A jagged jewel in the South West’s crown, Cheddar Gorge boasts the biggest inland cliffs in Britain – stunning features that frame the country’s largest gorge – and in September this year, wild sleepers will have a unique opportunity to camp on the canyon rim, above the world-famous crags and caves, amid the magical Mendip Hills, while enjoying all the activity taking place around England’s newest outdoor festival.
On the weekend 8–10 September, the National Trust’s South West Outdoor Festival (SWOF), supported by Cotswold Outdoor, will play host to 500 campers, glampers and campervan cruisers in a pop-up site above beautiful Black Rock at the eastern end of the iconic gorge. The site offers views right through the limestone jaws of the gorge, a vertical playground for rock climbers and wild goats, and out over Cheddar Village towards the Somerset coast.
SWOF is a celebration of outdoor activity of all sorts, and during the weekend there will be trail-running races, cycling events and themed walks going out across the Mendips (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), while guides will lead climbers and cavers on vertical adventures and subterranean escapades into Somerset’s mysterious underworld.
Nearby, on Cheddar Reservoir, paddlers will enjoy canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and sailing experiences, and there’s even a chance to go summer skiing and snowboarding on the dry slopes of the Mendip Snowsport Centre.
But there’s plenty of action happening right outside the tent door for those lucky enough to score a weekend ticket. Set in a meadow fringed by wildlife-rich woods and moorland, the festival hub will feature everything from bush craft seminars, food foraging walks and campfire cooking sessions to Frisbee, golf, tree climbing, slackline walking, star gazing, archery and axe throwing.
Experts from festival-sponsors Cotswold Outdoor will be on hand all weekend to offer advice on a range of issues, from technical footwear and clothing to backpack and stove selection. They’ll be joined by specialists from Cycle Surgery, who are offering free bike check-ups to anyone taking part in the mountain-bike sportive.
It’s not all about burning calories though. Throughout the weekend a pop-up bar and a selection of vendors will offer lovely locally farmed food and ales crafted from the water that formed the gorge, and festival goers will enjoy evening entertainment in the form of live music, adventure films, book readings and guest speakers.
Tickets for the camping, glamping and campervan areas are on sale now at early bird rates (starting at £15/£40/£95 for children/adults/families), but places are strictly limited at these launch prices. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/SWOF to secure your camp spot at this unique event.
SWOF is organised by the National Trust, in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, and is supported by the Mendip AONB, the Somerset Wildlife Trust and Longleat. The event welcomes everyone from accomplished outdoor experts through to adventure-curious beginners and active families, and there will be a range of pursuits to suit every age group and level of fitness. Access is easy Bristol, Bath, Exeter and the motorways (M5 and M4) and parking is on-site for campers.