Facts about Cleeve

Cleeve takes its name from the cliff that rises above the village and is known as the Toot.  The first mention of "Clyve in the Manor of Jatton" is dated 1263.  This small parish covers two square miles and lies on either side of the A370 road from Bristol to Weston-Super-Mare.  Cleeve was part of the civil parish of Yatton until 1949, although it had been a separate ecclesiastical parish since 1843, following the dedication of Holy Trinity Church in 1840.

The Village Context and Landscaping Setting

The village lies at 30m above sea level below a limestone ridge that rises steeply to 150m.  The ridge is now almost entirely covered in woodland so that the rock of the "Toot" is no longer visible.  There are two beautiful combes, Cleeve Combe and Goblin Combe, on either side of the ridge.  Almost half of the parish is covered by this woodland.  The west part is an ancient wood called King's Wood where iron ore and possibly lead were mined for hundreds of years.  The limestone in both the east and west parts has been extensively quarried and used for building and the making of lime.  The east part of the parish was used for common grazing until the Enclosure Act of 1810, since when it has become covered in trees.  On the north side of the settlement lie fertile, well-drained slopes and low-lying moorland bordering the Bristol Channel.

Prehistoric artefacts have been found.  There are the remains of two Iron Age enclosures near the Toot, (as well as a number in King's Wood), a possible Romano-British settlement on the Batch, and an 11th century farmstead has been excavated on the edge of King's Wood.

Goblin Combe 

A recent article in The Guardian talked about Goblin Combe, the full article can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/08/country-diary-limestone-heath-calcicoles-calcifuges-somerset

'Goblin Combe, Somerset This is one of those rare habitats where lime-hating and lime-loving plants suck together from the same earth, roots entangled.

There is no doubt when you are on the carboniferous limestone. Crags jut out as if the rock is struggling to release itself from its turfy skin, shedding broken stones. Sheep’s fescue, rockrose, kidney vetch and many more lime-loving species form the distinctive close-knit grassland. The signature of this rock is written all over the hill.

At Goblin Combe we cross the limestone turf, heading for my favourite slope. Melted frost has touched every leaf with diamonds and pin-cushioned the anthills with rainbow spangles. And then – so suddenly – wine-dark mounds of bell heather. Lime-hating heather, among all those lime-lovers!

This is limestone heath, an ecological oxymoron: it should not exist. Plants such as heather, wood sage, goldenrod and tormentil – all found here – are calcifuges (a term derived from the Latin to flee from chalk), preferring an acidic soil. However, limestone soil is strongly alkaline, and has its own suite of species (called calcicoles). How can it be that all these plants suck together from the same earth, roots entangled, on certain limestone slopes (including parts of Dolebury Warren)?'

written by: Dawn Lawrence


The Natural Environment

The ancient woodlands to the east of the A370 are a major feature of Cleeve and a haven for a variety of wildlife.  Grey herons have been known to nest and roost in the trees at the Brockley end of Cleeve since well before the 18th century.  The present heronry, inhabited since 1968, is situated behind Cleeve Nursery on the north side of these woodlands.

Goblin Combe is a wooded, steep sided valley with extensive areas of limestone cliff and scree.  The far end is a nature reserve on lease to the Avon Wildlife Trust, who manage it.  Goblin Combe was made an SSSI under Section 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1999 and is now managed by Groundworks.  Goblin Combe Environment Centre is part of Groundworks.  It supports semi-natural ancient woodland, which is now limited in Great Britain.  There is a wide variety of trees, ferns and ground flora and a number of nationally rare plant species including the stinking hellebore. 

King’s Wood is to the south of Cleeve Hill Road and is under private ownership.  Together with Urchin Wood (adjoining but in the parish of Congresbury) it represents one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in North Somerset.  The presence of boundary banks and large pollarded small-leaved lime trees on the periphery suggests that some of the boundaries have remained unchanged for centuries.  In 1990 the area was made an SSSI under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).  It supports nationally important populations of endangered and rare Greater Horseshoe Bats and Dormice, both of which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.  The disused mine workings in King’s Wood are used by the bats both for hibernation and nursery roosts, but their foraging areas must be protected.  A condition set by North Somerset Council granting Bristol Airport permission to expand particularly protects the bat’s habitats.  Among the large variety of trees and flora, is the nationally rare Purple Gromwell and scarce Angular Solomon’s Seal.

The Built Environment

Cleeve is designated in the Core Strategy as a Green Belt village, reflecting a Government policy which balances the need for housing development with the protection and enhancement of a high quality environment.

The village developed around the 19th century turnpike road from Bristol to Congresbury, now the A370.  The road enters the village at the Brockley boundary and leaves halfway up Rhodyate Hill.  Two subsidiary roads intercept the A370; Cleeve Hill Road (formerly known as Plunder Street) joining the village with Wrington, and Bishops Road joining the village with Claverham.  Until the 1930s the residential part of the village developed around these roads with the rest of the agricultural land being occupied by small farms.  In the post-war years residential development was concentrated in a relatively small area, mostly between the A370 and Bishops Road.

