For thousands of years, Cheddar Gorge was grazed with flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Over time this produced very special and rich open limestone grasslands. These were home to many rare plants and animals. The Cheddar Pink is a flower which grows only here. The native tree Cheddar whitebeam and butterflies such as the Grayling, as well as a myriad other plants and insects all live here.
By the middle of the 20th century, sheep farming had become unprofitable and all but stopped. One of the most dramatic consequences, and a serious one for the wildlife that depended on the sunny open grasslands, was that scrub and trees began to smother the landscape, shading out its rare inhabitants.
Protecting the future
Since the late 1980s, we have been working hard clearing the slopes and plateau of the gorge, pushing back the ever-encroaching scrub and invasive woodland. This allows all the light-loving rarities that inhabit the gorge to survive and increase as they re-colonise the places we have restored.
All this hard work, carried out by our rangers and their armies of volunteers – backed up by a flock of Bronze Age sheep and a herd of native goats – ensures that the things that make Cheddar Gorge such a special place survive for future generations to enjoy.