Village Life: Cheddar

Cheddar gorge (c) Ian_Redding / Thinkstock

Cheddar gorge (c) Ian_Redding / Thinkstock - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In our new series, Andrea Cowan will be taking a walk through villages in Somerset, each as individual as the next. First under the spotlight is Cheddar...say cheese

I had originally discounted Cheddar assuming it was a town. But I have been assured that for historical reasons it is very much counted as a village (even though it is larger than the neighbouring town of Axbridge) and I needed very little excuse to visit.

There’s no denying that Cheddar is unique: the backdrop to the village is the natural phenomenon of Britain’s largest Gorge, lying within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasting Britain’s biggest underground river and highest inland limestone cliffs. As a result, the Gorge attracts visitors to the area all year round, over spilling into the village itself.

Tourism is obviously important to the economy, but there is a strong village community for those living and working in Cheddar.

The High Street has been revitalised over the past couple of years and is a bustling mix of independent shops and places to eat, with a couple of supermarkets for those daily essentials!

There are two banks, a post office, a library and the refurbished pub, The Bath Arms. It is positioned just by the 15th century Market Cross, marking the centre of the village.

Characterful historic houses line the roads, but perhaps the jewel in the village crown is the stunning 14th century Church of St. Andrew.

There are three schools, including the Kings of Wessex School rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Cheddar’s historical roots are never far away: the school occupies the historical site of an Anglo Saxon Palace, with the ruins of the 13th century chapel of St. Columbanus still visible today.

The school sports centre is also available for villagers to use, and includes a swimming pool, gym and dance studios. If you are more interested in team sports, there are clubs offering football, tennis, rugby and cricket – amongst others.

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If you like walking or cycling, the cycle path along the old Strawberry Line railway stretches to Yatton. An ambitious project, the Strawberry Line Path aims to create a continuous 30-mile traffic-free path from Clevedon to Shepton Mallet, following as much of the old railway trackbed as possible.

As well as Cheddar’s world renowned cheese (which was produced as early as 1170 AD), it is known for its strawberries grown on the south-west facing slopes of the Mendip hills. The railway originally ferried the fruits around the country, hence its name.

Within the next couple of months those of us lucky enough to live on the doorstep will be able to buy Cheddar’s tasty fruit from stalls dotted along the roadside.

If you need any other reason to visit the village, Cheddar is hosting the South West Outdoor Festival this September. Open to local residents, day visitors and campers, the event will take place in and around Cheddar Gorge and is a celebration of all things wild and adventurous. I’ll see you there!