A year of ups and downs – from the South West Coast Path National Trail Officer

Mark Owen 3Like the landscape of the Coast Path itself, this year has been one of ups and downs as far as managing the National Trail is concerned but it’s been mostly on the up side and has ended on a high.

Record breaking rainfall in 2012 led to numerous cliff falls that severed parts of the Coast Path and it’s thanks to the hard work of rangers and the cooperation of landowners that many of these have been resolved. Only yesterday, I attended the opening of a new section of path through woodland that is part of the re-route between Beer and Seaton.

While we’re not expecting this Winter to be as bad as last year, the coast is still on the move and following the heavy rains of the past few days, the section of path near Talland Bay is showing signs of slippage, and so has been temporarily diverted until it has restabilised – see here for details of all route changes.

The other work that has kept us all busy this year has been delivering our European grant funded project ‘Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ which comes to an end on December 31 after a three year series of investments totalling £2.1m issued through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). It’s been a huge success with all targets being met and in some instances surpassed way beyond our expectations.

My thanks to all of our project partners including local authorities, National Trust, tourism bodies as well as local businesses who have helped us achieve this.

Land's End celebration of the Great South West Walk 2013One of the biggest highlights was supporting the South West Coast Path Association (the charity representing users) with the Great South West Walk to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The money raised by this, provided match funding for our RDPE project and so helped 130 improvement projects to be completed.

All the individual elements of the project, from interpretation along the route to the major re-alignment of the Coast Path at Watermouth Cove in north Devon, which had been in the planning for a good ten years, combine to make the Coast Path more accessible and enjoyable for all and will ensure it remains one of the world’s greatest walks.

Looking forward to 2014 and beyond, I’ve been meeting with the Local Access Forums, users, and partner organisations to develop exciting plans to build on the legacy created by the Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage project, and continue to increase the economic, environmental and social benefits that the South West Coast Path can bring both to the region and the UK as a whole – so watch this space to find out more.

Happy New Year!
Mark Owen, National Trail Officer, South West Coast Path Team

Let us know what you’ve been up to on the Coast Path over Christmas and new year in the comments section below.