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.
Grid Reference: ST 501 507 O.S. Map: 182
Area postcode: BA5 1HT
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 the east side of the lane, near the 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.
Westbury-sub-Mendip is on the A371 between Cheddar and Wells and served by regular buses between Weston-super-Mare and Wells.
West of the village in the direction of Cheddar is the crossroads of the A371, Millway and Broad Road (signposted Priddy 3 miles); the buses might drop here on request.
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 the Post Office, School Hill then Old Ditch and Lynch Lane also lead to Back Lane.
Site Access and Safety
The top half of the reserve is fairly level, 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.
Most ticks are little more than an irritation, but a few can transmit Lyme disease, a rare and potentially serious illness which is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. It is therefore important to be informed and take some simple precautions. 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
01929 400 209