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New 130km Coast Path Opens in Essex

© Natural England

A 136km (85 mile) stretch of the England Coast Path (ECP) was officially opened in Essex yesterday. Running from Tilbury to Wallasea Island, via Southend-on-Sea, this section of the slowly-emerging national trail takes in varied landscapes of saltmarsh and grasslands, sandy beaches, nature reserves, industry, historic sites, townscapes, and seaside amusements.

Accessible at many points by public transport, the trail now covers around 50% of the Essex coast, 240km (150 miles) to date, bringing the shoreline within easier reach for hundreds of thousands of local residents. Spreading beyond the path itself, there is now - and in many places for the first time - a legal right of access to land between the trail and mean low water. 

Aside from its benefit to public health and amenity, the route is expected to boost the local visitor economy.

"I'm thrilled that Natural England is opening this latest section, which takes us another step closer to being able to walk all the way around England" said Marian Spain, CEO of Natural England, who have worked closely with local authorities to create a route that is accessible to all.

"This stretch passes through areas rich in seaside heritage: industrial heartlands, coastal communities and nature reserves where precious wildlife, from flocks of wild geese to rare insects, thrive.

"Running from Tilbury to Wallasea Island via Southend-on-Sea it will directly connect half a million people to the coast allowing many more people to experience the benefits of connecting with nature."

Intended to be a continuous, easy to follow, and well-maintained walking route, when completed the ECP will be the longest coastal trail in the world, at over 2,700 miles.

An overview of progress on the path is available here.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 places a duty on the Secretary of State and Natural England to secure this long-distance walking trail, together with public access rights to a wider area of land along the way. Individual sections are being opened in stages, in some areas bringing existing coastal footpaths closer to the sea, and elsewhere linking places together for the first time. Legislation also allows for the route to 'roll back' if the coastline erodes, shifts or slips, as a way to address the long-standing difficulties of maintaining a continuous right of way along a coast subject to constant change, and vulnerable to sea level rises.


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