The works required to reinstate the popular Strawberry Line near Winscombe following the completion of a £27million project to improve water supplies have been completed, and the route is now open.
“The recent spell of good weather has aided progress, and we are pleased that we have been able to meet our targeted date for re-opening,” says Mike Lancaster, Project Manager for the Southern Resilience Scheme.
Visitors using the Winscombe section will also benefit from new surfacing in the Shute Shelve Tunnel along with new reflective white lining and cats eyes.
We are also in the process of improving the lighting in the tunnel and for the time being pedestrians and cyclists are being asked to use lights while travelling through the tunnel.
The line, used by walkers and cyclists, closed last summer to make way for part of our 30km Southern Resilience Scheme, which better secures the supply to 280,000 households across North Somerset and South Bristol.
We had hoped to reopen the Strawberry Line in April, but poor weather and roosting bats led to a delay.
“Once the works had started in the Shute Shelve Tunnel, a rock fall caused work to stop,” explains Mike. “As a result of that, we needed to ensure the site was made safe before we could continue. This caused several weeks of delay. We were then very close to the bat hibernation period.
“Horseshoe bats are a protected species, and the Mendips are one of Britain’s most important sites for them. Therefore, work simply could not continue during their hibernation period. We had worked with ecologists and Natural England to try and prevent bats from hibernating in the tunnel, but these measures did not work.”
Reinstatement of the path outside of the tunnel had been expected to start in February 2018, but the consistent poor weather also caused delays.