The Colliers way and Strawberry line (3 days- 90 miles)

Day 1- Bath-Radstock-Frome

On the last hot days of the summer I decided to combine two railway path rides; The Colliers way- from Bath to Radstock to Frome, and the Strawberry line. I caught the train to Bath and switched on the Garmin. It’s important to kinda know where you’re going and not totally trust the sat-nav. Today was no exception as the Garmin looked like it was going around in circles, but I knew where I wanted to go- Linear Park.

The two tunnels project opened early last year (2013), but not early enough for a ride I did in April, so I missed it, I was looking forward to doing it now it’s fully open. I must admit the people behind the project have done an incredible job relaying path, getting permissions etc. I can’t put into words what they have achieved, but I know I’m incredibly fortunate and privileged to be able to ride along this path.

Devonshire Tunnel That said after going through the nice park we come across Devonshire Tunnel, the first of the tunnels, through Lycombe Vale. Then on a little further and into the Combe Down tunnel, the longest cycle path tunnel in the UK, it’s dark and it’s cold, but your eyes adjust to the low intensity light. There’s call points throughout the tunnel and strangely classical music plays midway. You come out onto Tucking mill viaduct and to the left is Tucking mill reservoir. On the right is Midford castle and another small tunnel; Midford tunnel. The path becomes permissive use now because of wildlife and is shut on certain dates. The views of the Limpley valley to the left are superb. We leave the railway track at Wellow Trekking centre and hit the road.

The railway track is now part of the Wellow Treking centre forcing me off the path, I dropped down onto the road, underneath Wellow viaduct (the one I should be riding over the top of). Up a steep hill and St. Julian church appears on the right. Here I stopped to have a chat with two chaps that had been riding North from the south coast for two weeks. They too had been camping and carried their gear which seemed a lot less than mine. Just on the left was Station road (one of many I was to encounter), I rode down a small hill where the remains of Wellow station were. The road followed Wellow brook and must have been of great strategic importance during WW2 as two pill boxes appeared one after the other. I turned off my Dragon's teeth route down the steepest hill in the universe (it seems) to the remains of Shoscombe and Single Hill Halt. Not much to see, but I knew a hundred yards further was tank tracks protecting the brook. These were the highlight of my day and I’m glad I traversed this cliff to see them. I climbed back up the steep hill and continued on route 24, a new road was built over the top of some of the track, but remnants of a different era could still be seen (if you looked hard enough).

I came to Radstock and was looking forward to visiting the coal mining museum, I was a little early as it opened at 1400 and it was now 1340. I decided to have a cup of coffee over the bridge and wait. I changed into my walking shoes, put some respectable clobber on and the time arrived. A man saw me in the entrance and ‘hmmd’, “you can't come in here with that” (my bike). “Can’t I lock it up there” (an unobstructed place where it wouldn’t impede anyone) I pleaded. “No sorry.” The thing is he wasn’t sorry and Radstock mining museum is now going down on my hit list (I mean campaign for somewhere to store bikes at attractions).

Not to let it spoil my day; I continued the next leg of my journey to Frome. The Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway (WS&WR) developed this branch line in 1854, British rail closed this part of the line in the 1980’s. I originally thought Dr. Beeching should’ve been put on trial for atrocities against railways, but after researching some of the information for this blog, some lines closed in the 1980’s (the same time as the whole UK mining industry) and the culprit for this era; Margaret Thatcher. I have heaps of opinions about her, but I don’t want to soil the blog.

Ironically as with a lot of communities having their branch lines cut off, this one is trying to return under the guise of- The North Somerset Railway. The path follows this line and unbelievably, still has the rails in place, the whole infrastructure is there ready to be refurbished. Good luck is what I say.

An old ruined guards van is still on the track showing resilience of what once was, and the church of St. Andrews can be seen on the right hand side down in the valley. At Great Elm we leave the railway path and travel down a series of lanes to Brokerswood Country Park campsite.

