Cycle route from Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park

Jonathan Manning guides you on a picturesque cycle route around Chew Valley Lake and through the Mendip Hills from Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park in Somerset.

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Beautiful Chew Valley Lake offers a peaceful, leafy alternative to the bountiful tourist attractions of Bath and Bristol, which are just a short drive away. This ride starts from the award-winning Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park, an adults-only Affiliated Site on the edge of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and circles the gorgeous 1,200-acre reservoir – the fifth largest artificial body of water in the UK – that was created in 1950 to supply Bristol and the surrounding area with drinking water. 

Unfortunately the route spends precious little time right by the water’s edge as many of the lakeside paths are reserved exclusively for anglers and sailors meaning they are out of bounds to pedestrians and riders. Sustrans had plans to open up more of the shoreline following my visit in August 2019 so it is worth checking before you set off. Either way, there is one stretch of lakeside trail, close to the start, which offers a flavour of what’s possible were a perimeter path opened all the way around the lake. 

Nevertheless, there are still some wonderful views as the route passes the edge of the wildfowl-rich reservoir which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area to safeguard the 260 species of migratory birds which frequent it. In addition, the Mendip Hills are achingly pretty in places, with character-packed, Cotswold-style villages. 

There's an abundance of places to stop for a bite to eat or a drink – fish and chips at Salt & Malt, overlooking the lake, comes highly recommended – and the long, steep ascent to Hinton Blewett certainly deserves a little sustenance. This section of the ride is also the route of a local 10km running race and there are some witty motivational messages for runners painted onto the road, which offer a welcome distraction from the gradient, until a long, thrilling downhill leads back to the start.

You can download this route from our dedicated Strava page here.

Directions

1 From Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park turn left and continue to a T junction. 

2 0.6km – Turn left at the T junction then left again almost immediately signposted to Chew Stoke, Chew Magna and Bristol. Continue for 700m to a sign to a Bristol Water car park on the left. 

3 1.3km – Turn left into the car park and at the end of the driveway turn right (with the lake on the left) to follow the trail between the reservoir and the road. Continue on this track for 600m to another car park. At the far end of the car park is the excellent Salt & Malt café. After Salt & Malt follow the trail to join the road that runs alongside the dam at the end of the lake, and turn left, keeping the lake on the left. Continue to a T-junction in Chew Stoke.

4 3.7km – Turn left at the T-junction, signposted to Cheddar, East Harptree and West Harptree. In 900m there’s the option to turn left to call into Woodford Lodge, a lakeside café and restaurant. Alternatively, carry on along the B3114 (there is a cycle path on the left of the road and later on the opposite side). Pass the lake on the left and continue to the Blue Bowl Inn on the left.

5 8.1km – Turn left 150m past the Blue Bowl Inn, signposted to West Harptree and Chewton Mendip. Continue for 1km into West Harptree to a T-junction with St Mary’s Church on the right and the Crown Inn on the left. Turn left to Bishop Sutton and Bath. In 100m, as the road bends to the left, turn right to East Harptree and Chewton Mendip. Continue for 1km to a crossroads in the middle of East Harptree. 

6 10km – Turn left at the crossroads, signposted to Widcombe and Bishop Sutton. Continue for 1.5km, looking out for a turn on the right. 

7 11.5km – Turn right, signposted to Litton and Chewton Mendip. Follow this road for 2km, staying left when the road forks at a small bridge, as it rises steeply up Coley Hill, to reach a T-junction.

8 13.6km – Turn right at the T-junction, signposted to Cameley and Bishop Sutton, and follow Lower Road through Hinton Blewett. Continue on this road for 3km to reach a crossroads in Bishop Sutton. 

9 17.5km – Go straight across the crossroads, following Ham Lane to Chew Magna. In about 250m Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park is on the left. 

About the route

  • Start/finish: Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park, Ham Lane, Bishop Sutton BS39 5TZ. 
  • Distance: 11 miles/ 17.8km. 
  • Time: 2 hours. 
  • Level: Suitable for confident cyclists. Even with the cycle path, there are sections of the B3114 that have busy traffic and the climb to Hinton Blewett is out-of-the-saddle steep. 
  • Terrain: Mostly asphalt but there is a short stretch on a trail by the lake. A hybrid, mountain bike or e-bike would be ideal. Road bikes would be advised to stay on Walley Lane and avoid the off-road section. 
  • Landscape: Lovely lake views and far-reaching panoramas of the Mendip Hills. 
  • Refreshments: Salt & Malt, Chew Valley; Stoke Inn, Chew Stoke; Woodford Lodge, Chew Stoke; Blue Bowl Inn, West Harptree; Crown Inn, West Harptree; Red Lion, Bishop Sutton.