Somerset Wildlife Trust

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GB Gruffy Nature Reserve

Two of Mendips most impressive cave systems run beneath your feet at GB Gruffy. This nature reserve is a great place to explore Somerset's industrial history and takes its unusual name from its mining heritage.

Nearby Reserves

The Cheddar Complex
Ubley Warren
Draycott Sleights


What to See


Lesser Horseshoe Bat




Snipe 90


Adder's Tongue Fern 90


Plants and flowers

In spring and summer enjoy the rich variety of plants and flowers that grow in this distinctive landscape, such as hairy rock-cress and the nationally scarce dwarf mouse-ear. Look out for the pretty, delicate white flowers of alpine penny-cress, spring sandwort nestled close to the ground, and the spiky pinks and purples of devil’s-bit scabious, meadow thistle, and lousewort.

This lovely variety of plants and flowers attracts many butterflies such as green hairstreak, small copper, and marbled white.


Redstart and stonechat are summer visitors to the nature reserve, passing through on migration, and raven nest locally. Remarkable feats of problem-solving, observed in ravens, have led to the belief that they are highly intelligent birds which have coexisted with humans for thousands of years. Snipe visit the reserve in winter although which such excellent camouflage you’ll be lucky to spot one. Yellowhammers singing from the gorse are a sure sign of spring.

Dormice and bats

Threatened dormice are at home in the hedges, while lesser horseshoe bats roost in the underground caves. These bats get their name from the distinctive horseshoe-shaped nose and they are one of the world's smallest bats, weighing only five to nine grams. There is also a large, active badger sett and many rabbits to be seen emerging from their burrows at dusk.


The Tyning’s Farm stream which flows through the reserve encourages water-loving plants such as lesser spearwort, common meadow-rue and lesser water-plantain. It provides the humid conditions suitable for many ferns including narrow buckler, hard shield, and brittle bladder-fern. Tussocks of purple moor-grass, tufted hair-grass and soft rush mark the two streams you can’t see that run underground.


In autumn the deciduous hedgerows of hawthorn, ash, blackthorn and elder glow with autumn colour and the season brings out the colours of the gorse and bracken and the hawthorn trees with their bright red berries attract flocks of finches and tits.



That’s an odd name!?

“Gruffy” or “groovy” ground is the Mendip name for land with closely packed mineshafts, and other mining hollows, such as those covering most of the reserve. Lead was mined here in the 16th and 18th centuries and the work of the miners is still apparent today.

Underground caves

Although beyond the reach of all but bats and very experienced cavers there is a fascinating world beneath your feet at GB Gruffy with two of Mendips most impressive cave systems - GB Cave and Charterhouse Cave.

GB Cave is around 1.93km long and 134 metres deep, its main feature being the gorge, a tunnel large enough to take several double decker buses. This descends steeply to Main Chamber, the largest known underground cavity in Mendip.

Charterhouse Cave is 4,340 metres long, currently the deepest cave on Mendip. The stalactites and stalagmites of GB Cave were once spectacular but have been badly damaged by visitors. Those in Charterhouse Cave, are still well preserved.

Access to caves is by agreement through the Charterhouse Caving Company only ­ do not enter without permission.

Two million years ago

Beginning perhaps two million years ago, water running off the sandstone and meeting the limestone, eroded the large swallet complex and cave system carrying water through to Cheddar Gorge.

There are numerous sinkholes in the reserve where streams, ancient and modern, have sunk underground. A huge hole 10 metres deep, called the Great Doline, was formed during floods in 1968 when a hollow collapsed into part of GB Cave.

Grazing animals

The reserve is grazed by ponies and cattle. This is a delicate balancing act as a lack of grazing will lead to scrub taking over and crowding out more unusual plants, while over-grazing could lead to the loss of some of these more sensitive species.

6.887 ha (16.96 acres)

Health & Safety: Watch out for site management activities.


Location & Access


Download a map of GB Gruffy

GB Gruffy nature reserve forms a small part of the Cheddar Complex. Long Wood is around 1 km from the south eastern corner of the reserve.


Open access, all year round.

How to get there

The entrance to the reserve lies on the Longbottom Road between Charterhouse and Shipham.

Grid reference: ST476564


  • There is a danger of hidden mine shafts in the southern section - to minimise risk keep to paths and avoid depressions.
  • You are advised to remove all valuables from cars.
  • Access to caves is by agreement through the Charterhouse Caving Company only.
  • Stock grazing is vital for reserve management so please keep dogs under close control and do not disturb grazing animals.
  • Please do not obstruct the gateway.


Events Nearby

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

Location Map