Westbury Beacon, Somerset

Westbury

Species to look out for

A rocky site on top of the Mendip Hills just east of our Stoke Camp reserve.  Spectacular views over the Somerset Levels and across the Bristol Channel to Wales and Exmoor. Wildflowers and butterflies abound. 

Structures on the site are evidence of the millennia of human activity on this significant ridge - a small standing stone in the western boundary wall is believed to be Neolithic (more than 5,000 years ago) and the tumuli are Bronze Age burial mounds and over 3,000 years old. The tin hut and nearby structures are relicts of the site’s use for radar testing which started just after WW2 and the site is still used at times. The concrete structures are Cold War Listening Posts - basic early-warning surveillance during the 1950s but soon obsolete. These remains are now Grade II listed. 

The substantial areas of gorse scrub and surface rock outcrops shape the site’s importance for wildlife. The large rabbit population has kept areas of grassland short and flowery in the absence of any regular farm stock grazing. The thin soils warm quickly and suit many invertebrates, even in this exposed hilltop location. Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, along with Chalk Hill Blue and the occasional Adonis Blue have been surviving here. The taller grassland includes breeding areas for Dark Green Fritillary. Sheltered clearings and rides amongst the scrub are being carefully created to maintain this special balance of habitats. Adders and common lizards also have ideal conditions here. 

Plants of note include Autumn Lady’s-tresses, Common Rock-rose, Kidney and Horseshoe Vetches, Lady’s-mantle, Fairy Flax and Squinancywort. 

Directions 

Grid Reference: ST 501 507

Area postcode: BA5 1HT 

O.S. Map: 182 

Size: 8.3 hectares (20.5 acres) 

The reserve lies west of Broad Road at top of the Mendip ridge. There is limited road-side parking on east side of lane near entrance gate to the old water reservoir. From there head south down Broad Road to the pedestrian gateway with an Open Access way-marker leading into pony field. Follow the northern boundary wall to reach another pedestrian gate into reserve. It can also be reached from Stoke Camp via the intervening Open Access land. Westbury Beacon can normally also be reached from Stoke Camp via the intervening Open Access land but there are currently problems with blocked gateways that need be resolved by the access authorities. 

Public transport

Westbury-sub-Mendip is on the A371 between Cheddar and Wells and served by regular buses between Weston-super-Mare and Wells. The reserve is 1.6 miles up above the village – a steep walk along narrow lanes so great care needed. From the Wells end of the village take Back Lane which leads into Kites Croft then Stancombe Lane to then reach Broad Road. From the village centre by post office School Hill then Old Ditch and Lynch Lane also lead to Back Lane.

West of the village in direction of Cheddar is the crossroads of the A371, Millway and Broad Road (signposted Priddy 3 miles). The buses might drop here on request.

Site Access and Safety

The top half of the reserve is fairly level and with a grassy trackway leading to the Barrow, old tin hut and other structures. From there a gateway leads on to adjoining Open Access land which connects with our Stoke Camp reserve.

The southern half of the reserve is steeply sloping in places with exposed rock. The dense scrub cover is being gradually reduced through the creation of rides and sheltered clearings. Please take great care when exploring along these – the stony surface is very uneven and loose in places. Adders and other reptiles rely on these clearings – please be aware of their possible presence.

Ticks can be abundant on this site – please see advice and recommended precautions for avoiding bites and removing any that become attached.

There are no footpaths or bridleways across the site but it is designated Open Access land. Visitors on foot are welcome to enjoy this right in accordance with the regulations. These prohibit: horse riding, cycling, camping, driving a vehicle (except mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs) and taking animals other than dogs on to the land.

Grazing cattle and other animals may be on the reserve at times throughout the year. Birds and other wildlife will be disturbed by dogs off leads - please follow Open Access regulations for taking dogs onto this site: https://www.gov.uk/right-of-way-open-access-land/use-your-right-to-roam

Contact

01929 400 209

Downloads

PDF of reserve sign

PDF of Mendips leaflet