It's good news for coastal access in the south of England. The first stretch of England Coast Path in Somerset has been announced by government as well as a move to include the Isle of Wight in the scheme.
The Somerset route will open up or improve 90km of coastal access for people to enjoy between Brean Down and Minehead. The stretch, which will be implemented within the next year, is home to climbing sites including Brean Down, Sand Bay and Ladye Bay.
For the first time, the new continuous walking route will include new parts of Somerset’s coastline including foreshore, beaches, and cliffs and areas where everyone can rest, relax and admire the view. Crucially, the path will be able to ‘roll back’ as the cliffs erode or slip – enabling a replacement route to be put in place quickly if necessary, helping to maintain a continuous route along the coast.
The BMC is organising a meeting with Natural England and our access reps to talk in more detail about the needs of climbers and walkers along the stretch.
What's more the government has also committed to include the Isle of Wight in the plans for an England Coast Path. This means the 70-mile footpath around England's largest island, which was left out of the original plans, will now be included in the scheme. This comes on the back of public support and more than five years of campaigning by the Ramblers.
BMC President Scott Titt says: "The Isle of Wight contains one of Britain's most seminal climbs - Skeleton Ridge. It's great news for climbers and walkers that the government has decided to include the Isle of Wight in its coastal access plans.
"We've been campaigning for improved coastal access from the start. What we are interested in is not just the path but the spreading room which allows open access to the seaward area including important access to the cliffs and foreshore."
"The next stretch of coastline to be implemented in Dorset will be from Lyme Regis to Rufus Castle (Portland) and is set to open in early 2015. We urge government to keep up the pace on implementation and reap the health and economic benefits that the path and associated margin can bring."
The announcements follow on from the Secretary of State’s recent approval for a stretch of the Norfolk coast earlier this year and the official opening of the first stretches of the England Coast Path in Cumbria and Durham in spring 2014.
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