Black Rock and Longwood Hike – Bluebells Above Cheddar Gorge – 2023 update

Perched high above the stunning Cheddar Gorge is the small reserve of Black Rock with it’s grassy slopes and remnants of the stony outcrops of Cheddar Gorge, the dry river valley of Velvet Bottom and the ancient woodland called Longwood.

All three nature reserves are owned and maintained by Somerset Wildlife Trust and form a complex of walks and areas to explore outside of the tourist attractions of Cheddar Gorge.  Getting away from the frenetic madness of the commercial Gorge, there is a beautiful landscape that is unspoilt and wild.


This article contains links to products and services that I think you will find useful. I may earn a commission on any purchases you make at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more HERE

Walking Black Rock, Longwood and Velvet Bottom

Parking at the top of Cheddar Gorge in a small layby, the entrance to the reserve can be missed if you don’t know it is there.  The walk through Black Rock can be either a circular walk on it’s own or can be joined onto a visit to Velvet Bottom and Longwood to give a long and varied afternoon of exploration.  Whatever route you choose the paths and routes are clearly colour coded along with the family friendly Hedgehog Trail.  
This walk is a great option on a road trip around the Mendip Hills.


Black Rock Lime Kiln and Quarry

The first thing to find at Black Rock is the restored lime kiln which was built in 1929. The area was quarried for the limestone which makes up the Cheddar landscape and enabled the formation of the cave complexes running under the hills.  The limestone was heated with coal and charcoal to produce lime.  Further up the path the remains of the quarry are visible giving an idea of how the rocks were formed.  Even in wet weather this area remains dry as the joints in the rocks allow the water to drain into the rivers and caves below the surface.

To get to Longwood from the quarry it is straight path, however the circular route and entry to Velvet Bottom is a turning up the path to the right around the quarry.  As you leave the quarry area there is a small meadow, full of summer flowers, creeping their way up the cliffs in a blanket of pink and yellow.  Orchids and cowslips cover the bank in May, facing the morning sunshine.


Passing through the gate into Longwood the path forks.  Taking the right fork will take you up steps.  In May this area is coated in bluebells and wide garlic.  The steps are uneven, but stopping to enjoy the bluebells will help with the exercise.  At the top there is a bench, perfect for a little break and a seat to enjoy the sounds of this busy woodland.

The path then flattens a little and meanders through the top of the valley, following the wall enclosure of the wood.  This has small beech trees and is littered with red campion, garlic and dead nettles.  Colour is everywhere and the trees are full of the chatter of small blue tits and great tits.

Eventually the path heads down to the bottom of the valley.  In the winter a small stream runs through the centre with stepping stones and lots of mud.  Deer can be seen on the slopes of the valley and there are remains of the industry that existed in this valley.  At the bottom of the valley the path back to Black Rock is to the left or a longer walk to Charterhouse is to the right.  The valley walk follows the stream all the way through back to the walk into the reserve and then it is a gentle walk along the main path back to Black Rock.

Photography at Black Rock and Longwood

This area is perfect for intimate landscapes and macro flower and wildlife photography. The area is quite enclosed with the quarry cliff wall and the steep valley sides of the woods making landscape photography nearly impossible.

In the spring the woods are covered in bluebells and wild garlic. This is a beautiful combination although the scent can be quite intense. Given the steep valley that the woods sit in, getting sunrise and sunset is quite difficult. The woods do have very pretty paths that snake through the floral covering on the floor and getting down low makes for good photographs.


In the early summer, the path from the quarry to the woods is covered in orchids and cowslips. The yellow and pink is beautiful and makes macro photography really easy. Later in the year these are replaced with a range of mushrooms that can be found on the log and dry stone walls along the path.

In the bottom of the wooded valley is a small stream. This comes and goes depending on the weather conditions but is pretty with some small waterfalls most of the year. Close to the stream are old mine entrances and the rusting gear can still be seen and photographed.

Details Of The Black Rock and Longwood Walk

Distance: 4.7km
Minimum time: 1 hour
Ascent: 100m
Suggested Map: OS Explorer OE141 Cheddar Gorge and The Mendip Hills West
Start and Finish: Black Rock Nature Reserve
Road: B3135
Parking: 51.28750°N, 2.74410°W, small layby at the top of Cheddar Gorge
Nearest Town: Cheddar

Getting to LongWood

The entrance to Longwood and Black Rock is located on the B3139. The road snakes up through Cheddar Gorge from Cheddar village. As the cliffs start to receed the final boundary fence of the gorge will be seen. As this comes into view there are two layby, one on each side of the road which is the parking for the nature reserve. The large gate entrance to Black Rock is clearly marked. This area is quite remote so do make sure to hide valuables and lock your car.

Once inside the nature reserve the path is a clear. All the way to the quarry it is a good gravel track. Beyond the quarry area the path becomes narrower and grassy before becoming a track through the woods.

Buy the OS Map for Black Rock and Longwood HERE

Places to stay

Around Cheddar there are lots of options of places to stay. Getting out onto the Mendip Hills will give some great options for walks from your stay as well as some fantastic wildlife encounters.

Places Close to Black Rock in Cheddar Gorge

  • Cheddar Gorge – On the way to the nature reserve. This is the deepest gorge in the UK and has stunning cliff faces that rise above the road
  • Cheddar Caves – The largest cave system in England and extend deep under the Mendip Hills. These are currently closed.
  • Wells – The smallest city in England and is about 10 miles from Cheddar. It has a Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace which are open year round.
  • Glastonbury Tor – This can be seen from Cheddar and is worth the walk for the views across the Somerset Levels
  • Brean Down Fort – A fort that sits on a headland jutting out into the Bristol Channel. This Napoleonic Fort is up a steep climb with steps and a clifftop walk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *