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Both prominent hills and deep caverns

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Brent Knoll
Wookey Hole
The Mendips are a relatively modest range of hills, just south of Bristol. Despite topping out at 300 metres or so, the views from their summits cover most of Somerset and beyond, to the South Wales coast.
One such panorama is provided by Brent Knoll, 2.5 miles from the Bristol Channel. It's known as the "Mount of Frogs", as it once provided safe haven from the waters which used to cover this part of Somerset. It was developed into an Iron Age fort in around 2000BC, and since then it has seen lots of conflict. Roman soldiers came here, as did World War II gunmen. According to legend, even one of King Arthur's knights made the journey to the top, to slay the three giants who lived there.
The possible existence of such dangerous creatures doesn't seem to have put people off ascending the Mendips - they've become an important part of the British climbing scene. The variety of the limestone cliffs gives everybody a chance, from first-timers to experts. Dedicated climbing organisations can provide you with equipment rental and qualified instructors.
The hills also cater for those who prefer to explore in the opposite direction. Like a tree, there's as much going on underneath the ground as there is above it. The cave network spreads out for untold miles, so there's plenty of exploring to do.
The most famous entry point is at Cheddar, Britain's largest limestone gorge. You won't see a better example in the country of the erosive power water can have, over the course of time. Stand on the cliffs, if you dare, and look down into the abyss. You'll see how, even here, nature can't help but take hold. Pink flowers cling to the slopes, as peregrine falcons drift overhead.
The web of caves and tunnels at Cheddar has never been fully explored. On the other hand, some of the more easily navigable sections - like Gough and Cox's caves - are open to the public. You can see the artistic shapes water has created: the rock's curves, and the sharp spikes of the stalactites and stalagmites.
Local caving organisations continue to venture ever further into the hills. Some of these journeys even go underwater, in the rivers that flow deep underground. It's an experts-only task, but it results in the regular discovery of new caverns and tunnels.
There's another public cave at Wookey Hole. According to myth, its dark corners used to be home to a powerful witch. She used her magic to curse the local townsfolk, causing all budding relationships to fail. One angry, lovesick man, a monk from Glastonbury, eventually tracked her down. With the power of holy water, he turned her to stone. The witch-shaped rock is still in Wookey Hole today, perhaps just biding its time before coming back to life.
Understandably, some visitors prefer more traditional activities to caving or witch-hunting. That's no problem; the Mendips are full of trails and paths, as befits any Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can walk, bike or horse ride your way past the wildflowers and butterflies, between the old stone villages and the dairy farms.

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