How an accident with a boy and his bike in 1983 led to the reinvention of the Strawberry Line

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: Archant

Many who have enjoyed the idyllic country walk between Yatton to Cheddar may take the route for granted, but according to a founding member, its creation was actually sparked by a boy who fell off his bike in 1983.

The Strawberry Line is today a much-loved cycle and walking route which follows the former Cheddar Valley Railway Line that operated in its entirety from Yatton to Witham Friary between around 1869 until 1963.

Its name fruity derived from the vast quantities of locally-grown strawberries that it transported. 

Hundreds come for last ride along the strawberry line.

Hundreds come for last ride along the strawberry line. - Credit: Archant

A tragedy of the infamous Beeching Axe - which sought to close around 5,000 miles of the least used branch lines in the country - when the line officially ceased operations, it was left neglected and overgrown.

Works to reimagine the route as a cycle and footpath was a slow process and in the following years, the Mendip Society founded the Railway Walks Society which added the Strawberry Line from Winscombe to Congresbury on its list of walking routes.

Finally the Strawberry Line is in full bloom and in Spring colours.

Finally the Strawberry Line is in full bloom and in Spring colours. - Credit: Ben Nicholas/citizenside.com

Entrance to the Shute Shelve tunnel along the Strawberry Line at Axbridge, with Poppy the dog. 

Entrance to the Shute Shelve tunnel along the Strawberry Line at Axbridge, with Poppy the dog. - Credit: Charlie Williams

The group now meets regularly and at a tea party held in Cheddar last month (May), one of the original founders and former Kings of Wessex headteacher, Keith Herring, explained how reinvention of the line was in part, quite the accident. 

The gathering of people at the thank you meeting on the Strawberry Line walk.

The gathering of people at the thank you meeting on the Strawberry Line walk. - Credit: Harry Mottram

He said a committee was formed to devise a plan to make the somewhat existing route safe after a boy fell off his bike cycling from Axbridge to Cheddar in 1983.

Most Read

"He came off his bike along Upper New Road and as he lay there on the road, a coach travelling behind nearly ran over his head.

"As a result of that, myself and some concerned parents decided we’d have a walk down the rail track to see if there was an alternative route.

"Following the formation of the committee, Callow Quarries provided the stones and gravel for the path. Sedgemoor District Council was also very helpful, and various other people helped to raise the money needed.

Sandford and Banwell station. 

Sandford and Banwell station. - Credit: Collection of Charlie Williams

"David Pascoe of St Michael’s Cheshire Homes also fundraised through sponsored walks and swims."

In 1990 the new path between Axbridge and Cheddar was opened. At the unveiling ceremony the very boy who had prompted the movement to create the path was in attendance. 

Keith added: "It’s now been almost 40 years and the path has been very successful.

Old road bridge on the Strawberry Line at Winscombe. Picture: MARK ATHERTON.

Old road bridge on the Strawberry Line at Winscombe. Picture: MARK ATHERTON. - Credit: Archant

"I would like to say thank you to the present group and also to the hundreds of people who have helped over the years. I’ve been as proud of the cycle path as much as anything else I’ve done here."

Another society member, David Parkin, said: "Many people think the Strawberry Line is somehow cared for and maintained by local councils, when it is almost entirely cared for by volunteers.

"There has never been a better time than now to link up the various sections between Clevedon and Shepton Mallet due to new government funding."

Map of the Strawberry Line and the other routes it is hoped it will link with in future.

Map of the Strawberry Line and the other routes it is hoped it will link with in future. - Credit: ARCHANT\grahamd

Today the old line is used as a recreational traffic-free walk which stretches from Yatton to Cheddar, with additional walks in Draycott and Wells.

Most of the existing paths follow the original line and there are plans underway to extend the walk which will see a route from Clevedon to Shepton Mallet and Evercreech.

Hundreds come for last ride along the strawberry line.

Hundreds come for last ride along the strawberry line. - Credit: Archant