The Old School and Schoolhouse

The character of the village derives from its buildings and their setting in the natural landscape.  The buildings can be classified into two groups.  The older part of the village lying largely outside the settlement area includes two houses of mediaeval origin: Goblin Combe Farm and Little Manor/Perry Orchard.  Before the 17th century Walnut Tree and Yew Tree Farms were built and a number of others derive from the 18th century or later.  Other notable buildings include Cleeve Court Nursing Home which stands alone, whereas the Village School (now Goblin Combe Environment Centre), the Old School House, and the old Chapel are clustered around the common land in front of the quarry.  These old buildings, eight of which are grade 2 listed, are predominately built in local limestone, are gable ended with clay tiles, and have small divided windows.  Cleeve Court Nursing Home differs in having a slate roof and mullioned leaded windows.  The Nelson Inn, now the Lord Nelson, was a small inn and posting house for horses.  It is now the only public house in the village.  Throughout this older part of the village, fields and curtilages are separated by hedges and limestone walls, and most of the modern dwellings fit into this general pattern.

Warner Close, most recent development

In the first half of the 20th century a number of bungalows and semi-detached houses were built along the main road, Millier Road and Bishops Road.  In the 1950s an assortment of dwellings were added together with council houses in Woodview Drive and Bishops Mead, to be followed by Cleeve Drive and in the late 1960s by partly wood-cladded houses in Graitney Close.  Warner Close, the only open-plan development, is the most recent addition, a mix of brick-built houses in a variety of styles, mostly gable-ended but some hipped with cement tiles.  These buildings, especially the three shops, seem to have moved the village centre away from “Old” Cleeve in the vicinity of the Cleeve Nursery, to “New” Cleeve in the vicinity of the shops, the pub, the village hall and the King George V Playing Field.  New housing development in the form of infilling within the settlement boundary will be limited as almost all the land is already occupied.

Boundaries, trees, hedges

Stone walls, hedges, and mature trees are typical of Cleeve.  There are some splendid limes and poplars in and around the playing field, a magnificent stand of some beech bordering the orchard of Cleeve Cottage, and a huge sycamore in Woodview Drive.  Throughout the village, wherever there is space (e.g. the lay-by near Cleeve Nursery, known as Heron Green, Pound Green, the village hall grounds and in most gardens), and in the surrounding fields and hedgerows, a great variety of new trees are growing.

There are, inevitably, some commercial buildings which do not blend well into the village.  The electrical pylons and 162kV power cables, which predate much of the settlement and (unusually) cross directly through the middle of the settlement area, are universally disliked and are seen as unsightly and potentially damaging to health. 



Until recent years agriculture was the main occupation in Cleeve.  The ideal climate and land for grazing determined the landscape in which the village was set – modest farms with small fields with rich grass for livestock; ancient hedgerows and surrounding woodland.  As recently as thirty years ago there were at least eight dairy farms; now they are mostly gone.  Livestock farming continues but diversification (bed and breakfast, outside jobs and part-time farming etc) has offered a survival strategy, but not a comfortable return.

Other occupations

Early occupations in the village were:

  • Coppicing in King’s Wood and Cleeve Hill with a saw mill in Cleeve Combe;
  • Mining and quarrying on Cleeve Hill and in King’s Wood;

  • Wildfowling and fishing on the moors.

In the present day the largest employer is Cleeve Court Nursing Home and the largest business is Cleeve Nursery.  Other businesses include the newsagent, hairdresser, beauty salons, boarding kennels, cattery, painter & decorators, bed and breakfast, light industry, contractors and three take-aways among others.  Changing circumstances and a shift away from farming on a small scale, have made Cleeve a dormitory village, a large number of the inhabitants working in or near Bristol or Weston-Super-Mare and travelling there by road and rail.

Transportation: Accessibility and Mobility

The bus service to Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare is good and Yatton station is only two miles away by road.  The bus service to Yatton and Clevedon is also good.    School buses run to Backwell School.  A walking bus is in place for local children attending Court de Wyck Primary School.

An installed pedestrian crossing has helped residents with what was becoming an increasing problem to cross the busy main road safely. 

Bristol International Airport in 2011 was granted planning permission by North Somerset Council to expand to 10 million passengers. 

Recreation and Tourism

Sporting facilities and clubs

The Sinclair Pavilion in the King George V Playing Field is the base for several football teams, and both senior and junior cricket teams, and skittle teams.  The Cleeve Tennis Club has its home court and pavilion alongside a children’s play area, and there is a multi-games wall provided by the National Playing Fields Association.  The Parish Council has provided a youth shelter as a meeting place for the youth of the village.

The old school at the entrance of Goblin Come is the headquarters of the Goblin Combe Environment Centre which runs a variety of courses for adults and young people concentrating on the natural environment.  The village quarry, from which much of the stones for the houses and walls typical of Cleeve was obtained in the 19th century and before, provides car parking for those who wish to walk in Goblin Combe or King’s Wood. 

The Millennium Garden behind Bishops Mead is managed by the Parish Council.

The village quarry and the cliffs on the north side of Goblin Combe are very popular with rock climbers.