Visitor survey on the Mendip Hills AONB reveals a surprise

  Posted: 02.06.21 at 06:00 by Tim Lethaby

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The annual visitor count has taken place this month on the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and it revealed the hills are busier, as expected, but not everywhere.

The survey is part of the Counting on Mendip project which is funded by the National Grid Community Grant Programme.

Volunteers and staff from the Mendip Hills AONB Unit counted the number of visitors at sites across the area from Crook Peak in the west to Ebbor Gorge in the east.

The data was then compared to previous pre-pandemic data collected at the same locations in 2019.

Overall, there was a 19 per cent increase in visitor numbers. However, this was not evenly spread across all of Mendip, with some sites experiencing a far greater increase in visitor numbers than others.

Locations which were near a car park and had short, well-defined walks were also the sites which had the greatest increase in visitors.

Dr Kelly Davies from the Mendip Hills AONB Unit said: “This is really valuable data.

"We are all aware that visits to the countryside have increased over the last year. Understanding how and where people access the countryside is important for managing the AONB for the benefit of both wildlife and people alike."

The data will be sent to the public rights of way teams, the landowners and managers of all the sites to help make decisions about visitor management.

This survey complements wider statistics being gathered by electronic visitor counters spread across the area.

All visitors to the Mendip Hills AONB, no matter how long or short their walk, are asked to follow the Countryside Code and keep to paths so as not to disturb wildlife, especially birds that nest on the ground.

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