A NEW off-road section of a popular Somerset cycle route will open in the Mendip Hills by the end of the month.

The Strawberry Line currently runs uninterrupted between Yatton railway station and Station Road in Cheddar, providing a safe car-free route for pedestrians and cyclists as well as linking up numerous small towns and villages.

While much of the cycle route is currently off-road, numerous sections – such as the Axbridge link – still entail cyclists having to share the road with motorists, often on narrow country lanes with no pavements.

The Strawberry Line Association has now confirmed that a new short off-road section near the villages of Sandford and Winscombe will be open to the public on November 25.

The new off-road section (dubbed the ‘Sandford Link’) runs from the existing path off Drove Way past the new National Grid substation, follows the former trackbed of the Cheddar Valley railway line (which closed in the mid-1960s) and rejoins the existing path at the crossing over the A368 Station Road.

This new section – which is nearly one kilometre in length – will remove the need for cyclists to use Drove Way, Nye Road and a lengthier section of the busy A368, which links Bristol to Weston-super-Mare.

Unlike many of the recent extensions to the Strawberry Line (such as the recently-opened route between Westbury-sub-Mendip and Easton), the ‘Sandford Link’ has not been funded by grants from local authorities.

Instead, it has been delivered by National Grid as part of the construction of the 400,000-volt substation, which will be handling power generated by the nuclear reactors at the Hinkley Point C power station on the west Somerset coast.

The new substation will deliver power to local homes via underground cables, reducing the number of overhead electricity pylons which could damage the appearance of the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).

The “new and safer Strawberry Line path” has been handed from National Grid over to North Somerset Council, which will now be permanently responsible for its upkeep.

A spokesman for the Strawberry Line Association said: “We all owe a huge thank you in advance to National Grid and North Somerset Council for making this all possible – it shows the strength of partnership.”

The new section will be opened on November 25, with walkers, cyclists and other path users being asked to congregate off Station Road at 10am – with participants being encouraged to dress up as superheroes for the occasions.

Following the initial ride to Drove Way, there will be an activity zone in place between 10am and 2pm, with family entertainment, superhero meet and greets and refreshments being served.

Once completed, the Somerset Circle will form a 76-mile traffic-free circuit linking Bristol, Bath, the Mendip Hills and the Somerset Levels.

The Strawberry Line will eventually terminate at Shepton Mallet, allowing it to link up with the new Windsor Hill active travel route (which is currently under construction) and the Frome Missing Links.

In addition to the Westbury to Easton link, two new sections of the Strawberry Line opened in Shepton Mallet in March – with volunteers working with National Highways on closing the gap to Wells in the near-future.

Construction of a further extension to the east of Wells, near Dulcote recycling centre, is expected to be completed in the coming months.

For more information visit www.thestrawberryline.org.uk.