GCC 100 #1 Cheddar Gorge, to GCC 100 #100 to Constitution Hill, and the 98 cycle climbs in-between!
Upper left and center photo: The Original Cheddar Cheese Company.
Cheddar Gorge is one of the most scenic of the GCC 100. What it lacks in challenge (it’s a relatively steady 5% grade over 3.6 km) it more than makes up for in stunning scenery, particularly the shear limestone walls of the gorge as we climb from the western edge of Cheddar (pop. 5,755, 2011) eastbound up the B3135.
Cheddar cheese shops and gift shops on B3135 at start of climb.
By the way cheese fans -- this is where cheddar cheese originated! Cheddar cheese is now the official cheese of PJAMM Cycling!!
You’ll find a parking lot just up from the start of the climb.
Limestone rock walls hug the the first 1.5 km.
Just shy of the finish -- incredible experience!
Cheddar Gorge was included in the British National Hill Climb Championships in 2007 (James Dobbin won the second of his two consecutive championships this year).
James Dobbin - 2007 Hill Climb Championship ride.
“Using his local knowledge to good effect Dobbin, who lives around 20 miles away from the course, clocked 6-51.5 to beat rival David Clarke (Blue Sky Cycles) from Derbyshire into second by 6.1 seconds, while Mike Vaughan cycles rider Matt Clinton, from Coventry, was third.” CyclingWeekly.com
Simon Warren writes of this climb:
“Cut deep into the Mendip Hills lies Cheddar Gorge, a natural phenomenon that makes a stunning setting to climb through. . . you will always find cyclists on its slopes as it offers a tough but not overwhelming challenge to riders of all abilities. . .” 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, A Road Cyclists Guide to Britain’s Hills (Simon Warren, 2010 pp. 16-17).
Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in the United Kingdom and known for caves, cheddar cheese, and strawberries. It is popular with cave enthusiasts and rock climbers as well. This village is a major tourist destination and is the home of the “Cheddar Man,” England's oldest skeleton (Cheddar, Somerset).
Steepest ½ kilometer begins 700m (9.5%).
The climb begins just east of the large village of Cheddar (population 5,755) in Somerset, England, about 20 miles outside of Bath. The ride is about 2.2 miles (3.5km), with the most challenging portion being right as you’re leaving the village of Cheddar, where the road gets twisty and the maximum gradient is 16%. Once you get past this portion, the rest of the route is much smoother sailing, with the average gradient being about 4 to 5%. At this point you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty surrounding you. The maximum depth of the gorge is 449 feet (137m). To the south you will see an almost completely vertical cliff-face, and to the north the steep grassy slopes (Cheddar Gorge). Overall this ride may not be the most challenging in the UK, but it certainly is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful. This is not a ride you’ll want to miss.
Named as the “Second Greatest Natural Wonder in Britain,” Cheddar Gorge is located in the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). For our non-UK readers, an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” is basically the equivalent of a National Park in the United States. They consist of 46 areas which have been designated for conservation in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland due to significant value of the landscape. As part of the Mendip Hills AONB, the climb at Cheddar Gorge affords stunning views from the top. Cheddar Gorge is made of limestone, and coupled with the lakes of the Chew Valley, makes for a breathtaking landscape consisting of “steep slopes and undulating plateau punctuated by spectacular gorges and rocky outcrops” (Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Come for the ride, stay for the views and caves:
Photo Credit: Philip Young
Cheddar Gorge is part of the Cheddar Complex, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills which attracts 500,000 visitors per year. Cheddar Gorge is the location of Gough’s cave, where in 1903 the “Cheddar Man,” Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, was found. Fossil records date the Cheddar Man back to the Mesolithic period, over 9,000 years ago (Cheddar Man). In addition to the Cheddar Man’s remains, older remains from the Upper Late Palaeolithic era (12,000–13,000 years ago) have also been found in the Cheddar Gorge area. The caves, produced over 1.2 million years by the activity of an underground river, contain stalactites and stalagmites and were the inspiration for the Deep Helms in Tolkien’s The Two Towers (Cheddar Gorge). Any fans of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will feel like they’ve stepped into a familiar land here.
Photo Credit: Visit Bristol
Don’t let this amazing bike ride be the only thing you do in Cheddar Gorge. There is so much to see in this beautiful area that you won’t want to miss out on. As you’re cycling, keep an eye out for wildlife--you’ll see goats grazing and rabbits hopping through the grassy slopes. Whether you’re interested in biking, hiking, spelunking, rock climbing, history, science, or just overall sightseeing, Cheddar Gorge is definitely a “must see” attraction.