Here at The Oakhouse Hotel, we’re lucky to be located at the foot of The Mendip Hills, in the medieval village of Axbridge. The Mendip Hills is one of England’s most spectacular landscapes, located in the heart of North Somerset and home to a diverse range of interesting flora and fauna. Ancient limestone hills give way to dramatic gorges, magnificent ash woodland and wildlife-rich marshes. Nestled deep within the Mendips is The Strawberry Line, a traffic-free walking and cycling route which connects the village of Yatton to the historic Cheddar 10 miles to the south.
Who Can Enjoy the Strawberry Line Walk?
The Strawberry Line has something for everyone, whether you’re a nature lover, geology enthusiast or history buff. The path is largely flat which means it’s accessible for the whole family including wheelchair users, pushchairs and cyclists. The path takes you through a series of villages, each with unique places to visit, eat and enjoy. It’s the perfect way to experience the robust surroundings of hills, gorges and woodland, as the line itself is mostly flat with a tunnel taking you through Shute Shelve Hill.
The History of the Strawberry Line
Nowadays, the Strawberry Line seems as part of its surroundings as the local wetlands and woodland, but the popular path wasn’t always the perfect place to safely enjoy what Somerset has to offer. Completed in 1869, the line used to be part of the Great Western Railway, and was a key route for both passengers and freight alike. The line was notoriously used to carry strawberries to London markets from where they were grown in the village of Cheddar, which is how it achieved its unique name.
After nearly a century, the Strawberry Line was officially closed in 1965 and what was once a hive of industrial activity was reclaimed by nature. In 1983, volunteers from the Cheddar Valley Walk Society (now the Strawberry Line Society) began converting the railway into the fascinating walking and cycling route it is today.
Places to Visit along the Strawberry Line
Yatton & Biddle Street
The northernmost part of the Strawberry Line runs through the village of Yatton, which is still served by Great Western Railway to connect it directly to Bristol, Bath, Taunton and Cardiff. Nature fans will particularly enjoy the nearby Biddle Street Site of Special Scientific Interest, which features water-filled channels (called rhynes) used to manage water levels in the fields they border. This gives way to an incredibly diverse ecosystem surrounding Yatton, so keep your eyes peeled for frogs, grass snakes, otters and newts as well as a huge variety of birds, butterflies and bats.
Sandford is the home of Thatcher’s cider, and the Strawberry Line runs through the century-old cider orchards of Myrtle Farm. Stop at the Thatchers Farm Shop or even book a tour where they’ll take you around the mill and show you the cider-making process from start to finish.
Also in Sandford, you’ll find a pocket of history inside the former Victorian train station which has been restored and is now a heritage centre.
Shute Shelve Tunnel
Soon after passing Sandford, the Strawberry Line takes you into the heart of the famous Mendip Hills. Geology and biology fans alike will enjoy the difference in conditions and wildlife which come with the change to limestone. Shute Shelve Tunnel is a 165-metre tunnel which takes you beneath Shute Shelve Hill – keep your eye out for various species of bats as well as rare cave spiders.
If you’re looking for history, then look no further than the village of Axbridge. The village has heritage dating back millennia, with flint tools found on nearby hills belonging to prehistoric humans who inhabited the local caves. It’s widely believed that what is now known as Axbridge was also inhabited by Romans who would mine lead atop the Mendips, before the village’s known history begins at the time of King Alfred when it was used as part of an Anglo-Saxon defence system for Wessex against the invading Vikings.
Architecture lovers will also be well-fed in Axbridge, with ancient, half-timbered and stone buildings leaning towards each other across a narrow road which leads to the medieval square. The village prospered in the Tudor era, and this is clear in the quality of countless historic buildings lining the streets.
The Oakhouse Hotel
Once you’ve soaked up the history of Axbridge, The Oak House is the perfect place to stop off for some refreshments. We’re located across the square from King John’s Hunting Lodge right on the official path of the Strawberry Line.
If you’re starting your journey here, we can provide you with a hearty breakfast to keep you energised throughout the day. Alternatively, stop in once you’ve worked up an appetite – as well as tasty lunch and dinner menus throughout the week, we offer daily afternoon teas and of course, a delicious Sunday roast for the whole family. Visit The Oakhouse Hotel to book your table so you know you have somewhere to rest your legs.
For something to eat on the go, try one of our special Bento-style boxes and build the ultimate packed lunch, or pick something from our takeaway menu to enjoy outdoors when the weather’s nice, or at home when it’s not!
Once your stomach is full, you can carry on to the village of Cheddar which is, of course, well-known for its gorge and its cheese. The Strawberry Line passes by the Cheddar Reservoir before entering the main village, which you can stroll through before you head to the gorge and neighbouring caves. These caves were home to our ancestors 40,000 years ago, including the famous Cheddar Man – Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.