Fireside Tours, 1924: exploring the highways and byways of Somerset

The Jan 31 issue was subtitled ‘Architectural, historical and picturesque aspects of little known Somerset’ and what a joy it was to read how different things must have been back then. Much of the two-page feature focuses on Cheddar Gorge – and quite rightly so as it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the county and, even today, offers some spectacular biking roads, especially on old Brit bikes.

‘Westerner’, the writer of the piece, describes the descent from the top of the Mendips down into the gorge and says: “At Priddy, one of the finest Mendip top village, commences that long descent – in some respects the most remarkable road in England – the Cheddar Gorge. A strange eeriness increases as one runs on and on into the rocks down a winding road which gradually steepens.

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“Just where the road assumes the appearance of a cul-de-sac, a sharp turn discloses more turns and yet again more turns; at each corner the height of the rock sides increases until at the dangerous bends near the village, the cliffs rise some 700ft.

“Approach these lower corners of the gorge with care, for they are deceptive, and the motorcyclist is apt to gaze so frequently upward at the romantic piles of rock that he forgets the ever-steepening gradient.

“Cheddar is a charming spot, spoilt, alas, in the interest of the tripper. The best time to visit is in the morning before the motor coaches disgorge their noisy loads to throng the caves and teashops.” If it was like that then, imagine what Westerner would make of the traffic issues now!

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The tour takes in Glastonbury, Sedgemore battlefield, runs on to Clifton and Weston-super-Mare. Westerner concludes: “A picnic on Brean Down, leaving the machine at the farm at the foot of the hill of this interesting promontory, which juts out near Weston-super-Mare, is a good suggestion for a lazy day. This rocky hill is one of the few bird sanctuaries in this country, and as such it forms the home of many lesser-known English varieties.

“If you know where to look for it, there is much of interest and of beauty in Somerset.”

Having read and enjoyed Westerner’s comments, we’ve already laid out a plan for a CBG spring road trip. We’ll be following his route – where possible! bike

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