The first time I cycled down Cheddar’s famous gorge was an experience I’ll always remember.
Though I had been expecting it to be beautiful, even stunning, my eyes were not prepared for the joys they beheld on my first descent of Cheddar Gorge by bike.
Believe me when I say that Cheddar Gorge is visited by in excess of 500,000 tourists each year for a reason. A good reason. And though I haven’t as yet mounted the courage to don my climbing gear and scale the gorge, cycling must be one of the best ways to experience Somerset’s 9,000 year old wonder.
Heading down the gorge on two wheels, the main event – startling limestone rock formations – takes a while to come to fruition, kept at bay by a forest of dense undergrowth.
But further on the trees and plant life give way, almost forcibly, to sheer rock faces upon which only the hardiest and most adaptable of plants could survive. Oh, and Cheddar’s resident goats.
The road is far from straightforward to traverse, however, and it’s with a heavy heart that you have to refrain from glancing up at the terrifyingly high clifftops. Best not to stack it face first and come away with a mouthful of tarmac.
Happily, you’ll find that even at eye level there’s plenty to see and not much to worry about, given the generally good-quality road.
Of course, now you’ve reach the bottom of Cheddar Gorge, you’ll want to climb it. This is your opportunity to see the base of the gorge in all its glory.
Except for a brief section of around 16%, Cheddar Gorge isn’t too a tricky cycle. And though long, it’s a climb you can really power up. In fact, it’s probably one of the easier climbs up and onto the Mendips.
“You almost won’t believe it was formed as a result of meltwater. It just seems too… dramatic.”
With a maximum depth of 137m, you may want to take your first ascent of the gorge gently, just to see what all the fuss is about. You almost won’t believe it was formed as a result of meltwater. It just seems too… dramatic.
You can’t go wrong with the other roads and descents around the area either; Cheddar Gorge can easily be incorporated into just about any Somerset-centred ride.
So, whether you’ve come from Wells, Glastonbury, Bristol, Bath or anywhere in between, make sure you’ve climbed Cheddar. It may not be challenging, but it’s certainly spectacular.