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The Strawberry Line

The Strawberry Line

Around this time of the year, Somerset strawberries are at their peak. Years ago, the Strawberry Line was used to transport this tasty, summer fruit from the fields around Cheddar to the markets of London.

The official name of the route was the Cheddar Valley line. The first sections of the railway line were opened in the mid 1800s and connected Shepton Mallet (just a couple of miles from The Cross) to Witham. The line was subsequently extended to Wells by the East Somerset Railway. With more than one company involved in the construction work, it took a while for the line to be joined up, but eventually trains ran from Yatton (north of the Mendip Hills) to Wells (on the southern edge of the Mendips).

Although passengers, quarrying and general goods were also transported on this line, it was the enormous volume of strawberries aboard that gave rise to the moniker, ‘Strawberry Line’. The southern slopes of the Mendip Hills provide ideal growing conditions for the strawberry. (It’s well worth stopping off at one of the numerous roadside stalls in Cheddar or Draycott to purchase a punnet or two.)  

The end of the Strawberry Line…

The Strawberry Line closed in the 1960s as parts of the line struggled to compete with local bus services. However, all was not lost. In the 1970s, David Shepherd bought Cranmore station and a section of track on which to run two locomotives. Today, you can ride aboard a steam train with East Somerset Railway.

Strawberry Line

More recently, (thanks to efforts by the Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society) other parts of the railway line have been converted into cycling and walking routes. These currently stretch from Yatton to Cheddar but many hope the route will be further extended to form links with other existing cycling paths. The Strawberry Line project aims to create a 30 mile traffic-free path from Shepton Mallet to Clevedon, linking many villages along the way. The petition has attracted thousands of signatures. I hope the Strawberry Line lives on for a very long time.

 

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