I booked this place expecting it to be the bees knees (£16) and was told (I’ve experienced this before) the bar and cafe is not open and only opens when the campsite is full (no mention of this on the website). The full moon I pitched the tent and on the advice given, headed off on foot for the local pub for food and a beer. Twenty minutes later I arrived at lower Rudge and walked into the ‘Full Moon’ pub. It was curry and a pint night, all for ten pounds (bargain). I had to wait until they got the beer right to have a pint but it was worth waiting for. Then the curry arrived; lamb madras, it was very nice. After a few more beers I headed back to the campsite, just before the entrance there was sweet looking tin church on the right.

I bought a couple of bottles of cider back with me and managed to have one more before retiring to read my book. This has to be the nosiest campsite I’ve been on, considering the road is a minor one it’s extremely busy all night, as the crow fly’s it’s about one mile from major railway sidings at Westbury. I love railways but I don’t want to hear them all night. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well, I woke up early and decided to take advantage of the advertised wildlife park and let the tent dry out. The trail was a muddy swamp with a lake in the middle; I don’t recommend this site to anyone unless you’ve kids under five.

Day 2- Frome- Wells- wookey Hole

My favourite painting from David Shepherd I packed everything away and headed for the road, I didn’t plan the route very well and spent most of the day on very busy ‘A’ roads, until turning into lanes and heading for Cranmore station of East Somerset Railway. Well worth a trip, I had a bit of grub and waited for the next departure, the heritage line is surprisingly busy. The line is not very long, but it was enjoyable. They let you visit the restoration sheds as well.

I continued my journey and the theme of the day continued; I badly planed the route (again) to Wookey Hole ending up going over the top of the Mendips (a huge hilly range, so high it’s used for TV relay masts). The saving grace was dropping down into Wells. I rode around the Bishops Palace and had a good peak at Wells cathedral before riding to Wookey Hole. Homestead campsite, a gem Once I’d found the campsite (nestled in a static caravan site) called Homestead park, my day turned positive. What a gem of a campsite, the grass was as good as a bowling green and a little brook ran both sides (where I put a bottle of cider in to chill), enclosing the site in, the views were fantastic and it was quiet, I’ll repeat; it was quiet. There wasn’t a pub on site, but Wookey Hole was one hundred yards away, I ate at the Wookey hole Inn. The food was expensive, but very, very good and highly recommended. The sun set over the top of the trees while I read my book, very relaxing.

Day 3- Wookey Hole -Yatton

The strawberry line The next day I set off to try and follow the Strawberry line, there was a station at Wookey Hole (unbelievable foresight again closing a railway station to a major tourist attraction), but it was only a wooden station and was demolished. I plodded on and off the A371, the next notable station is Westbury Sub-mendip, there is a station road (again) but nothing remains of the infrastructure. From here one can see why it was called the Strawberry line as the levels were clotted with greenhouses. I rode back onto the A371 (a very busy road) and onto Draycot, yet again there was a station road, with the station masters house still intact, back onto the main road. I was directed off by the Garmin at Cheddar, a dedicated cycle path appeared, at last I was on the Strawberry line, but not for long as the path changed direction at right angles several time negotiating around ‘Kings of Wessex’ academy. From the other side of the fence I could see the ruins of the 13th century St. Columbanus chapel. Cheddar’s station’s building is still intact, but is a private residence, the best view is down Perry’s close. Cheddar is world famous for it’s limestone gorge, the gorge is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. As I was in Cheddar it would be rude of me to not give the gorge a quick visit, this done I continued on.

From here the cycle path really takes over, it goes around Cheddar reservoir, I was quietly disappointed with this; as the path barley comes within view of the manmade lake. Next was the medieval town of Axbridge and is well worth a visit. The station building exists, but is on the main A371. The path goes through Shute Shelve tunnel and on to Winscombe station, the one platform still exists and there is a unique frontage of the old station building laid flat on the platform. From here I planned to have a munch at Sandford station but the tea rooms were shut. The station is pretty much preserved with some wagons and station buildings left, the whole site is now a retirement village.

Silver springs fishery I was directed off the track and through 'Thatchers' apple orchard, then back onto the path again. As I was still peckish someone recommended a cafe just off the Strawberry line path at a fishing lake just before Congresbury station. Silver springs fishery has toilets and a cafe, selling toasted sandwiches. I spoke to the owner and suggested this would make an ideal campsite, being 50 yards off the Strawberry line. He stated he was considering just that.

