The Mendips — South-West Gravel Gold
Includes segments in which cycling is forbidden
You will have to dismount and push your bike.
1.26 mi in total
Includes a movable bridge
Check opening times.
1 in total
Road Cycling Highlight
Bike Touring Highlight (Segment)
Mountain Biking Highlight (Segment)
Katherine Moore planned a gravel ride.
April 15, 2020
In Bristol we’re spoilt for riding. The Cotswolds to the north, the Wessex Downs to the west, Wales a short ride away and the Mendips to the south. Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mendip Hills are a chain of rolling green fields, secluded woodland and the well-known rocky outcrops of Cheddar Gorge.
This Tour was from WTF Bikexplorers Grassroots Ride I organised last year, an overnight bikepacking trip from the city of Bristol out to the Mendips and back. That should give you a bit of an indication to the difficulty of the route; it can certainly be done in one (long) day, but if you can camp overnight in the hills you can enjoy it at a more leisurely pace over two.
We met at the Bristol cycling hub Business As Usual to start our ride, which is where you’ll find this Tour starts and ends at. It’s a short pedal to the main Bristol Temple Meads train station and right next door to the local Lawrence Hill station.
To start the ride, you’ll climb out of the city to the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, crossing into the Ashton Court Estate where you’ll enjoy your first stretch of gravel up the main fire road. Look over your shoulder and you can already see the city shrinking away behind you.
After a short off-road blitz through Wraxall Piece, you’ll drop off the Long Ashton Escarpment via the fire road down through the woodland parallel to Belmont Hill. This is a brilliant stretch of fairly easy going off road terrain to ease you into it.
Down in the valley, you’ll take a short stretch on the road to Flax Bourton, starting your next off road climb up into the woodlands of Bourton Combe. This trail can be pretty technical in parts and very slippy in the wet, take care!
After the very steep descent to Brockley Combe, continue along the bridleway on the other side of the road past the airport runway to Wrington. Testing, steep climbs, wicked descents and more dirt than you could shake a stick at; this is a corking bit of linking trail heading south.
From Wrington village, follow lanes through Churchill to Sandford, where you pick up the traffic-free light gravel Strawberry Line. Snaking down the cleave in the hillside, you’ll avoid the majority of climbing over the Mendip Hills as it delivers you through Axbridge to the lively town of Cheddar.
Take a break here to ride a little up into the gorge, where you’ll find plenty of tea-rooms and ice cream parlours to top-up on much needed energy before the next big climb. Rather than taking the road climb up through the gorge, you’ll follow the magnificent bridleway up the side of the hill through fields, before tackling the rocky, steep push-up to the top.
Along the tops, you can see for miles; Cheddar Reservoir, Wedmore, the coastline even. Here the trail turns into a stony doubletrack, farm roads that are just brilliant on a gravel bike or mountain bike. You’ll drop over the other side down to the Gorge Road on a twisting descent that’ll make you want to do it all over again.
Your next highlight is Beacon Batch, the vast moorland landscape that stretches over the very top of the hills. You’ll ride a series of byways and bridleways to almost reach the top, before dropping down a back lane to Burrington Combe, where you’ll start to make your way back to Bristol.
After a few lanes, you retrace your tyre marks from Wrington along the bridleway, then taking a different route back into the city via the cycle path at Flax Bourton and through Long Ashton. Back in the bustling city, it’s hard to believe how you could feel so remote just a few short hours ago.