A footpath round Britain’s coast?

BBC NEWS | UK | Coastal access law changes

Rounding the British coast is popular right now; Hilary Lister did it in her little sip-and-puff sailboat, the BBC keeps doing it to make one series of Coast after another (unless they’re repeats), and now that a footpath is being planned round the whole coast, the rest of us will soon be able to do it on foot.

This video raises one of the problems - that parts of the coast are covered by marshes, which are submerged at high tide and thus dangerous, and are also environmentally sensitive as bird habitats. Get any Ordnance Survey map of some coastal areas of the north-west and you’ll see messages saying “public rights of way across such-and-such sands can be dangerous; seek local advice”, because at high tide, those rights of way are under the water.

The other, not raised in the video, is that some of the footpaths, although they officially exist, are so badly eroded that they are impassable or barely passable. While at Aberystwyth I walked along the coast path from Aber to Borth, where two of my friends lived, and while the section from Aber to Clarach Bay was in good shape, the section north of there was in places really dangerous and, unless it’s had some serious TLC, it probably no longer exists. There are long river estuaries, and paths along some of them (e.g. the banks of the Deben in Suffolk between Martlesham and Waldringfield), although supposedly open to the public, are breached.

Building or repairing footpaths along spectacular bits of the coast will not be controversial or expensive; how long will they take to repair paths along lengthy, desolate estuaries in unglamorous parts of the country?

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