Wednesday, 2 September 2015

A Ride on the Strawberry Line

If there was ever a name to conjure up images of gentle, bucolic loveliness, the 'Strawberry Line' is it. A beautiful stretch of tranquil cycling path, reaching from Yatton to Cheddar, this is a must-try if your family likes cycling but you're a bit over sharing space with the hordes that often clog up other popular routes near Bristol.
It's perfect for children. Not only is the route flat and off road in most places but it's usually pretty quiet - you won't meet too many other cycling pros or pedestrians, making it a much less stressful experience than, say, the Bristol to Bath towpath which can get pretty hairy at times if you're cycling with children. 

We've experienced impatience to the odd cross word from more serious cyclists who seem to view some routes as their sole preserve, but the Strawberry Line has (on the occasions we've ridden it) been much more accommodating of families pootling along at less than Tour de France-style speeds.

There's plenty of parking at Yatton Station, and you can also pick up refreshments at the small station cafe and use the loo. Just a short distance along the route you'll see signs on the right to a fishing lake and cafe. This is a lovely spot to enjoy a cuppa before you continue - it's really tranquil and enjoys nice views across the water.

Further along things get rather continental as you pass the Thatcher's Cider orchards - the path cuts a wide avenue through the apple trees, making you feel as if you've been deposited in a field in France. 

The next place to look out for is the old station at Sandford, a beautifully restored building, decorated with vintage railway posters and memorabilia. There's an old-fashioned train permanently stationed here, which will delight the younger cyclists in your family. 

The small shop sells refreshments if your little people are flagging. This makes a great end point if going any further might not be feasible, coming in at about an hour and a bit from Yatton (perhaps a bit longer with very young cyclists.)
Continuing on older kids will enjoy cycling through the eerie Shute Shelve Tunnel, a satisfyingly dark and dank stretch, bringing you out into the light to enjoy (after crossing the busy A38) amazing views across the Cheddar Valley. 
I love this cycle route - on a sunny day I can't think of a better way to get some gentle exercise and immerse yourself in the pretty Somerset countryside that lies right on Bristol's doorstep.
Visit the Strawberry Line website for more information, and read a helpful guide on The Guardian website also.


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