Stretching from Weston-super-Mare in the north of Somerset to Frome in the west, The Mendip Hills is an area of outstanding natural beauty, drawing in lots of walkers and sightseers every year. And now, in a bid to protect the landscape and boost biodiversity, the area is being declared a ‘super’ national nature reserve by Natural England.
Mendip Hills: New ‘Super’ Nature Reserve Has Been Created In Somerset
This will see 31 existing nature reserves in the area brought together – of which just two previously had a protected status – alongside 400 acres of new land, to make the Mendip National Nature Reserve. This will help restore the beautiful and diverse landscape, which includes limestone slopes, wildflower grasslands and rocky outcrops, as well as protect wildlife such as the hazel dormouse, the water vole, the black oil beetle and the endemic Cheddar pink flower.
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Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said: ‘This will enhance the biodiversity of the Mendip Hills. This will make it a better place for wildlife to thrive. This treasure trove of ancient woodlands, rich wildflower grasslands and stunning geology is of great national importance and sustains a huge variety of wildlife. There are birds, small mammals, rare butterflies and plants that are found only here and we want to preserve that.’
The new declaration means planning authorities will need to take extra precautions to ensure the land is protected. As Rachel Williams, deputy director of the Wessex area for Natural England, explains: ‘If you were planning to build in or next to a national nature reserve you would have to take the protected landscape into account and make sure you don’t have a negative impact on it and the reasons it is protected, like its species and habitat.’
The Mendip Hills is the second in the King’s Series of National Nature Reserves, created to mark his Coronation, with five declarations set to be made each year for the next five years.
The first was launched in September on the Greater Lincolnshire coast, and saw the existing Donna Nook and Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe Dunes nature reserves joined together, plus an extra 2,350 hectares of land protected for nature conservation. This will help protect wildlife including over-wintering birds and natterjack toads.