Coastal footpaths in England and Wales


This video says about itself:

March 11, 2013

Phil Stone from the Countryside Council for Wales talks about the highlights of the Wales Coast Path, a walking trail that runs around the entire Welsh coastline.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Tide of empty promises

Thursday 13 June 2013

One advantage of living on an island is that you get a lot of coastline.

The Ordnance Survey reckons the coastline of the main island of Britain is a little over 11,000 miles.

That breaks down to 6,000-plus miles for Scotland, 800-plus for Wales, and England accounts for 5,500. Add to that the larger islands – most of which are off the Scottish mainland – and you reach a total nearer 19,000 miles.

Of course it isn’t easy measuring any coastline. Tides make a big difference and the closer you look the smaller indentations add more length. That’s why my figures don’t add up exactly, but they will do.

Amazingly nowhere in Britain is more than 70 miles from the coast. The place furthest from the sea is Coton-in-the-Elms in Derbyshire.

A 70-mile drive from there will take you to Flint in Wales, Fosdyke Wash in Lincolnshire, White Sands near Neston in Cheshire or Westbury-on-Severn Gloucestershire.

Just in case you want a few more numbers, Britain has more than a thousand offshore islands of which just under 300 have permanent populations. Of the remaining islands, some are used for farming and are occupied occasionally, some are nature reserves with perhaps a warden and some are little more than sea-swept rocks.

We all enjoy a breath of sea air. Be it the bucket and spade attractions of Blackpool or Southend or the awesomely rugged coast of Orkney or Northumberland and any one of tens of thousands of other beautiful and fascinating coastal locations.

That’s why I was so impressed when in 2008 the Labour government announced through its agency Natural England a plan to open up the entire coastline of England as a free access long-distance footpath. The plan envisaged a coastal path all around England completed by 2018.

Environment minister Richard Benyon claimed at the opening of the tiny first section at Weymouth Bay in January: “Opening up many miles of English coastline will allow millions of people to enjoy the natural environment and will help support local economies by encouraging tourism.”

Fine words, but like most of those issued by Benyon and his boss Caroline Spelman rather a long way from what actually happened. What they actually did was slash Natural England’s budget by 21 per cent.

Spelman and Benyon are depriving Natural England of resources, and the agency itself is already often seen as being in the pockets of landowners and their business interests, more interested in finding ways that private enterprise can make money out of the countryside than anything else.

In recent consultations Natural England has suggested that the rest of the coastal footpath will be quietly shelved. The result is that so far only the 20-mile stretch around Weymouth Bay in Dorset has been completed and the target date for the whole path has been put back for decades.

Meanwhile over the border in Wales earlier this year they opened the 870-mile Welsh Coast Path. Wales is the first country in the world to have opened its entire coastline as a free long distance footpath.

True, much of it was already in place – the 181-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path has been in existence for over 40 years, and the 125-mile Anglesey Coast Path opened in 2006.

It’s still an amazing achievement by the Countryside Council for Wales and the Welsh National Assembly, which is spending £2 million a year on the worthwhile project – one the Westminster government would do well to emulate.

January 2014: The new National Trails website has launched full of practical information on the 15 trails in England and Wales that cover 2,500 miles of the countryside. At www.nationaltrail.co.uk there is high quality mapping from Ordnance Survey, showing nearby sites of interest and facilities, as well as recommended itinerary for anything from short walks to treks around 630 miles of Britain’s coastline: here.

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1 thought on “Coastal footpaths in England and Wales

  1. Pingback: Bird report from Dorset, Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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