Three Somerset nature reserves make up the Cheddar Complex: Black Rock, Long Wood and Velvet Bottom. The area is rich in history and famous for its caves and the spectacular Cheddar Gorge.
Our Cheddar Complex nature reserve dog walk begins at the south entrance that takes us to Black Rock. There is roadside parking on Cliff Road, however it is limited. Further parking can be found at the Velvet Bottom entrance in Charterhouse.
We are following the Black Rock red trail (2.4km). First we walk past the Limekiln which was built in 1929 when Black Rock was being quarried for limestone which makes up the Cheddar landscape and enabled the formation of the cave complexes running under the hills. We then follow the dry stone wall and past the former quarry to reach a stone stile.
From here you can continue forward to Long Wood and Velvet Bottom, before coming back down and completing the rest of the Black Rock route. Alternatively, climb the stone stile now to complete the Black Rock route in isolation.
Climbing over the stile takes us uphill towards the top of Black Rock where there is plenty of wildlife including butterflies. We enjoy the views across the Cheddar Gorge. Peregrine falcons breed locally and can be spotted hunting over the reserve, along with kestrels and ravens.
We continue along the red route but you can take the shorter route here and head back down the hill. The red route takes us straight on to the gate and then to the beautiful woodland and back down to the lower path of Black Rock.
To visit Long Wood and Velvet Bottom from here you need to turn right and go back past the former quarry to reach the Long Wood gate.
Long Wood is an ancient woodland that is accessed from Black Rock. We pass through the gate into the woods and the path forks. We take the path on the right that leads up some quite steep steps and at the top is a bench. In May this area is covered in Bluebells.
We follow the path along the top of the woods which eventually leads back down to the lower path. We turn right and follow the stream which is perfect for Cleo to take a dip. There are small waterfalls and a wooden bridge in this part of the woods. It’s very pretty.
There is plenty of wildlife here, with woodpeckers, buzzards and badger gates in the walls.
We go back on ourselves and follow the path straight ahead to the gate that takes us out to Black Rock.
Velvet Bottom nature reserve is a long and narrow dry river valley that leads you to Charterhouse. It is filled with grassland (which feels incredibly soft when walking on it), and small patches of woodland and scrub. There is evidence of its lead mining history.
There are two small caves named Timber Hole and Hangover Hole, and a series of dams.
You may spot archaeological footprints left behind by lead mining. The area is also home to plenty of wildlife including, adders, common lizard, slow worm and grass snakes that can be found basking in the summer sun.
Once we reach Charterhouse, we go back the way we came to Black Rock and to where we parked.
We loved this walk at the Cheddar Complex nature reserve! There is so much variety over a walk that is less than 5 miles long. The walk can easily be extended further to include Cheddar Gorge.