New section of the Strawberry Line Opens - Mendip Matters - 11th March

Community involvement or engagement is increasingly cited as a means to delivering a project. And we were reminded of that just last week, at the grand opening of a multi-user path near Wells.

Certainly dozens of volunteers helped with clearing the land to enable preparation work, leading to the construction of the path. Many of those same volunteers lobbied too. They always held the dream of a local pathways network, despite numerous knock-backs for more than 20 years.

The Dulcote path, or to give it its correct description, the multi-user path known as ‘The Strawberry Line’, is the section from the existing path from outside Morrisons in Wells to Dulcote village, and then on to Charlie Bigham’s kitchen in the quarry.

Local contractors Golding’s, working with John Grimshaw, (Sustrans founder and now at Greenways), have carefully created an easy gradient, surface path which cyclists, walkers, horse riders, wheelchairs and buggies can tackle with ease as they take-in the countryside to the east of Wells.

Traffic-free paths like this are safe commuter routes, connecting our communities.  I love them because they are a great way to reduce our carbon footprint by avoiding motor vehicle use. They also provide opportunities to enjoy the countryside around our towns. Such ready access encourages many to venture further out of town.

Off-road paths are not exclusive to humankind of course. They are corridors for nature, providing opportunities to link habitats, covering a range of species, allowing them to expand and thrive.

Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Somerset, Annie Maw, opened the Dulcote path at a special ceremony. I heard her speak with passion and personal experience about how important paths were to enable wheelchair users to access the countryside and enjoy the freedom and pleasure of the countryside away from Tarmac.

She drew particular attention to how this section of The Strawberry Line had opened up a fresh new view of Wells Cathedral from an observation point on the path. She emphasised in her speech the importance of paths in connecting the rural with the more urban communities.

The local Wells-based group of community volunteers have agreed to take care of any ongoing maintenance to the path. I was delighted to be able to present them with a donation of landscaping equipment from Mendip, to ensure they have the right tools for the job.

Also, as part of the ceremony, I was pleased to witness a specimen Hornbeam being planted to mark the Mendip Hills AONB 50th Anniversary, and as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy.

I know many of you appreciate and recognise the value of such paths. You understand that they are not just a route between two places - paths can be in themselves, a destination, an opportunity to visit the wider area, they have terrific tourism appeal and wider economic impact.

And it doesn’t stop at Dulcote. Progress is being made at the Windsor tunnel and viaducts in Shepton Mallet and also the Frome ‘missing links’, connecting Frome to the Somerset Circle.

Community engagement and enthusiasm are making things happen and turning dreams into reality. They are leaving their mark on Mendip by providing safe access to the countryside, and creating a legacy for the future.

The Strawberry Line is part of the proposed 76-mile Somerset Circle, I urge you to discover more about this scheme here:

If you have any questions for me, then please do get in touch by email: [email protected] or via Facebook: @RosWyke.


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