Coasting to completion

Natural England plans to extend coastal path

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Another 125 miles of the England Coastal Path could be completed if proposals for a stretch between Silecroft and Cleveleys get the go-ahead.

Natural England last week unveiled plans for the latest part of the England Coast Path, a 2,700-mile walking route around the country.

Started in 2009, the England Coastal Path builds on existing walkers’ routes but has added on new stretches as well. Waymarked and managed, it boosted the economy by £350 million in 2017, with 29.1 million walking trips made over a six-month period in that year, according to Natural England.

It has had to overcome funding fears and opposition from landowners as it seeks to create what it claims will be the longest managed and waymarked coastal path in the world.

The new North West section covers the Duddon estuary and Morecambe Bay and will be the final 71 miles of the England Coast Path in Cumbria and the first 54 miles of the Lancashire coast. The proposals include 27 miles of new path, where people could not previously access the coast.

‘Beauty spots’

The proposals are now out for consultation and Natural England is inviting organisations, farmers, residents, visitors and businesses to have their say.

“The proposed route showcases the Cumbria and Lancashire coastline, from celebrating our industrial heritage at Barrow-in-Furness, to capturing local beauty spots such as the spectacular viewpoint of Humphrey Head near Grange-over-Sands,” said Chris Kaighin, Natural England’s area manager for Cumbria.

Elsewhere in the country, the England Coastal Path connects long-established national trails such as the 630-mile South West Coast Path with new sections such as the 58-mile stretch between Minehead and Brean Down in Somerset. The most recent part of the path opened last September, increasing access to the Tees Valley coastline with a 10-mile route from Newport Bridge to North Gare.

As part of its reported £350 million boost to the economy, Natural England says day-trippers spent on average £8.65 a day in coastal shops and overnight visitors an average of £36.73. It says this supported more than 5,900 full-time equivalent jobs along the English coast.

Susannah Bleakley, chief executive of the Morecambe Bay Partnership, which promotes and conserves the area, welcomed the new North West proposals.

A walk by the coast is good for the head as much as the heart,” she said. “The creation of a fully waymarked English Coastal Path should give many more people the fun of exploring our shoreline with confidence and certainty. A lift for our collective mood, health and opportunities for more visitor spend – what a boost.

She said Natural England has had to balance the interests of wildlife and keeping the line of the path as close to the shore as possible.

“There are some small areas – such as along the Wyre Coast near Pilling, and around Warton near Carnforth – where the proposed line of the coast comes slightly inland to avoid disturbance to sensitive bird nesting or roosting sites,” she said.

“And the other main challenge has been around the heads of estuaries, with the railway between Grange-over-Sands and Arnside proposed as a kind of ferry across the estuary, and a similar ‘railway ferry’ across the Duddon between Foxfield and Green Road.”

Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy at walking charity the Ramblers, said: “We’re excited to hear about the plans for this latest addition to the England Coast Path and look forward to contributing to the consultation thanks to the hard work of our dedicated volunteers, who have already played such an important role supporting Natural England’s fantastic work.

“At a time when we face a climate emergency, rising obesity levels and a mental health crisis, we’re really pleased that progress continues to be made towards the completion of this ambitious national trail, enabling more people to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of walking our beautiful coastline, as well as the significant economic boost it brings to local communities.”

Image: Plans for the North West extension of the England Coastal Path include Morecambe Bay. (Shutterstock)

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