Blackdown Hills AONB, Devon and Somerset
Venture into the Blackdown Hills AONB on the borders of Somerset and Devon and you’ll find a varied landscape which now and then, is rather like a step back in time. And that’s nice, we like that, we like the slower pace of life in these hills, the traditional villages tucked away out round the twisty-turny lanes, where old folk amble out each day to the local shop and where the pub is very much a hub of the community. Go and explore the deep valleys, those narrow winding lanes that take you to what seems like the back of beyond; this is what life is like out in the sticks – rolling hills, huge open fields, dense hedgerows and woodlands teeming with wildlife, bountiful fresh air and tranquility.
The Blackdown Hills AONB is relatively small compared to some of our national parks, but still, where to visit? Well, for far reaching views Wellington Monument, Staple Hill, Castle Neroche and Culmstock Beacon are best and well worth the climb. Take a picnic or head back to the Greyhound Inn at Staple Fitzpaine, The Holman Clavel at Culmhead or the Culm Valley Inn. You can walk for miles and miles of course, on footpaths, bridleways and old holloways; a good starting point is one of the secluded nature reserves like Otterhead Lakes, Bishopswood Meadows or Hembury Fort.
It’s not all peace and quiet though; the A303 and in turn the A30 run through the Blackdown Hills AONB and that’s where you’ll find Otter Valley Ice Cream & Field Kitchen, and not far away, Dunkeswell Airfield and Smeatharpe stadium. Tell you what, get in the car and don’t have a plan as such, just go and pootle about and see where you end up. That’s possibly one of the best ways to discover the Blackdowns, especially on a warm summers evening.