The recent heatwave put a stop to long walks along the beach or in the countryside - in fact stepping foot into the garden even proved too hot at times. Once the temperature dropped back down to the 20s the footpaths beckoned and it was time to set off again. At present The Strawberry Line runs from Yatton to Cheddar but as time goes on it is hoped to open up the whole 30 mile route from Clevedon to Shepton Mallet.
My own walk this week started with a bus ride from Weston to Cheddar. It is an hourly service which runs between Weston and Wells through the beautiful Somerset countryside and villages/towns of Banwell, Winscombe, Axbridge and Cheddar. The 9am bus arrived at Cheddar at 9.55 and the area was deserted. A few cafe's showed signs of life but most of the touristy shops had signs declaring that they opened at 11am. No doubt this will change in a couple of weeks once the holiday season really begins. For now it was just pleasant to enjoy the peace and tranquility.
Toilet facilities are available in the complex at Dag's Hole and in Cliff Street.
The Strawberry Line footpath/cycle way begins on the outskirts of town at the back of a small industrial complex. The entrance can be seen to the right of the following photo:
I have to admit that the first section was very uninspiring - just the back alley to a housing estate but then it could only get better.
Oh dear, perhaps I spoke too soon. At the end of the back alley were big signs saying the footpath was CLOSED. Diversion signs pointed up to a road. That was fine but past experience has taught me that diversion signs can disappear mid way along a route. There was no indication as to what route the diversion took or how far out of the way it might take me. Did I have the nerve to chance it? Well I had come all this way so it would be pretty silly to give in now. I would try the diversion and if I felt uncomfortable at any point then I could always retrace my steps.
As it happens I have to give credit to Bristol Water. The diversion route was very well sign posted and actually took me right up to Cheddar Reservoir. I did not know that there was a footpath running around the perimeter of the reservoir so this information has been filed away for future use. As the photo shows it was a cloudy morning and showers threatened but thankfully the rain stayed away.
Back on the original path I find the route runs through fields a few hundred yards back from the reservoir. Picnic areas and benches are provided along this section giving wonderful views.
But all too soon I reached the outskirts of Axbridge.
The next couple of miles of the route runs along streets leading into the centre of town. A beautiful ancient medieval market town with old wooden buildings leaning over the narrow streets.
The perfect place to have a break. I can highly recommend the The Almhouse Tea Shop (opposite King John's Hunting Lodge) which has seating on two floors plus a tiny outside courtyard area. Delightful setting with delicious menu of sandwiches and paninis. Also doggy friendly!
Setting off again I made my way up to the main road where I needed to find the footpath leading out of town. Once again very well sign posted. But a word of warning - this section is uphill!!
The Strawberry Line now meanders through beautiful countryside with stunning views. Might that be Glastonbury Tor in the distance?
Very occasionally one stumbles across another lone walker taking a break
The next sector map showed that Shute Shelve Tunnel was coming up
I have to admit that I was NOT ready for this part of the route. The signs warn that cyclists should put their lights on. What about walkers? I admit that I carry a lot but I had never thought to pop a torch in the bag!
Apparently the tunnel is home to several species of bats and (wait for it) rare cave spiders!!!! No alternative but to take a deep breath and go for it. A sign near the entrance instructed one should keep to the left and I did just that. The only lights inside were a line of dim lights running along the centre of the floor. I obeyed instructions keeping to the left of these. Cripes, a third of the way in it became incredibly dark. Thankfully I was picking my steps carefully because all of a sudden I bumped into what felt like railings sticking out from the wall. If I had been a cyclist they could have thrown me off the bike. Thank goodness the little dot of light which was the exit was getting larger with every step. This was a little too like the Railway Children for my liking!
A group of workmen were gathered at the far exit and as I emerged blinking at the bright light of day they laughed as I said "That was some EERIE experience"! It was a delight to be out in the fresh air and only another mile and a half to Winscombe.
Looking at my watch I saw that a bus was due in 15 minutes. I decided to call it a day and continue with the next, very short, section to Sanford at the weekend. Winscombe Parish Council took over and refurbished the public toilets back in 2014 when the council announced they would be closed. A big thank you to the good people of Winscombe! The toilet block is just down a pathway from The Strawberry Line.