Dunkery Beacon, up the western slope
|Summit:|| 1,705 feet SS891415 |
At 1,705 feet, Dunkery Beacon the county top of in Somerset; the highest point of ground, although technically one manmade feature reaches higher, namely the tip of the Mendip TV Mast on Pen Hill, reaching at 1,924 feet while it stands.
The nearest higher hill is Yes Tor 37 miles away in Devon (which itself stands beside and nearly equals Devon's county top: High Willhays. Based on the formula 'distance of hill from its nearest higher neighbour in km squared, multiplied by its height in metres', Dunkery is ranked 23rd in the UK in terms of dominance.
The site is part of the North Exmoor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is part of the Dunkery & Horner Woods National Nature Reserve and is a candidate for Special Area of Conservation, Section 3 Moor and Heath and Common Land status.
Dunkery is composed of Devonian sedimentary rock, as can be seen in the red soil.
There are several Bronze Age burial mounds at or near the summit: two of the larger ones are Joaney How and Robin How. However these have been damaged over many years and plans have been made to restore and protect them.
Dunkery Beacon was given to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Acland, Colonel Wiggin and Allan Hughes along with the rest of the Holnicote Estate an event commemorated by the summit memorial cairn.
The shortest route of ascent goes from the car park at Dunkery Gate, and is just ¾ mile long. There are extensive views from the summit, including both the Bristol Channel and English Channel coasts, the Brecon Beacons including Pen y Fan, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Severn Bridges and Cleeve Hill, 86 miles away in Gloucestershire.
The hill is blanketed in heather and in the summer this gives it a deep purple colour. Ling and bell heather, gorse, sessile oak, ash, rowan, hazel, bracken, mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns all grow here or in surrounding woodland, as well as some unique whitebeam species.
Exmoor ponies, red deer, pied flycatchers, wood warblers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, redstarts, dippers, snipe, skylarks and kestrels are some of the fauna to be found here and in nearby Horner Woods. Horner Woods are also the home to 14 of the 16 UK bat species, which include barbastelle and Bechstein's bats.
In the media
In Lorna Doone, John Fry calls it the "haighest place of Hexmoor".
- "Moor Facts". Exmoor National Park. http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/index/learning_about/moor_facts.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- "Dunkery & Horner Woods NNR". Special Sites. Natural England. http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/designatedareas/nnr/1006951.aspx. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
- "Planning Committee". Exmoor National Park. 2004-07-08. http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/cpa-6.8.04.110.pdf. Retrieved 2008-07-03.