Walkers can enjoy 66 miles of new and improved National Trail with the launch of the first stretch of the England Coast Path in Kent and East Sussex today.
Natural England is currently establishing a 2,700-mile path around the entire English coastline by 2020 and work is already under way on 60 per cent of the route. When completed, it will be the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world. It will also become a National Trail – the nation’s finest and most popular long-distance paths.
Speaking at the National Trust’s White Cliffs centre, the Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, said:
"I am delighted to be here for the formal opening of this 66-mile section of the England Coast Path – the most significant rights of way project for a generation.
"This beautiful and iconic stretch will allow walkers to enjoy amazing views, fabulous wildlife and places with significant cultural and historical value – all from a high-quality footpath. It will also connect coastal communities and encourage walkers to visit more of the coast, bringing an added economic boost to the region."
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, said:
"We are a proud partner in Natural England’s England Coast Path. The path represents one of the biggest steps forward for countryside and coastal access in a generation, making space for nature and people around our shores.
"The coast path offers the chance to create a corridor for wildlife habitats to recover and thrive, while allowing people to experience natural heritage at first hand."
Environment Minister Therese Coffey said:
"We have already opened up miles of coastal paths across the country, allowing thousands of people to explore and enjoy our spectacular coastline.
"The White Cliffs of Dover are one of our country’s most iconic and instantly recognisable landmarks, and with none of us living further than 75 miles from the sea – many much closer – opening this path will allow more people than ever before to experience this national treasure first-hand."
The route provides a link between communities and towns along the coast including Camber and Lydd, Greatstone and Hythe and Deal and Sandwich. It includes areas of great heritage: from the supposed landing site of Caesar at Walmer to embarkation points on the River Stour at Richborough used by soldiers and horses in the First World War; and from Napoleonic Martello towers dotted along the coast near Dymchurch to extensive Second World War defences at Dover, such as Winston Churchill’s tunnels inside the cliffs at Fan Bay.
Three miles of new path have also been created at Sandwich, giving access around the peninsula for the first time. Walkers can enjoy new views along the River Stour across Pegwell Bay towards the cliffs at Ramsgate and overlook the wonderful National Nature Reserve of Sandwich and Pegwell Bay.
Latest Natural England research (2016 Coastal Analysis of Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment) due to be published this summer, shows 313 million visits were made to the English coast between March 2014 and February 2015. Findings also show that between March 2009 and February 2015, there was a 138 per cent increase in visits to paths, cycleways and bridleways at coastal locations. On average, during the same period (2009 to 2015) £18 was spent on coastal visits, compared to £6 on a visit to the countryside. The creation of coastal paths in other parts of the country suggests the new path in Kent and Sussex will bring clear benefits to the local economy. According to figures from the South West Coast Path report Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage, the National Trail is worth £400 million a year to the regional economy, equating to £630,000 per mile.
Cross-channel visitors will be able to step off the ferry at Dover or Ramsgate and straight onto the England Coast Path. According to Visit Kent, access to the coast and its natural and cultural attractions generates a significant part of the county’s £3.4 billion tourism industry.
Natural England has worked closely with Kent County Council and East Sussex County Council, who have made the path ready to open today.
Clive Pearman, Kent County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:
"The opening of this section of the coastal path will give local residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, with its stunning views and scenery, and the unique wildlife, in its many forms, which frequents this coastal region.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone, and we hope that this section of the coastal path invites many of the visitors to our county to step beyond the traditional visitor attractions to both enjoy this area, and thereby to contribute to the economic growth of Kent."
One in ten visits to the natural environment is a visit to the coast. Most visits to the coast are to walk or go to the beach (MENE).
Natural England is working on 5 stretches of the Kent coast; 2 of those open today and we expect the remaining ones to open over the next couple of years.
The next section of coast path opens in 2 days time, on 21 July 2016 in Middlesbrough. It will be 68 miles long and stretch from Filey in North Yorkshire to Newport Bridge in Middlesbrough.
The England Coast Path #EnglandCoastPath also gives walkers new rights of access to typical coastal land including foreshore, beaches, dunes and cliffs, including areas where everyone can rest, relax and admire the view. And, crucially, the path will now be able to ‘roll back’ as the cliffs erode or slip – enabling a replacement route to be put in place quickly if necessary, so solving longstanding difficulties with maintaining a continuous route along the coast.
Natural England worked with 421 landowners and 150 businesses between Camber and Ramsgate including beach-side properties, commercial ports and farmers. The proposals for the route were published between 2013 and 2014 when landowners and those with interests were able to make objections or representations. The route was scrutinised by an independent Planning Inspector and recommended with one small change to access at Richborough and approved by the Secretary of State.
Stunning drone footage of the route is available on our YouTube channel.
Source: Gov.uk (Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.)