2023 is a landmark year for lovers of all things coastal. SHARON GOBLE takes to the England Coast Path to discover more, and share the coastal activities and events on offer near you.
I’m donning my walking gear to celebrate the Year of the Coast – a campaign to highlight the fantastic natural resource of our island nation, where no one lives more than 85 miles from the sea. Making people more aware of the events and activities on offer at the shores closest to them is part and parcel of this year-long promotion of all things coastal.
I’m meeting Neil Constable from Natural England on a walk between Kilve Beach and St Audries Bay, part of a new 13-mile section of the England Coast Path, joining the existing trail with the long-established South West Coast Path at Minehead. Until recently, walkers had to head inland at this point, missing out on uninterrupted views across the Severn Estuary to the Welsh coastline (a smudge in the distance today).
Natural England is working on England’s entire coastal route, and Neil is the person in charge of joining up the ‘missing links’ to create a national treasure that everyone can enjoy. It’s a mammoth undertaking. On this stretch alone, Natural England has worked with North Somerset Council, Somerset Council, Wessex Water, the Environment Agency, local landowners and many other local partners to make the new route happen.
Neil tells me: “We’ve now, in effect, completed our proposals for all bar 16 miles of what will be a 2,700-mile managed coastal path. To date, we’ve engaged with over 25,000 owners and occupiers; just 2.4 per cent have raised objections. The team working on this has been brilliant. We all want the path to be a success and a great opportunity too.”
The completed path will allow the public to experience new walks as close to the coast as possible and link some places for the first time. Importantly, it will also include access rights allowing the route to ‘roll back’ if the coastline erodes, shifts or slips, solving the long-standing difficulties of maintaining a continuous coastal footpath.
Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England, sums up why this ambitious scheme is so important: “The English coast features some of our most dynamic and stunning landscapes, where marshlands, grasslands and hidden coves along the shoreline are teeming with precious wildlife including insects, birds and fish.
“The England Coast Path also showcases the past and present of our coastal heritage, passing through rural seaside towns and providing a boost to the local economy. Once complete, large parts will be accessible via public transport and walkable in all weathers by people of different abilities, providing fabulous opportunities to enjoy the benefits of spending time outdoors and connecting with nature.”
Ready to get on your walking boots?
ENGLAND COAST PATH: RECENT STEPS
794 miles of England Coast Path with new access rights are already open. New sections include:
- Nearly 52 miles of continuous walking on the banks of the Solent: Calshot to Gosport and Gosport to Portsmouth were the first complete stretches to open in Hampshire.
- A 47-mile stretch from Grain in Kent to Woolwich connecting the sea and the Thames Estuary to central London for the first time – the new route links up with the existing Thames Path to create a continuous ‘source to sea’ trail the length of the river.
- 85 miles in Essex from Tilbury to Wallasea Island via Southend-on-Sea, taking in varied landscapes of saltmarsh and vast grasslands.
- 29 miles on the north Kent Coast from Whitstable to Iwade, taking in rich habitats of salt marsh and mud flats that support huge colonies of overwintering birds.
- 11 miles of new trail in Cumbria, taking in parts of the Lake District National Park and Duddon Estuary.
YEAR OF THE COAST HIGHLIGHTS
The water’s edge is always brimming with events, from festivals to food markets and walking trails to water sports. 2023 highlights include:
- An exciting new launch for Cumbria – ‘The Edge’ is a new coastal activity centre, set to open in July at Whitehaven, the coastal gateway to the Lakes. The cutting-edge venue will provide water sports, recreational, arts and activity facilities, alongside a community and educational centre.
- See the coastline come to life at the annual Bridlington Kite Festival in May. Watch kites of all shapes and sizes, including some of the world’s largest inflatable kites, paint the skies with splashes of colour above the cliffs of the East Yorkshire coast.
- Hop across to the Isle of Wight. August will see Shanklin Town Regatta celebrating 170 years. This event brings townsfolk and visitors together for a day full of entertainment.
- Head to the south coast, where the seaside town of Worthing in West Sussex will buzz with PRIDE over two days in early July – celebrating diversity, equality and inclusivity. The vibrant programme includes live music, amazing artists, great food and drink and wonderful parades and costumes to rival nearby Brighton’s.
Looking for more ideas for some fun coastal activities on the coast this year? Check out the latest things to do!