Work begins on new section of car-free Strawberry Line route

Start of the Strawberry Line on the approach to Yatton Railway Station. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Start of the Strawberry Line on the approach to Yatton Railway Station. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Mark Atherton

Work to construct a part of the Strawberry Line cycle path has started after many months of negotiations.

The Strawberry Line is intended to provide a car-free travel route between Clevedon and Evercreech, with different sections being added over time.

The new off-road cycle link between Shepton Mallet and Wells has now begun.

Mendip District Council committed in June 2020 to delivering 14 'missing links' which could be connected up to encourage people across the district to walk or cycle to work or school, thereby reducing congestion and pollution.

The council has been working with Somerset County Council and local landowners to deliver these routes – including an extension to the Strawberry Line near the busy A371.

Work on the stretch between Shepton Mallet and Wells, following the path of the dismantled railway line, is now finally underway.

Section of the dismantled railway between Wells and Shepton Mallet, where the Strawberry Line extension will be delivered

Section of the dismantled railway between Wells and Shepton Mallet, where the Strawberry Line extension will be delivered. - Credit: Google

Councillor Liz Leyshon, portfolio holder for corporate services and projects, announced the good news at a meeting of the council’s cabinet in Shepton Mallet on Monday evening (September 6).

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She said: “The contractors are finally at Dulcote, working on that section of the Strawberry Line. They started today, I believe.

“We’ve also got a better understanding now of the section of path in Shepton Mallet through the Shape Mendip campus. There is a huge amount of work now under our belts, but with still plenty ahead.”

Map of the Somerset circle route, showing completed and planned sections.

Map of the Somerset circle route, showing completed and planned sections. - Credit: The Strawberry Line

The longest completed section to date lies between Yatton and Cheddar, with smaller sections being in place between Draycott and Rodney Stoke and between Wells and Dulcote.

he former railway line looking towards the Cannard_'s Grave bridge in Shepton Mallet.

The former railway line looking towards the Cannard's Grave bridge in Shepton Mallet. - Credit: Clark Landscape Design

The new section would begin near the Dulcote recycling centre (near Charlie Bingham’s Quarry Kitchen) and follow the route of the former Cheddar Valley railway line, which closed during the Beeching cuts of the mid-1960s.

The disused line crosses over the B3136 West Shepton near Shepton Mallet AFC’s ground (and the proposed site of new council houses) and will link up with existing cycling routes from The Sidings and Station Road.

Proposed site of the Strawberry Line extension over the B3136 West Shepton in Shepton Mallet - Google Maps - 070921 (1)

Proposed site of the Strawberry Line extension over the B3136 West Shepton in Shepton Mallet. - Credit: Google

The council applied in February to turn a section of the former line into a new cycle route between the town’s Tesco supermarket and the A37 Whitstone Road, via its own car parks and the Collett Park green space.

Councillor Garfield Kennedy, portfolio holder for planning and development management, welcomed the progress being made.

He said: “I welcome the protection of the trackbed to enhance what I hope is going to be an eventually complete, safe, multi-user Somerset Circle and Strawberry Line.

“I want to make sure we don’t miss any opportunity to make any contribution to preserve the trackbed, to make multi-user paths a reality and not just a dotted line.”

When completed, the Somerset Circle would provide a 76-mile traffic-free circuit which would link the north Somerset coast (including Weston), Bristol, Bath, the Mendip Hills and Cheddar.

The circle is currently around two-thirds completed, with around 50 miles linked up, and most of the outstanding sections lie in either Mendip or the neighbouring Sedgemoor district.

Mendip leader Ros Wyke praised the cross-party support for extending the Strawberry Lane in a bid to cut congestion and improve public health.

She said: “When we were in May 2019 going into the elections, everyone recognised that we needed to get the support from the county council to improve cycle paths across the district.

“A lot of effort has been put in by our officers and county councillors to help and smooth what has been a very difficult path.

“We are now building a new bit of path on county council land, to actually extend the route from Wells towards Shepton Mallet – which is probably the most significant commuter route in the district.

“I know that every yard has been hard-won, but every yard is closer to actually convincing people who have been naysayers and saying ‘it will never happen’. It’s important that we affirm to the wider public that action is occurring.”

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