Walking between Port Isaac and Port Quin on the rugged north Cornish coast is pretty special. A landscape battered and sculpted by the sea this undulating walk is part of the South West Coast Path that meanders 630 miles through four counties.
And yet go beyond the tourist hot spot that is the South West of England and the opportunity to wander our majestic coast is limited. That’s why the ambition to open up the whole of the coast of England is so important and the lessons from Wales show the benefits that it can bring.
Championed for years by the Ramblers and now enshrined in an Act of Parliament, passed in 2009, a footpath around the coastline of England, would link many of the jewels of this beautiful coast.
There is a need for the new Government to back the commitment made by the coalition, and the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, back in September 2014 to deliver this by the end 2020. This means committing money and resource to allow Natural England to help deliver this exciting and ambitious project.
The Wales coastal footpath opened back in 2012, the first of its kind in the world, has made great strides in giving people access to hundreds of miles of shoreline rich in nature, archaeological and epic beauty. This is giving people the chance to see their coast anew and generating much needed income for coastal communities.
Over the Irish sea in Northern Ireland, the journey to create a footpath along its coastline is just beginning and would be a real boon for the tourist industry. I’ve been to Northern Ireland three times and its coastline is spectacular.
Our history, cultural and the story of our nations has been shaped by the sea. In the last 50 years the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign has saved, thanks to a people-powered and very British revolution, hundreds of miles of coast; something that it still alive and kicking as seen by the announcement today that the Trust has bought a farm on the wildlife paradise that is the Great Orme in north Wales.
The next part of our coastal story needs to look at how we can create the space for people and nature. There is a need to look at the idea of coastal corridors, where footpaths can be moved as the coast changes and we can look to move habitats for nature. This would truly revolutionise our relationship with the coast.