Mendips header
 Overview maps
 Locality areas
  Cheddar Gorge
 Burrington Combe
 Shipham & Rowberrow
 Crook Peak & Axbridge
 Banwell to Churchill
 Harptree & Smitham Hill
 Draycott & Westbury-sub
 Wookey Hole & Ebbor
 Great Elm & Vallis Vale
 Mells & the Wadbury Valley
 The Vobster area
 The Whatley area
 Torr Works & Asham Wood
 Beacon Hill
 Stoke St Michael & Oakhill
 Holwell & Nunney
 Shepton Mallet & Maesbury
 Gurney Slade & Emborough
 The Nettlebridge valley
 Rocks of Mendips
 Geological timescale
 Ancient environments
 Geological structure
 Minerals and mines
  Minerals and mines
 Industrial archaeology
  Stone as a resource
 Employment & the economy
 Quarrying & geodiversity
 Quarrying & the environment
 History of quarrying
 Caves and karst
 How caves form
 Dry valleys and gorges
 Dolines and sinkholes
 Mendip caves
 Going caving
  Flora and fauna
 Typical Mendip habitats
 Special Mendip habitats
 Horseshoe bats
 Appendix of names
 Biodiversity of western
 Biodiversity of eastern
 External links
 Detailed site information
  Coal mining
  Mendip quarry companies
  East Mendip quarries
 Biodiversity of eastern
  West Mendip quarries
 Biodiversity of western
 Site map
Flora and fauna of the Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills are famous for their wild and unspoilt character, but they also they have a special and characteristic flora and fauna. A few species are found nowhere else in the UK, for example the Cheddar pink. The Mendip Hills also support nationally important populations of other rarities such as horseshoe bats, common dormouse, purple gromwell, starved wood-sedge, and certain mosses and lichens. Many nature reserves and other ecologically important areas have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), protected sites that are considered to be nationally important for their wildlife and geology. Furthermore, some sites have also been accorded Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status, by supporting certain habitats and species that are important in a European context.

Cheddar Pink

The rich biodiversity of Mendip is the result of many complex and inter-related factors. As each kind of habitat supports a characteristic flora and fauna, a mosaic of different habitats as found in parts of the Mendip Hills contributes to a greater overall diversity of species.

Drystone wall

Drystone wall, with blocks of the Harptree Formation, Smitham Hill. The wall contains sea campion, a classic species of lead workings on Mendip but rare otherwise, wall rue, a small fern common on limestone walls and mortar, sheep's-fescue and a polypody fern. The network of drystone walls across the Mendips help plant species to migrate and colonise new sites.

  Purple Gromwell

Human activities on Mendip have strongly influenced the landscape, habitats and species that exist there today. The long history of mining and quarrying has created totally man-made habitats that are of particular value in an otherwise mainly agricultural landscape. However, the Mendips today are sparsely populated, and the hills have escaped the extensive modern development and human disturbance that has characterised many lowland areas elsewhere.

Gruffy ground, Velvet Bottom

Traditional land management continues to preserve rich habitats that may have taken centuries to develop, and many wildlife-rich sites are linked by woodland, hedges, or dry-stone walls, thereby enabling species to move about and colonise new sites, or to maintain existing populations.

Limestone habitats are particularly extensive in the Mendip Hills, and diverse woodlands, cliffs, crags and caves are found in the gorges and ravines of the scarp slopes — at Cheddar, Burrington, Ebbor, and East Harptree in western Mendip, and in the Mells valley to the east. Because many of the soils on the slopes and scarps are shallow and rocky, they have escaped the plough, and centuries of sheep grazing have contributed to an extensive network of flower-rich limestone meadows. Agricultural intensification and changing land use in the second half of the twentieth century contributed to the loss of more than 90% of such habitats in Great Britain, so the Mendip resource is especially important.
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