scarce spring cinquefoil. The bare limestone rock outcrops, cliffs and screes support important plants including the nationally scarce angular Solomon’s-seal, limestone fern, rock stonecrop and Cheddar bedstraw. The nationally scarce large chrysalis snail and ash-black slug can be found here, along with slug pill woodlouse and distinctive long legged harvestman. It is a valuable Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI.)

Please take care when visiting Black Rock ­ - here are some things to look out for:

  • There is a disused quarry alongside the main path and other areas of natural rock face. Please be aware of the potential for falling rocks and take care to avoid the unprotected drops.
  • Rock climbing at the quarry is undertaken at your own risk.
  • During extreme wet weather the main path is prone to flooding, please take care as the water can be deep and fast flowing and may hide an uneven surface below.
  • Please pay attention to any safety signs.

181 acres (73.3 ha.)


Long Wood

Long Wood is Somerset Wildlife Trust’s oldest nature reserve, managed by us since 1969. It is an ancient woodland some of which formed part of the holdings of the Carthusian monks of Witham priory in medieval times. Along the valley path, the humid conditions encourage the growth of moisture loving plants, including opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, and many ferns and mosses. The uncommon herb Paris is found in abundance on the western side of the wood. Most of the wood is semi-natural mainly ash and hazel, but in the early 1950’s much of the wood was clear-felled and replanted with beech and some conifers. In many parts of the wood the native trees have grown again from seed and the cut stumps. Our long term aim is to remove the planted beech and conifers to encourage ash, hazel, sallow and other trees and shrubs that grow naturally on Mendip. It is a valuable Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI.)

Please take care when visiting Long Wood - ­ here are some things to look out for.

  • During extreme wet weather the main path is prone to flooding, please take care as the water can be deep and fast flowing and may hide an uneven surface below.



47 acres (19.2 ha.)

Location

Location & Access

Information Leaflets

Information leaflets about the Cheddar reserves can be picked up at Black Rock Gate.

Velvet Bottom

Park at ST482 545 and follow directions on reserve sign or park at ST 502 555 and walk down the footpath to the south west.

Map:

Download a map of  Velvet Bottom (PDF Size: 58kb)

Opening:

Open access, all year round.

How to get there:

See Black Rock and Ubley Warren

Grid Reference: ST496 552

Black Rock Gate

There are footpaths and nature trails from ST 482 545.

Please take care when visiting Black Rock ­ - here are some things to look out for:

  • There is a disused quarry alongside the main path and other areas of natural rock face. Please be aware of the potential for falling rocks and take care to avoid the unprotected drops.
  • Rock climbing at the quarry is undertaken at your own risk.
  • During extreme wet weather the main path is prone to flooding, please take care as the water can be deep and fast flowing and may hide an uneven surface below.
  • Please pay attention to any safety signs.

Map:

Download a map of the Black Rock Gate (PDF Size: 66kb)

Opening:

Open access, all year round.

How to get there:

By road:

The site lies on either side of the B3135 2km (1.2miles) north-east of Cheddar where limited parking is available.

Coaches and minibuses are advised to drop passengers at Black Rock Gate.

By bicycle:

National Cycle Network routes pass a mile to the east (through Charterhouse) and south-west (through Cheddar) of Black Rock.

Grid Reference: ST 483 544.

Long Wood

Access from ST 482 545 up Black Rock Drove, heading north up the West Mendip Way, keeping left at the fork to Velvet Bottom. A circular permissive path and Nature Trail will take you around the wood (a trail leaflet is normally available at Black Rock Gate.)

The paths are often wet, muddy and slippery and you are not advised to use the valley path when the stream is in flood. Please keep dogs under control and note that no cycling or riding is permitted on the reserve. Do not enter the swallet or cave entrances.

  • During extreme wet weather the main path is prone to flooding, please take care as the water can be deep and fast flowing and may hide an uneven surface below

Map:

Download a map of the Long Wood (PDF Size: 61kb)

Opening:

Open access, all year round.

How to get there:

By road:

Park at Black Rock Gate on the B3135 Cheddar Gorge road (ST 482 545).

Coaches and minibuses are advised to drop passengers at Black Rock Gate.

By bicycle:

National Cycle Network routes pass a mile to the east (through Charterhouse) and south-west (through Cheddar) of Black Rock.

Grid Reference: ST 487 551.

Events

Events Nearby

Saturday 26 July

Join Les Cloutman & Lepidoptera expert Peter Smith for a gentle walk and look for Butterflies & Moths at Priddy Mineries, one of the best places on Mendip to see rare butterflies & day flying moths

Saturday 2 August - Sunday 3 August

On the 2nd and 3rd August there will be a pop up visitors centre at Black Rock nature reserve. You will be able to meet Somerset Wildlife Trust staff and find out about the reserve and others in the county. Members of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows team will also be there to help you explore the meadows on the reserve.  

Tuesday 5 August

A walk along the Strawberry line to look for Glow-worms

Wednesday 6 August

Chris Billinghurst, the reserve warden, will lead a walk through Long Wood looking at the Cheddar Flood Relief Scheme & the wildlife of the area. Chris will explain how the caves saved Cheddar.

Sunday 17 August

Kate Lawrence will lead a walk around the Trust's own organic farm showing us the diversity of habitat, plants invertebrates, birds and wildlife as well as explaining some of the geological features of this area

Tuesday 30 September

A morning stroll with local bird recorder Nigel Milbourne, a good time to see migrant waders & large numbers of ducks at Blagdon village & walk.

Saturday 25 October

Fungus Foray led by Michael Jordan one of the country's leading experts on fungi, who will help you find & identify the fungi in the woods. Numbers limited, booking & payment must be made in advance for this event. For information or to make a booking please telephone 01749 673563

Click the following link for a full list of Somerset wildlife events





Videos of Cheddar