England Coast Path
It is exciting to think that eventually we will be able to walk the entire length of the English Coast. Don’t hold your breath, because this will not be completed until 2020 at the earliest, but the good news is that the Government are now committed and some sections are already open or under development. When completed estimates suggest it will be 4,500 kilometre long and be one of the longest coastal walking routes in the world. Based upon a fairly leisurely paced walk of 20 kilometres per day it will take you 225 days (over seven months) to complete! We wonder how many hardy souls will attempt it in one hit. In reality we will be content to enjoy exploring the beaches, cliff-tops and headlands along shorter stretches of the path.
The England Coast Path is now achievable because of new legislation which provides a completely new right of access that gives everyone the legal right to explore our coast for the very first time. It is much more than just a path, it gives access to beaches, cliff-tops, and most of the wonderful habitats around our coast. For the very first time, under coastal access, this will be a legal right.
Natural England, are responsible for delivery of the path following a defined methodology (called scheme NE446) including surveying, canvassing the views of interested parties and making recommendations to Government. Natural England say “England’s coastline is spectacularly beautiful, rich in wildlife and hugely popular. None of us lives more than 75 miles from it and as a nation we make over 70 million trips a year to enjoy it. We love walking along it but at the moment we don't have a right to explore most of our nation’s coastline. Once complete the England Coast Path will provide clear, well-managed access to the whole coast – whether you want a short stroll or a more challenging hike”.
One interesting aspect of this legislation is a feature referred to as ‘roll back’. Previously if a coastal path fell into the sea due to coastal erosion it was lost. Now if a section of coast erodes or slips the path isn't lost, it simply moves back with the new coastline. Our access rights also include what is termed ‘spreading room’. This is defined as ‘where appropriate, any land, other than the trail itself, which forms part of the coastal margin and which has public rights of access along the way’.
Of course it is not reasonable to expect everywhere to be accessible. You won't have any rights to enter private houses and gardens or Ministry of Defence land. Sensitive habitats will also quite rightly be protected. Some parts of the path may be temporarily closed to allow for repair or other works, the coastal margin may also be subject to restrictions.
Here is a listing of the sections of the England Coast Path that are either open or are in progress. This list starts from the England’s border with Scotland in the North West and lists sections in an anti-clockwise direction. Detailed Ordnance Survey maps of all the open sections can be found at:
North West England
Gretna to Allonby: in progress
Allonby to Whitehaven: now open
Whitehaven to Silecroft: in progress
South West England
Aust to Brean Down (Severn): in progress
Brean Down to Minehead: now open
Lyme Regis to Rufus Castle, Portland: in progress
Portland to Lulworth: now open
South East England
Camber to Folkestone: in progress
Folkestone to Ramsgate: in progress
Ramsgate to Whitstable: in progress
Hopton-on-Sea to Sea Palling: in progress
Sea Palling to Weybourne: now open
Weybourne to Hunstanton: in progress
Yorkshire and the Humber
Kilnsea to Filey Brigg: in progress
North East England
North Gare (Hartlepool) to South Bents: now open
Filey Brigg to North Gare (Hartlepool): in progress
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