Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill

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Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill is located in Somerset
Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill
Shown within Somerset
Area of Search Somerset
Grid reference ST385555
Coordinates 51°17′43″N 2°52′53″W / 51.2952°N 2.8814°W / 51.2952; -2.8814Coordinates: 51°17′43″N 2°52′53″W / 51.2952°N 2.8814°W / 51.2952; -2.8814
Interest Biological and Geological
Area 332.2 hectares (3.322 km2; 1.283 sq mi)
Notification 1952 (1952)
Natural England website

Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill (grid reference ST385555) to (grid reference ST430560) is a 332.2 hectare (820.9 acre) geological and biological Site of Special Scientific Interest near the western end of the Mendip Hills, Somerset, notified in 1952.

Shute Shelve Hill, which is formed of Carboniferous Limestone laid down in the Dinantian period about 350 million years ago, rises to 233 metres (764 ft) above sea level. It is an anticline with younger limestones on the lower slopes.[1]

The site[edit]

The site extends for some 5 km from west to east. Near its eastern end it is divided by a gap used by the A38 road and the disused Cheddar Valley railway line. From west to east the site includes these hills:

  • Crook Peak, reaching 191 metres (627 ft), a prominent feature from the surrounding landscape. Evidence of early human occupation includes a polished flint axe. A ridge to the south east of Crook Peak, known as 'The Razor', is used by the West Mendip Soaring Association to fly model aircraft in south-westerly / southerly or north-easterly winds.[2]
  • Compton Hill, above the village of Compton Bishop
  • Wavering Down, reaching a height of 211 metres (692 ft)
  • Cross Plain, above the village of Cross
  • Shute Shelve Hill, east of the A38 road, reaching a height of 233 metres (764 ft), above the town of Axbridge and adjoining Axbridge Hill and Fry's Hill

Most of the site is owned by the National Trust.

A long-distance footpath, the Mendip Way, follows much of the northern boundary of the site.


Crook Peak has been important as a landmark and boundary from very early times, and the origins of the name are unclear. Some believe the name 'Crook' comes from Old British 'Cruc' meaning 'peak' or 'pointed hill'.[3][4]

Somerset slang for something that isn't straight is 'crook' - as in crooked


King's Wood between Cross Plain and Shute Shelve Hill is owned by the National Trust

This site comprises a wide range of habitats which includes ancient and secondary semi-natural broadleaved woodland, unimproved calcareous grassland and a complex mosaic of calcareous grassland and acidic dry dwarf-shrub heath. Four of the calcareous grassland communities, two of the woodland types and the calcareous grassland/acidic dry dwarf-shrub heath mosaic all have a restricted distribution in Britain. Four nationally rare and seven notable plant species are also present. Plants of interest include the nationally rare Cheddar Pink (Dianthus gratianopolitanus), Bedstraw (Galium fleurotii), Dwarf Sedge (Carex humilis) and Dwarf Mouse-ear (Cerastium pumilum). Rose Wood and King's Wood are ancient woodland sites. The nationally rare Purple Gromwell (Lithospermum purpurocaeruleum) occurs at Rose Wood.[5]


There are cave deposits of interest at the southern end of Crook Peak. Picken's Hole is of considerable importance because of its clear, well-stratified sequence of deposits and faunas, all dating from within the Devensian. The rich Layer 3 fauna, radiocarbon dated to 34,265 (+2600/–1950) years BP, includes Spotted Hyena, Lion, Arctic fox, Mammoth, Woolly Rhinoceros, horse, reindeer, suslik and Tundra Vole. The site is a major source of information for this phase of the Middle Devensian. It is also the most carefully excavated hyena-den site and assemblage from Britain.[5]

Shute Shelve Cavern is located on Shute Shelve Hill.

Barton Camp[edit]

Barton Camp, which is on the northern slopes of Crook Peak, is run by the Bristol Children's Help Society which was founded in 1884 to help needy children. The facilities include classrooms, a sports hall, outdoor pool, playing field and bunkhouse accommodation.[6]


  1. ^ Haslett, Simon K. (2010). Somerset Landscapes: Geology and landforms. Usk: Blackbarn Books. pp. 38–41. ISBN 9781456416317. 
  2. ^ "Crook Peak". West Mendip Soaring Association. Retrieved 2006-07-17. 
  3. ^ "Winscombe Parish". Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  4. ^ "Not a soul in the West Mendips". Times Online (London). 2006-03-25. Retrieved 2006-07-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Crook Peak to Shute Shelve Hill". English Nature. Retrieved 2006-07-17. 
  6. ^ Steve Eggington (August 2006). "Serious Playtime". Mendip Times 2 (3): 10–11.