The Government has renewed its commitment to completing the England Coast Path by 2020 with the announcement today that new stretches of the trail in Kent and Somerset will open this coming spring.
When completed the waymarked National Trail will run roughly 2700 miles around the entire English coastline, also linking in with the 870-mile Wales Coast Path. Work is underway at various points, incorporating existing public footpaths where possible but in some cases re-routing trails so that they run nearer the sea.
A policy introduced by then environment secretary David Miliband in 2007, there had long been fears that subsequent Governments were at best lukewarm to the idea. Progress has been slow in recent years, and powerful landowning interests have lobbied hard against it.
But Rural Minister Rory Stewart has sounded a positive note today:
'As an historic seafaring nation, a deep connection with our coastline is an integral part of our national identity' he said.
'None of us lives further than about 75 miles from the sea, and most of us live much closer, so it’s vital to our ongoing relationship with our countryside that the public has easy access to our outstanding coastline.'
'We have already opened up miles of our beautiful coastline for everyone to enjoy, boosting local tourism and growing the rural economy, so it makes sense to extend these plans even further. We know that walking in the countryside is good for people’s health and wellbeing, and what better way to do it than with the accompaniment of a nice sea breeze?'
According to Natural England, which is coordinating the development of the route, new stretches of trail will be continually opening up over the next five years. Updates on their progress are available here