By Harry Mottram: Opened in 1869 and closed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s the former Cheddar Valley Railway connected Wells to Yatton but is best known today as the Strawberry Line cycle path and walkway. Located between Axbridge and Winscombe is the 165 metre long tunnel which in 2016 was closed for several months while Bristol Water put in a pipeline in the floor of the tunnel. Reopened more than a year later the tunnel now features daytime lighting installed by the utility which has made that part of the cycle path more attractive for families and females in particular.

Independent district North Somerset Cllr James Tonkin who is on the Strawberry Line Management Committee said the lights go off in the evening to protect the habitat of the bats who live there – but he would see if the lights could stay on later into the evening. One of the issues has been child and female safety in the unlit tunnel so having the lights installed has been welcomed.

Cllr Bridget Petty of who represents Backwell for the Green Party said: “I’m Green Party Councillor in North Somerset and have family based in Axbridge. We have walked to the tunnel for years,  since kids were in buggies, and also with my parents. After a local resident raised concerns about the lights being out in the tunnel, I was happy to champion and follow up on trying to help resolve this through my work at the council. This week visiting the strawberry line, it’s fantastic to see the lights up, I’ve seen runners, walkers, families and cyclists all enjoying the route. So great to hear a local mum say ‘it’s amazing’ as pre-schooler cycled through.”

Joe Tristram said: “In my new role as a local Green Party activist I’ve been working with N Somerset Council officer Paul Hillman for nearly a year to pull together the needs of the various user-groups from bats to cyclists. It’s been really pleasing in the last month to see so many people using the tunnel. In its previously unlit state anyone who did use it went through quickly and with some trepidation. I especially enjoy seeing families with young children on their bikes and scooters, completely relaxed in a place they couldn’t use before.”

Bristol Water’s pipeline was part of their £27 million Southern Resilience Scheme which saw pipes running from Somerset to North Somerset to ensure continued water supply.