With 630 miles of uninterrupted footpaths, the South West Coast Path is the longest National Trail in England. It’s a path many of us are familiar with, at least certain parts, but who maintains it and how, is often not at the forefront of our thoughts.
We’re encouraging our community to get out and explore the coasts, telling us #WhereItTakesYou, but with this comes the duty to enjoy these incredible spaces responsibly. This is our playground. We must protect it.
From Minehead to Poole Harbour, Somerset to Dorset. Taking in 4 counties, and a whopping 630 miles of coastline, the South West Coast Path holds a special place in the hearts of many.
It is both familiar and ultimately unknowable. Coastal residents may know their local stretch of the path intimately, yet such is the scale of this continuous route that it is almost impossible to know every mile in this way. There is always a section of the coast path that will remain new and fresh, even to those who regularly visit this borderline between land and sea.
As such, it is a place where fresh adventures lie in wait around each bend in the coastline. A place where the comfort and security of dry land falls away into the sea. A rugged landscape, wrapped up in ancient myths and local legends. From medieval Kings, to sea monsters, to tales of tragic shipwrecks and daring rescues… the coastline in the south west is not short on stories to tell.
Maybe it’s this which attracts over 9 million visitors to tread the path each year. Or perhaps, it is the proximity to nature and the sea which the coast path affords. There is certainly something to be said for spending time near the sea, and recent studies have shown that time spent in natural environments, especially by the sea, have a drastic impact on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing.
Whatever the reasons, millions of people walk, run or hike the SWCP every year. With so many using this incredible natural resource, it’s important that walkers, hikers and other coast path users subscribe to one simple concept. Protect your playground. Whether that’s making sure you pick up after yourself (and others) or being careful not to damage or disturb the landscape, we all have a responsibility to maintain this incredible environment that brings us closer to nature. If you’re new to the coast, the Countryside Code is a great place to start educating yourself, but the idea is really pretty simple. Be respectful, responsible and leave no trace.
In fact, it’s important to bear in mind that these spaces are not actually 100% natural. They are maintained. And this is a good thing. Ever been down a section of coast path and thought, “This is getting a touch overgrown…”? Well, what you might not know is that the South West Coast Path Association is actually a registered charity, relying on donations to maintain the longest National Trail in the country. Whilst access to the coast path is free for all, each individual mile costs £1,400 per year to care for. From maintaining the footpaths to ensuring the safety of certain sections of the Trail (cliff falls and landslides are just two of the major dangers that can occur) the maintenance work carried out by the SWCP is essential so that we, the public, can continue to enjoy this space.
Every Mile Matters
This free-to-use natural space has the power to change and improve lives, and at the beginning of this year the charity launched their ‘Every Mile Matters’ campaign, aimed at shifting perspectives on the SWCP by demonstrating how each and every one of its 630 miles has true value at both a local and regional level. Through the campaign, they are connecting trail users and brands to try and raise £100,000 for the future of the path.
With Covid-19 creating an enormous funding gap for charities, they need your help now more than ever. And if this is a space you use (and enjoy) regularly, why not help provide for a place that provides us with so much?
Whether you donate or are just a touch more conscious the next time you step onto the path, please remember; this is our playground to protect.