All that’s left of Congresbury station is the grassy overgrown platform, from here we cross the road and onto the final leg to Yatton. At Yatton I had a final cup of coffee in the Strawberry cafe and waited for my train (which went all the way to Newport without changing). There are plans to reinstate the path all the way from Cheddar to Wells, when they do, I’ll ride it again. As with all rides there’s good points and bad, but all in all I thoroughly enjoyed this ride, the low point was Radstock Museum and the high points were the tank traps on the Wellow brook and the Wookey Hole campsite.

  • Gallery

    gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • Roman Bath

    Roman Bath's Bath is a beautiful City with all the buildings made of the same sandstone, it’s famous for it’s Roman bath’s. There are four main features to the bath's: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum.

  • Combe Down tunnel accident

    Green Park goods yard bath On 20 November 1929, the crew of a goods train were overcome by fumes going through Combe Down tunnel, the train ran away, crashing into Bath Green goods yard causing the death of the driver, fireman, and two railway employees. The build up of carbon monoxide fumes was a consequence of lack of ventilation shafts and the slow speed of the train.

  • I want more

    Wellow Treking centre on the old track People adapt environments to suit their business’s, I’m not daft, the commerce along the railway track was there before it was even considered as a cycle path, but I’ve ridden through some beautiful scenery, and I want more. I know it's selfish, but I want unobstructed views, I want routes where I don’t have to cringe every time a car comes too close, I want the railway path back!

  • Bike storage

    Bike storage campaign It amazes me that tourist attractions don’t have facilities to store bikes (not just steel loops to lock them to). It’s likely people who ride to places of interest are on prized possessions or are tourer’s with panniers like me. I’m going start a campaign.

  • Destruction of UK coal mining

    minersstrike In 1984 Britain had 186 working coalmines and approximately 170,000 coalminers. Today there are two deep coalmines left in the UK. Miners and their families will never forgive Margaret Thatcher for referring to them as the 'enemy within' as she systematically closed British coal pits.

  • Return of railways

    More passengers are choosing to travel by rail than at any time during sixty years. The railway is safer than it's ever been, and punctuality is at its highest since records began. Network Rail, as the operator of Britain’s rail infrastructure, has undertaken studys to examine the strategic case for re-opening old lines and commission new lines.

  • Westbury rail sidings

    westbury sidings'There is considerable movement of rail infrastructure materials to and from the Network Rail sidings at Westbury. Westbury is also the main centre of employment for train crew of services of rail freight in the area.' (Anon, 2014). Along with West wilt’s trading estate this explains why the campsite is so noisy at night

  • David Shepherd (CBE)

    David Shepherd (CBE) One of the founders of East Somerset railway was David Shepherd (CBE), he could see the potential of the old railway line in 1971, so he and some friends purchased the site and the Cranmore Railway Company was born. Shepherd is one of the world's most outspoken nature conservationists. A famous artist, for paintings of wildlife and steam railways. His painting 'the shed' is pictured on the left.

  • Haunted Wookey Hole

    Wookey Hole Wookey Hole caves are famously haunted by a Witch, but there’s also said to be divers who haunt the caves. Two visitors to the caves were lost, when a gentleman in diving attire directed them back to the entrance. When they mentioned this to a member of staff, they were told that no diving expeditions were taking place on that day! Two cave divers have lost their lives at Wookey Hole over a period of 100 years.

  • Wookey Hole station

    Wookey Hole station as it was


  • Strawberry line extension

    The A371 is a very dangerous road ‘The A371 between Cheddar and Wells is a daily disaster area. Frequent narrow and winding sections make it awkward for vehicles, highly dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians’ (, 2014). There are proposals underfoot to extend the Strawberry line cycle path from Cheddar to Wells, the line will follow the old Cheddar valley line, but don’t hold your breath, it’s a long way off. Help extend the path by making your views known, click here and sign the petition. The link goes to the official Strawberry line site.

  • Congresbury station

    Congresbury station as it was .

  • Bibliography

    Anon,(2014)- [online] Available at: Accessed 14 Sept 2014., (2014). Path sections – The Strawberry Line. (online) Available at: - Accessed 14 Sep. 2014.

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