The Quantock Hills and countryside are some of the finest in England. In 1956 it was the first to be awarded the national status of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Quantock Common is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The status serves to offer protection to this special landscape which contains habitat of international importance, for example nearly 10% of the world’s maritime heathland lies within its boundaries.
The hills themselves cover an area measuring some 12 miles by 4 miles and reach to a height of 384 meters (1,260 feet) at Will’s Neck. Stretching from just north of the county town of Taunton they meet the Bristol Channel at their northern end. From the tops there are extensive views of the Brendon Hills and Exmoor to the west, the Blackdown Hills to the south-west and the Bridgwater Bay area to the east.
The Quantock Hills
The hilltops are largely covered by open heathland which descends into areas of broadleaved woodland, forestry and farmland. Many combes, or valleys, each with distinct characteristics, cut into the side of the hills with villages and hamlets dotted around the lower slopes. Somerset County Council, the National Trust and Forest Enterprise all have extensive estates in the AONB, but the majority of the land is in privately owned by small to medium sized farms and estates. There is a very extensive network of footpaths across the whole area.
The area has been used by man for thousands of years and his impact has helped to shape the landscape. In order to maintain the distinctive habitat and character of the area continued management is required, and this is a task which falls to the AONB Service.