Despite being announced in 2008 the England Coast Path still only has one section officially open and that was just over twelve months ago between Portland and Lulworth Cove in Dorset, (including Dancing Ledge shown below). Apart from some sections moving closer to the sea and avoiding some road sections this was already part of the well established South West Coast Path.
The new Wales Coast Path launched in May 2012 provides a continuous 850-mile walking route around the country’s entire seaboard. Of course, at more than three times as long, it’s English counterpart was always going to be a challenging project, especially when around 34% or 921 miles of it currently contains no satisfactory, legally secure path. Now with the uncertainty over it ever being completed due to Government cutbacks, it is pleasing to see that an additional ten sections are now in the planning stage including extending the Dorset section as well as others in the North West, North East, South West, South East and East of England. Fortunately some of the sections I have walked and photographed already so to give a flavour of what you can see I have picked out some of the interesting and contrasting landscapes.
First I thought we would take a look at one of the North East sections between Filey and Hartlepool and one that I visited just twelve months ago. On this section is Hayburn Wyke a hidden cove washed by the North Sea and backed by dense woodland through which tumble attractive streams. The word ‘Wyke’ is said to have a Scandinavian connection and denotes a narrow coastal inlet or bay. This is certainly the case along the Yorkshire coast where Hayburn Wyke; Cloughton Wyke and Blea Wyke all conform to that pattern. A steep-sided wooded valley carries a clear stream to an attractive waterfall which plunges over a sandstone outcrop onto the shore.
Moving South down the East coast one of the next sections is just North of Great Yarmouth where I have chosen the area of Winterton-on-Sea. The coastline here has historically been well known as one of the most hazardous parts of the British coastline due to shifting sandbanks. On visiting in 1722 Daniel Defoe remarked on all the houses of the village being made from the timbers of wrecked ships. In the late eighteenth century, marram grass was planted to stabilise the coastline against sea encroachments and by the early nineteenth century, there was a barrier of dunes. Over the second half of the 20th century, the coastline has changed significantly, resulting in some loss of the dunes. Erosion and flooding are potential risks to the village and the Winterton Dunes; as the area is mostly situated at approximately sea level.
Before moving to the West coast we visit the extreme South East corner and the fascinating landscape of Dungeness. Dungeness is at the end of a mile and a half shingle promontory, between New Romney, Lydd and Camber on Romney Marsh. The Dungeness Estate is privately owned, and whoever originally decided to purchase it was obviously a genius, as it has to be one of the best investments ever. Each year more and more shingle is deposited on the shore, so Dungeness, unlike a great deal of the rest of the coast, is actually getting bigger.
And finally, we visit the Somerset coast and the section between Weston Super Mare and Minehead. Here I have chosen the coastline near the village of Kilve. Kilve lies within the Quantock Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along this coast, the cliffs are layered with compressed strata of oil-bearing shale and blue, yellow and brown lias embedded with fossils. The sea is steadily wearing away the coastline and the cliffs are crumbling and dangerous, but it is possible to walk along the cliff to Quantoxhead.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of the landscapes on the England Coast Path and I will try to bring you more in the future as the new sections are announced.