Somerset is rich in environmental assets from its coastline to the Levels, Exmoor to the Mendips. The landscape varies from windswept moorland to steep wooded valleys, expansive wetland and sheer coastal cliffs. This diversity in habitats leads to an abundance of flora and fauna.
Environmental attractions include the caves at Wookey Hole, the famous Cheddar Gorge, and the tallest tree in England, which is found near Dunster on Exmoor. The natural beauty of the Quantock Hills even inspired famous English poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, who walked the hills in the late 1700’s.
The South West Coast Path starts in Somerset and heads west along the coastline, providing views to the north out over the Bristol Channel, and Wales, and south over Exmoor.
Within Somerset's borders are:
- Exmoor National Park
- 4 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): Mendip Hills, Quantock Hills, Blackdown Hills and Cranborne Chase
- 127 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), from Cheddar Gorge to Cleeve Hill, Vallis Vale to Langport Cutting
- 13 National Nature Reserves (NNR)
- 23 Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
See more here
However, this doesn’t paint the whole picture; there are some areas of the County experiencing very different circumstances. Many people living in towns have fewer opportunities to enjoy the rural landscape and may be experiencing poor conditions in their immediate environment.
The English Indices of Deprivation, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), are the official measure of relative deprivation for small areas in England. The most recent were published in 2019. Based on 39 indicators, they are organised across seven domains of deprivation which are combined, using appropriate weights, to calculate the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), which is calculated for every Lower layer Super Output Area (LSOA), or neighbourhood, in England. Every such neighbourhood is ranked according to its level of deprivation relative to that of other areas.
One of the seven domains which comprise the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is that of the Living Environment. The indicators used to create the Living Environment index of deprivation are:-
- The proportion of houses that do not have central heating
- The proportion of social and private homes that fail to meet the Decent Homes standard.
- Air quality: A measure of air quality based on emissions rates for four pollutants
- Road traffic accidents involving injury to pedestrians and cyclists
- While Somerset generally scores above average on the Living Environment theme, there are considerable variations across the county
- 121 of Somerset's 327 LSOAs fall within the 20% most deprived local areas for Indoor Living Environment.
- This number has decreased slightly since 2015, but note this relates to scores compared with other areas, not absolute scores.
- In general Somerset ranks much better on Outdoors Living Environment, with almost 40% of the county falling into the two highest deciles. (see chart 1)
- 48% of Somerset's resident population live in a rural setting (2011 Census)
- This is the tenth highest of any upper-tier or Unitary authority in England
For more information, see our Rurality page