Strawberry Line – Not a road trip!
Somerset is a magnificent county, it has stunning scenery and is a tourist attraction that is….too often overlooked by holidaymakers heading for Devon and Cornwall. So we are perhaps over anxious to find evidence of the beauty of the land we all recognise, seen in other people’s eyes.
When just such an occasion appeared to present itself at Leveller Towers, we got a little over excited. The press release could not have been more breathless in its self-important excitement. “Here at Moneybarn, we wanted to inspire Brits to take to the road and explore the best the UK has to offer. There are some truly spectacular road trips across the UK, and with summer on the way, it’s the perfect time to hit the road and explore.”
Give them their due, leaving aside minor issues like the environment and global warming, with summer approaching the idea is enticing. And they must have done some work apart from trawl social media? Like actually drive the road trips themselves?
“We analysed the top 40 recognised scenic drives in the UK on Tripadvisor and investigated reviews and factors for these road trips. We looked at their reviews of Tripadvisor, the number of searches on Google, the volume of hashtags on Instagram, the total number of sunlight hours in the location’s sunniest month, accident data and the number of attractions available in the nearest towns or cities.”
Ok so it is basically a voxpop poll of social media. But even that must have some value. It just felt like a pity that, as these trips were so enticing, they hadn’t felt able to set aside the time to actually drive them.
All the road trips are, well, as you’d expect, road trips. And there are some famously spectacular roads on the list. The Road to the Isles, the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, The magnificent North Coast road around the top of Scotland.
It was a fine collection. But we are a Somerset news channel so what we were really looking for was some home grown talent.
And there it was, in 7th place in their top 10, a Somerset road for a road trip. Was it the road up from Minehead through Porlock and around the Exmoor National Park? Or the fabulous winding road through the Cheddar Gorge perhaps?
No. It was the Strawberry Line.
Now let us say up front that the Strawberry Line is a wonderful thing. It is something that you should visit, wherever you come from. It runs along the route of the old Cheddar Valley Railway line used, in the days when Cheddar was a major producer of strawberries, to transport the red gold to the markets of London. The 10-mile route that takes you through landscapes of wildlife-rich wetlands and rural villages between Yatton and Cheddar.
What the Strawberry Line is not, is a place for a road trip. Drive to it by all means – and you should. But drive along it? That would lead to carnage. As anyone who had actually been there would know. To quote from the North Somerset Council blurb “The entire path has a limestone dust that is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. It is used primarily for walking and cycling, though horse riding is permitted along a one mile section between Dolemoor Lane and Carditch Drove, which is between Congresbury and Sandford.” What is not permitted though, is driving a car. As a place for a road trip it is a complete non-starter.
We wrote to the PR agency responsible for putting this stuff out, pointing out that this was not really a road trip. But we are just a small local news outlet. The cavernous halls of Leveller® Towers echoed to the empty sound of a reply that never came.
We love the Strawberry Line and there are moves afoot to expand the route. Which would be a fine thing if it proves possible. And you can bring your car, park up and enjoy the scenery by walking or cycling along it. There is a car park at the station at Yatton (paid for) and another one at Winscombe Rec (free).
So please take some time out during the Easter Hols or the summer and come and walk or cycle along it. But whatever you do, do not come for a road trip. Because if that is the sole objective of your visit, you’ll be very disappointed.