20th-21st centuries - Modern Times

  • This beautiful view contains all the different ingredients that have made the Quantocks special throughout history: heath, woodland, farmland and the sea.

The Quantock Hills have changed in modern times, but not as much as other places. It is still a beautiful, special place, which is why it has been an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for more than 50 years. The AONB Team and many other people work to keep the Quantock Hills special.

  • When the conifer trees were planted, in the 1920s, many people thought they looked ugly and unnatural. Now they are a familiar part of the landscape

When you look at the Hills today you can see the dark, straight-edged shapes of many coniferous plantations where there used to be old woodland. This was a big change, which began in 1927 when the Forestry Commission first bought land to grow conifers for timber. Now Forestry is an important part of life on the Hills.

Other trees have disappeared from the landscape. People can still remember the beautiful, tall elms that used to grow in the hedgerows, before they died from Dutch Elm disease.

  • Heavy traffic on the Quantock roads.

With travel by road and train much easier, the Quantocks has become a popular place for visitors. Tourism and Leisure are the new Quantock industries as people see that the hills as somewhere to enjoy themselves.

  • Enjoying the view.

Today, there are more visitors, more cars driving across the hills, more car parks and more road signs. More people use the Hills for sports and enjoyment, like horseriding, off-road motorcycling, hunt-following, walking and mountain biking.

The Common has changed gradually, as people use it for different things.

  • Increased off road traffic on the heath can erode the grass and the soil.

More vehicles makes it more dangerous to let animals live loose on the common. So there are fewer sheep and ponies to graze the common and to keep the bracken from taking over. Today, the spread of bracken (and the ticks that live in it), and of rhododendrons, has to be controlled.

Looking after the common is a task for the AONB Service and for the Commoners who still have rights to use it.

There have been changes in the way people use the farmland. Today, it is much more difficult for small farms to keep going in the traditional way. Some farmers found the old fields too small for their new farm machinery. They made the fields bigger by removing some of the old hedges. Some of the big fields were improved to make the grass grow better for the cows. Now they look a much brighter green than the old pastures.

  • Big arable fields, a new hedgerow, old and new buildings and a distant view of Hinckley Point power station.

Farmers today are paid to grow different crops; field beans, peas, bright yellow oilseed rape and blue linseed. They don’t grow as many apples for cider, so there are fewer apple orchards to be seen.

During the 20th century, stone-quarrying at Triscombe continued, with bigger and more powerful machinery. Masses of stone was excavated. The quarry closed down in the 1990s.

  • Now Triscombe quarry is a huge, disused, empty space in the hillside.  it has filled up with water and is gradually being restored to nature.

In the 1920s, a factory was built to extract oil from the layers of shale rock you can see on the shore at Kilve. People thought this would be a real money-earner, but sadly the experiment failed, and hardly any shale oil was produced.

  • The factory closed down in about 1924. Go to Kilve to see what the factory ruins look like today.

Buildings have changed as well. Farmers need big new barns for their farm machinery and to shelter their animals during the winter. They don’t need the traditional old barns any more. Some of these have been turned into attractive homes. New houses, made from modern building materials, might look very different from the older cottages. Many houses are used as holiday cottages.

  • New houses in West Bagborough

Even though we think of the Quantock Hills as quiet and peaceful, they played a part in the Second World War. People were afraid that Germany would invade Britain from the Bristol Channel. Defences were built all over West Somerset. You can still find the remains of some of these on the Quantock Hills.

  • These children have discovered a mysterious large round area of level ground at Crowcombe Park Gate. This is a searchlight position from the 1939-45 War, to show up enemy planes, so that they could be shot down by anti-aircraft guns that were positioned nearby.

The Quantock Hills has had a Special Past, and a Special Present. Will we keep it Special for the Future?

  • Some children play on Hurley Beacon there are four Bronze Age cairns was used as a beacon to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee in 2001.