On track to deliver important benefits

December 29 2017
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Tessa Munt explains the progess that is being made with the Strawberry Line project

FOR about 15 years, I’ve been working with the Strawberry Line Group, campaigning to turn the old trackbed of the Cheddar Valley Line – nicknamed the “Strawberry Line” – between Cheddar, Wells and Shepton Mallet into a safe, beautiful greenway for all. 

Once complete, the Strawberry Line will join 10 miles of existing traffic-free path between Cheddar and Yatton, already treasured by residents, businesses and tourists alike. It will form part of the Somerset Circle, a grand 85-mile traffic-free circuit connecting Bristol and Bath with mid-Somerset – a real draw for tourists in the South West.

As the city of Wells is at the heart of the proposed extension, it will benefit doubly from the Strawberry Line, making walking and cycling to both Cheddar and Shepton Mallet a healthy and safe alternative to driving.

Wells is lucky to have two sections of path open to the public already, between the leisure centre and the Haybridge railway bridge and the path from Morrisons to Dulcote.

A Tesco’s grant helped landscape the Dulcote section, and volunteers uncovered the ruin of an old cattle pound for which funds are now being raised for restoration (please donate at www.thestrawberryline.org.uk).

Strawberry Line campaigners often get asked “When will I be able to cycle to Shepton and Cheddar?” Good news! The old trackbed is legally protected by Development Policy 17 in Mendip’s Local Plan. Additionally, Somerset County Council unanimously endorsed the Strawberry Line project last year after being handed a 6,000 strong petition, and in the run up to the election last May promised to complete the Strawberry Line.

Disappointingly, a planning application to convert the publicly-owned railway cutting in Shepton into a cycle path was recently turned down by Mendip’s planning board on the grounds of tree removal. However, the Strawberry Line East Group will soon re-submit a new application.

The Strawberry Line route

Near Wells, our priority is to extend the Dulcote path all the way to Charlie Bigham’s new production site at Dulcote Quarry so workers can walk and cycle to work.

This would run entirely across disused county council-owned land and re-join the trackbed just outside the quarry entrance.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the benefit of this amazing project and would like to thank everyone for their support – whether practical or financial. See you on your bike, sooner rather than later.

• Tessa Munt is the Somerset county councillor for Wells.