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3.4 Recreation, Access and Tourism

Strawberry Line © Paul Miles/Greentraveller Ltd

3.4.1 The AONB landscape is a resource to be enjoyed by all sectors of our diverse society for active and quieter recreational pursuits. Outdoor recreation is proved to benefit people’s health and well being through exercise and opportunities to escape the pressure of everyday life. Being within a 30 minute drive of Bristol, Weston Super Mare and Bath the Mendip Hills is accessible to these urban populations as well as the local rural communities.

3.4.2 Walking and cycling are popular activities with several well known recreational routes across the AONB including the Strawberry Line (National cycle route 26), Limestone Link, The Mendip Way, Monarchs Way, and West Country Way (National Cycle Route 3). The Mendip Hills are also visited for their historical interest and for the wild and tranquil areas that provide opportunity for quiet enjoyment including bird watching.

3.4.3 Most visitors to the Mendip Hills AONB are day visitors but tourism is increasingly an important part of the local economy as farmers diversify providing holiday accommodation, rural facilities (shops, pubs, public transport) need to attract additional business to survive and growing interest in green tourism has potential to create new employment opportunities.

3.4.4 Organised outdoor activities are an important part of the Mendip Hills rural economy bringing in nearly £6 million directly to outdoor businesses with those businesses spending £1.46 million[1] locally. There are a significant number of businesses who use the Mendip Hills for outdoor activities that includes climbing, caving, abseiling, bushcraft, archery and mountain biking.

3.4.5 Cheddar Caves and Gorge, Wookey Hole Caves and Bristol Water’s Chew Valley and Blagdon lakes are major tourist attractions making significant contributions to the rural economy.

3.4.6 There are opportunities within the Mendip Hills to encourage higher spending visitors and develop products and packages having a high quality landscape to base them. Greentraveller’s online guide to the Mendip Hills supported by the AONB Partnership provides a web site where visitors can plan a day visit or holiday in the Mendip Hills using businesses with green credentials.

3.4.7 The provision of information and interpretation can increase understanding and enjoyment of the Mendip Hills as well as attract visitors. The AONB Unit produces a Visitor Guide to the Mendip Hills and produces downloadable walks in the Mendip Hills as do other organisations including the National Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust.

3.4.8 There are a significant number of walking and cycling organised events each year many of them for charity fundraising. The AONB Partnership has produced guidance for events organisers to help minimise impact of events on the landscape.

The 1SW Cycle map, a joint project with NPs and AONBs in the SW enables updated information on the condition of routes to be provided to the public via a web site.

Issues

3.4.9 Managing the demand for recreation in a landscape that is designated for its natural beauty and is also a working environment with the majority of land under agriculture and in private ownership is challenging.

3.4.10 Conserving landscape and scenic beauty so that the Mendip Hills continues to attract visitors is key for the local tourism economy. The need for economic growth and new development should not be at expense of landscape quality and this has been recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework.

3.4.11 Areas of conflict arise between different user groups where activities (legal and illegal) have impacted on people’s enjoyment.. The Police Pathwatch,and 101 service have reduced illegal use of Public Rights Of Way (PROW) and aggressive behaviour by motorcyclists and motor vehicles by encouraging reporting of incidents.

3.4.12 Intense rainfall has seen a number of well used rights of way heavily eroded by surface material being washed away compounded by ongoing heavy usage. Site management measures will need to be introduced to tackle some of these issues that may require seasonal restrictions on use of certain routes or areas and during long dry periods when there is an increase risk of fire. Such issues on Black Down, the largest area of open access in the Mendip Hills is now being dealt with by the Conserving Black Down project linked with the Discovering Black Down Heritage Lottery funded Project

3.4.13 Habitat deterioration or loss of sensitive wildlife habitats due to an increase in number of tourist visits, increased leisure use and or new access could occur without careful management. Habitat deterioration or loss occurs from trampling and this can be exacerbated on steep slopes and by nitrogen enrichment from dog fouling.

3.4.14 Providing appropriate information including online and on site for different and new audiences is important to ensure people can access the area and are aware of its importance.

3.4.15 The low level of public transport provision inhibits visiting much of the Mendip Hills for those without access to a car.


[1] Economic Value of outdoor activity in the Mendip Hills AONB report (2006)

Recreation, Access and Tourism Objectives

R1 Maintain, improve and promote public access and quiet recreational activities with measures to ensure access for all in accordance with the purposes of AONB designation.

  • R1.1 Continue to promote Mendip Hills AONB Partnerships ‘Code of Conduct for managing recreational and fundraising events in the Mendip Hills AONB’ Details
  • R1.2 Continue to deliver Conserving Black Down project to repair and restore heavily eroded paths Details
  • R1.3 Deliver planned network improvements through Rights of Way Improvement Plans and Green Infrastructure Strategies Details
  • R1.4 Manage, maintain and promote the Strawberry Line, The Mendip Way and Limestone Link routes as key recreational routes into the AONB. Details
  • R1.5 Respond to development of 1SW Cycle Adventure project as a as means to promote cycling activity in SW protected landscapes Details

R2 Support the development of tourism and day visits that benefits the local economy, conserves and enhances the landscape and improves understanding of the Mendip Hills.

  • R2.1 Continue to work with Greentraveller Ltd to ensure online guide is effective and is developed including pilot of Young Ambassadors to review and write articles Details
  • R2.2 Annually review and reprint Mendip Hills AONB Visitor Guide Details
  • R2.3 identify specific tourism business needs and develop solutions Details
  • R2.4 Set up tourism business familiarisation day as part of STA promoted days to all Somerset protected landscapes Details

R3 Develop and promote more sustainable methods of travel to and around the AONB for enjoyment and recreation.

  • R3.1 Provide up to date information on sustainable travel to and within the AONB direct to visitors and businesses to provide to their visitors. Details

R4 Support healthy lifestyles by encouraging more people to use the Mendip Hills for sustainable outdoor activities

  • R4.1 Build partnerships with Health and Well Being Boards to identify, coordinate opportunities and implement projects Details