Quantock Hills AONB
A narrow, gently curving 19-km ridge, the Quantock Hills run north west from the Vale of Taunton Deane to the Bristol Channel coast.
Standing out above the agricultural plain, the ridge looks far more imposing than its actual height of 245 to 275m and is famous for its views that, by repute, stretch over nine counties.
For so small an area, the landscape shows immense variety and on its heights, a surprising air of solitude and wildness. Underlying rocks range from the Hangman Grits of the hilltops to undulating shales and the distinctive new red sandstone of the West Country. The steep western scarp is deeply grooved by combes, rising to the hilltop heathland plateau. Eastward, long broad valleys, with an enclosed landscape of copses and hedgerows roll away towards the Somerset Levels.
The heathland and sessile oak woodlands of the AONB are nationally important wildlife habitats, notably rich in species. Much of southern Britain's heathland has vanished or survives as fragments, making the AONB's extensive heaths particularly valuable. Native red deer still roam the Quantock Hills.
The rural economy is based on mixed farming, dominated by dairying, sheep and beef rearing. A large part of the Quantocks plateau is open common with traditional grazing rights. Forestry and small-scale quarrying are secondary activities. There are no towns in the AONB but a number of attractive red sandstone villages.
Tourism is a significant part of the economy, based on farm accommodation and guest houses. The AONB is also a highly popular local recreational area with heavy demand from the towns on its fringe.