An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Westbury Quarry is a wonderful natural resource set on the edge of the Mendip Plateau with stunning views across the Somerset Downs. The quarry lies within the Mendip Hills Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one of 49 such designated areas of the UK. This designation recognises that the Mendip Hills is one of England's finest landscapes and we believe that the Westbury Quarry site stands out as a particularly fine and important part of the hills.
The owners of the site are both passionate and committed to protecting and preserving the site and believe that they are merely the current custodians. This is one of the reasons why access to the site is restricted. One of the common ironies of allowing keen naturalists and walkers to visit special places such as Westbury Quarry, is that their very presence does leave a mark, in the form of worn paths, trampled plants etc. After discussions with the Somerset Wildlife Trust and Natural England, it was agreed to limit access to the site to those who have arranged visits and are escorted. The owners are keen to allow access to the site and encourage interested parties and schools to arrange site visits, but need to control this in order to protect the fragile environment.
The Quarry lies at an altitude of between 200 and 250 metres high on the southern flank of the Mendip’s limestone plateau. It is situated above the Somerset village of Westbury-sub-Mendip,on, and below that of the village of Priddy. It sits between the geological ‘Ebbor Thrust’ which is in Dolomitic Conglomerate rock and the South-western overthrust in ‘Clifton Down Limestone’, which in turn, is underlain by ‘Hotwells Limestone’, and is offset by approximately 1 km southwards from the ‘Priddy Fault’.
The site covers a total area of approximately 34 acres, including fine wild flower meadows, limestone karst and woodlands. As one might expect, the site is home to a diverse group of flora and fauna with one member of the Somerset Wildlife Trust describing the meadows as the finest in the Mendips. Ironically this is largely due to the quarrying history of the site which saw many tonnes of limestone dust spread over the fiields. This has had the effect of downgrading the soil, making it the perfect environment for many wild grasses, flowers and orchids.
The quality and importance of the site was recognised when the owners signed a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme agreement with Natural England. This is the top level achievable and means that the land in and around the quarry will be preserved and managed to the highest possible standards, with guidance and support from Natural England. Among the many planned works the owners have committed to undertaking are the restoration and rejunevation of hedges,the repair and the rebuilding of traditional stone walls, tree planting and the sustainable maintenance of the limestone grasslands.
Part of the site is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is subject to various preservation orders. In the late 1960's, the remains of a collapsed cave were discovered. When it collapsed nearly 600,000 years ago, the cave was home to many now extinct animals ranging from tiny mammals to cave bears, and where huge deposits of their bones and teeth were found.