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Start of work on the new section of the car-free Strawberry Line between Shepton Mallet and Wells

After months of negotiations, the construction of a new off-road cycle path connection between Shepton Mallet and Wells is finally starting.

The Mendip District Council committed in June 2020 to provide 14 “missing links” that could be connected to encourage people across the district to walk or cycle to work or school, thereby reducing traffic jams and pollution to reduce.

The council worked with Somerset County Council and local landowners to provide these routes – including an extension of the Strawberry Line near the busy A371.

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The work on the line between Shepton Mallet and Wells, which follows the course of the disused railway line, is now finally underway.

Councilor Liz Leyshon, portfolio owner for corporate services and projects, announced the good news on Monday evening (September 6th) at a council cabinet meeting in Shepton Mallet.

She said, “The contractors are finally in Dulcote working on this section of the Strawberry Line. I think they started today.

The planned new section of the Strawberry Line between Wells and Shepton Mallet

“We now also have a better understanding of the section in Shepton Mallet through the Shape Mendip Campus.

The Strawberry Line is designed to provide a car-free itinerary between Clevedon and Evercreech, with different sections added over time.

The longest completed section to date is between Yatton and Cheddar, with smaller sections between Draycott and Rodney Stoke and between Wells and Dulcote.

The new section would begin near the Dulcote recycling center (near Charlie Bingham’s Quarry Kitchen) and would follow the route of the former Cheddar Valley railroad line that closed during the Beeching cuts in the mid-1960s.

The disused line crosses the B3136 West Shepton near the Shepton Mallet AFC site (and the proposed site for new meetinghouses) and will be connected to existing cycle paths from The Sidings and Station Road.

The local council moved in February to convert a section of the former line into a new bike path between the town’s Tesco supermarket and the A37 Whitstone Road, with dedicated parking and the green space at Collett Park.

Alderman Garfield Kennedy, Portfolio Owner for Planning and Development Management, welcomed the progress made.

He said, “I applaud the protection of the track bed to improve on what I hope it will eventually be a full, safe, multi-user Somerset Circle and Strawberry Line.

Entrance to the Dulcote Recycling Center near Wells

Entrance to the Dulcote Recycling Center near Wells

“I want to make sure that we don’t miss any opportunity to contribute to the preservation of the track bed in order to realize multi-user routes and not just a dotted line.”

When completed, Somerset Circle would provide a 76-mile traffic-free route connecting the north coast of Somerset (including Weston-super-Mare), Bristol, Bath, the Mendip Hills and Cheddar.

The circle is currently about two-thirds complete, with about 50 miles connected, and most of the protruding sections are in either Mendip or the neighboring Sedgemoor district.

Mendip boss Ros Wyke praised the bipartisan support for the expansion of Strawberry Lane to reduce traffic jams and improve public health.

She said: “When we went to the elections in May 2019, everyone realized that we need the support of the district council to improve the cycle paths throughout the district.

“Our officials and county councils have gone to great lengths to help and pave this very difficult path.

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“We are now building a new stretch of lane in county council land to extend the route from Wells to Shepton Mallet – which is probably the most important commuter route in the county.

“I know every farm has been hard fought for, but every farm is closer to convincing people who were naysayers and saying it will never happen. It is important that we reaffirm to the wider public that action is being taken. “

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