Community celebrates opening of new Sandford Link section of Strawberry Line in North Somerset

Community superheroes celebrated the opening of the Strawberry Line’s new Sandford Link on Saturday, built as part of National Grid’s Hinkley Connection Project.

Over 200 local residents, Strawberry Line users and families with children (and dogs!) dressed as superheroes walked, biked and wheeled their way to the Strawberry Line in Sandford, North Somerset, to celebrate the opening of the new traffic-free section of the popular heritage trail.

Built by National Grid as part of the construction of its new Sandford substation, and in partnership with North Somerset Council, the Sandford Link takes users from Station Road in Sandford north past the substation boundary to cross Drove Way and continue on towards Yatton. Users now do not need to travel along the busy and narrow Nye Road.

North Somerset Council has worked with our team at National Grid from the outset to ensure the Hinkley Connection Project makes a lasting difference to local people

The opening marks the latest development for a route that has been undergoing transformation into a greenway since the early 1980s. It follows a 10-mile stretch of the former Cheddar Valley railway line, which was affectionately named by locals after the volume of locally grown strawberries that it carried to London and Birmingham markets.

On Saturday, people first gathered for a ribbon cutting led by North Somerset Council’s deputy chairperson, Cllr Peter Crew and Steven Haskayne, project director for National Grid, helped by local children.

After a countdown, this early crowd were the first people on the new Sandford Link, making their way along the new path towards Sandford substation where they were welcomed by favourite superhero characters and enjoyed free refreshments, facepainting, giveaways and a raffle to raise funds for nearby Sandford Primary School.

Steven Haskayne, project director for National Grid, said:

“We’ve been working alongside the community here in Sandford for a number of years on the Hinkley Connection Project and we were delighted to welcome so many local people here to celebrate the opening of the new Sandford Link, which routes the Strawberry Line away from busy Nye Road.

“I’m proud of our role in making this part of the Strawberry Line safer for everyone and encouraging greener travel options. The Link is a direct result of public consultation and has been made possible thanks to the partnership between National Grid and North Somerset Council, which has worked with us from the very early stages to ensure the Hinkley Connection project could be used to make a lasting difference to local people long after our works are completed.”

Councillor Mike Solomon, North Somerset Council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the new Strawberry Line Sandford Link opening. This will have a positive impact on the experience of thousands of people who visit the Strawberry Line every year. I urge people to visit and use this fantastic asset, whether to enjoy a cycle, walk, run or wheel and just generally enjoy being out in our beautiful countryside.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to give some thanks – to National Grid for funding and delivering this quality scheme, to council officers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen, and lastly, but my no means least, to the many volunteers who help to maintain the Strawberry Line.”

Mick Fletcher, chair of the Strawberry Line Society, whose volunteers help maintain the heritage path and work with landowners to open new sections, added:

“On behalf of the society I’d like to say we’re delighted that this section of path has been opened. It’s a real asset to the local community and will mean we don’t have to go along a road with all the associated traffic. It’s also really nice to have a car park built as part of the new section, so folk don’t have to park on the road to use the path. It’s great.”

Sandford substation itself is at the heart of the Hinkley Connection Project, and was energised earlier this year along with the first stretch of T-pylons. In August the construction of all T-pylons was completed when the final diamond-shaped insulator was installed on one of the structures between Yatton and Kenn – near the northern end of the Strawberry Line.

Since construction began on the Hinkley Connection Project in 2018, £1.4 million has been granted to 85 different local community initiatives through National Grid's Community Grant Programme – a scheme to support communities in areas where major projects are being developed.

The project has also planted more than 2,500 trees, over 75,000 square metres of woodland and more than 20,000 metres of hedgerow along its route, to enhance the environmental landscape and achieve a net gain in biodiversity.