The problem of ash dieback has severely affected many areas of Mendip. The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees and can lead to the death of the tree, including the dropping of branches and the eventual fall of the dead tree. It is thought that ash dieback will kill around 80% of the ash trees in the UK.
Longwood Valley is badly affected by ash dieback and as a result, Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) have taken the decision to close the permissive path that runs along the bottom of the valley from the north to Velvet Bottom in the south. Notices warning of the danger of ash dieback have been in place for a while. Members of the public will be signposted to the public footpath that runs along the eastern edge of the wood at the top of the valley
However, as Longwood Valley is home to two important cave systems, Longwood Swallet and Rhino Rift, as well as the digs at Toothache Pot and Longwood Valley sink, CCC Ltd has been working closely with the landowner, Somerset Wildlife Trust, to preserve access to the caves for cavers as SWT recognises the important role cavers play in managing and conserving the caves, all of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
SWT have closed the permissive path to walkers, however under the terms of the current Licence Agreement with CCC Ltd, access to cavers will continue on certain conditions to enable the risk posed by ash dieback to be managed. These are as follows:
a) Inside the cave
b) Outside the cave
If members of the public ask why cavers are still using the permissive path, please explain that access to the reserve for cavers is governed by a specific licence agreement entered into with SWT and that cavers are playing an important role in conserving and monitoring these SSSIs.
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Updated December 2023