Great Walk cash will help repair coast path
Walkers are being asked to take to the trail to support the weather-ravaged path around Cornwall's coast.
Record rainfall has caused the highest rate of cliff falls ever seen in one year along the South West Coast Path (SWCP).
The 630-mile route usually has two or three cliff falls each year, with a total of 11 in the past five years, but between November 2012 and mid-January 2013, there have been 21.
Four of these sections have been reopened with relatively minor diversions as a result of work by rangers and wardens and the co-operation of neighbouring landowners.
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But 17 longer diversions remain, where negotiations and surveys for re-routing are taking place and agreement will need to be reached with landowners for appropriate new routes, after which work is required to construct the new path.
There is uncertainty over how this will be funded, but the secretary of the South West Coast Path Association, Steve Church, said: "Celebrating our association's 40th anniversary this May, plans have been under way for many months to arrange the Great South West Walk, to raise sponsorship for projects along the coast path that will improve accessibility, ensuring it is safe to use all year round."
A target of £250,000 from funding bodies, corporate support and sponsorship from walkers has been set.
The National Trust and the Highway Authorities are also diverting funds to this work, but it may not be enough.
Steve explained: "Funding for the South West Coast Path, as a National Trail, is generally 75 per cent from Natural England (because of its national significance) and 25 per cent highway authorities/National Trust. Since 2009-10, funding from Natural England and the highway authorities has fallen by 30 per cent. While this fall is in line with NE's overall budget reduction over this period, it does mean there is minimal leeway to cover the unexpected costs of addressing the falls.
"Walkers using the South West Coast Path spend over £300 million a year with tourism and associated business, and so support thousands of jobs. The path also generates other benefits such as improvements to health, access to some of the country's finest landscapes and use as a medium for sponsored walks by a range of charities.
"It also brings kudos nationally, being consistently rated among the world's greatest walks (most recently by Lonely Planet in 2012)."
All of this is in jeopardy if a rapid programme of repairs cannot be undertaken. This situation, however, can be remedied if all partners play their part and the public lend a hand – or a foot.
The South West Coast Path Association's Great South West Walk takes place in April and May with a relay of 56 sponsored walks to cover the whole 630-mile path around Dorset, Devon and Cornwall and the Exmoor coast through Somerset.
Each leg will be guided by local experts, rangers and path wardens. Participants must register by Monday, March 4.
For more information about the event, visit www.GreatSouthWestWalk.co.uk or ring 01752 896237. You can also follow the event on Twitter @LoveSWCoastPath.