Cape Cornwall on the Cornish Coastal Path | John Millen
Walkers like you and us have the pleasure of walking the South West Coast Path partly because of the efforts of charity organisations like the South West Coast Path Association. We spoke to the Director of The South West Coast Path Association, Esther Pearson, on the work that they do.
When was the South West Coast Path Association established?
The Association was formed at a public meeting in 1973 and registered as a charity in 1974 and we were mainly engaged in campaigning for a complete Coast Path in the early years. Our mantra was to ‘have one foot in the sea at all times’ but was really about getting the South West Coast Path all connected and as close to those great sea views as possible. Today we still campaign for further funding for essential repair and improvement projects and continue with our main aim of protecting and promoting the South West Coast Path.
The Path stretches 630 miles and is the longest in England, what else makes it special?
The South West Coast Path is unique as a trail in so many ways, it passes through such varied scenery, taking in four beautiful and very different counties. It was originally created by coastguards, patrolling the peninsula looking out for smugglers, and there is so much history to discover along the route. 70% of the Path travels through protected landscapes which helps to ensure the beautiful landscape is kept safe from excessive development.
If people have just 3 days to walk, which part of the path should they choose?
I am biased because I love where I live at South Milton and often walk the stunning sections of the Path around there in South Devon. But a great three-day walk can be found starting from Falmouth to Par, taking in the lush Roseland Peninsula and a series of picturesque fishing ports. You start your walk by taking a seasonal ferry from the lovely St Mawes to Place, then continue with a mix of strenuous climbs and easy strolls to the popular and historic harbour town of Mevagissey, finishing at the beautiful beach at Par. I am really looking to revisiting this section during the Challenge month when we will be walking with Alex Polizzi.
© Thomas Tolkien
We heard there can be heavy winds on the path?
We do advise to try to plan your walk to take place in good weather, however it is wise to check the forecast before setting out on the Coast Path and always be careful. The wild and untamed nature of the Coast is one of the reasons why around 8.7 million people visit the Coast Path every year. You can find useful tips about staying safe on the website of the South West Coast Path Association.
What achievement of the association are you proudest of?
Launching the charity’s first ever public appeal led to achieving the Coastal Communities Funding and being able to complete long awaited projects to improve and repair the Path. This has been a real highlight of the last few years. I am also proud to have been involved with opening the section of the Path at Strete in Devon. It was a culmination of over forty years of campaigning and lobbying to take the route off a busy road and to reveal never before seen views of some of Devon’s finest coastline.
And what is next on the association’s list regarding preservation?
There are projects funded by the Coastal Communities Fund planned for Summer 2017, including 40 replacement Fingerposts across Cornwall, Kissing Gates at Nare Head, a replacement footbridge at Kynance Cove and an important replacement bridge at Silvermine Bridge. You can see some of the projects we have completed. Our Area and Path Representatives report on their sections of the South West Coast Path and identify where new projects are needed to keep the Path in great condition for all walkers and cyclists to enjoy.
Finally, have you walked the complete path from Poole to Minehead yourself?
I’ve walked lots of sections over the years but not all of it yet. Although I have the intention of one day having walked every section of the South West Coast Path in order! I have managed to walk in some beautiful locations and during The Challenge last October I walked from Durlston Country Park to the finish point of the Path at South Haven Point and can thoroughly recommend that others join us for the spectacular views of Old Harry Rocks this year!
>> View all of our South West Coastal Path tours in Cornwall here.