What we do

The South West Coast Path Association (SWCPA) is a charity that has been caring for the South West Coast Path since it was first created in 1973.

What kind of work do we fund and deliver?

  • We champion: we are a voice for the Trail and the communities which it connects at local, regional and national levels.
  • We empower: Trail-users by providing the detailed information they need to explore safely and enjoyably whilst also introducing less-confident groups to the Path in local group sessions.
  • We restore: the Trail after storm and extreme weather events which cause land slips and cliff falls.
  • We improve: routes, infrastructure and surfacing to elevate the overall experience of the Path.
  • We build resilience: we are working with partners to develop future-proofing plans for the Trail.

Our History

Throughout the 1970s we actively campaigned for a completion of the full National Trail, of which only a few sections had been opened at the time. Our voices were heard and during this decade we celebrated with four official Path section openings, with the final section through Somerset & North Devon being completed in 1978.   

During the 1980s, with the full route established, we turned our attention to making improvements. We recorded all the essential work that needed done to make this a true long-distance walking path and communicated this to the Countryside Commission.

It was at this time that we were also fighting to protect the integrity South West Coast Path. In 1987 we opposed plans for a large development adjacent to the footpath in Bude. In the same year we attended a Branscombe Public Enquiry to show our support for the community’s request for a true Coast Path through the village. In 1989 we rallied against the Royal Navy’s proposal to erect locked gates across the route at Wembury. 

By the 1990s the SWCPA came of age. We’d developed a standing with local authorities, partners like the National Trust and with a growing membership behind us, we were able to take a more strategic role in management of the trail.

Then in 1998, the year of our Silver Jubilee we took the full step towards becoming the charity we are today. We fundraised for markers to be set up at the beginning and end of the SWCP. Markers that still stand today and are visited by millions of people who journey to the south west to start their own coastal pilgrimage. 

In the early 2000s, it was our growing membership that helped change our course forever. With the income we received from membership fees, we were able to invest £30,000 to fund improvement works for the first time ever. The signature change we made was in North Devon where we moved the SWCP off a busy section of road at Watermouth. We continued to champion the Path securing a more coastal route for a section on Exmoor, negotiating a permissive path with the MoD at Tregantle Cliff and realignments at Thatcher Point.

In 2014, we were put to the test. Severe storms hit the south coast of Devon, leaving the Coast Path in urgent need of repair. We were successful in bidding for a Coastal Communities Fund, securing £1 million to start work right away. We helped to repair steps down to beaches that had been washed away, reinstall feeder footpaths that allowed you to access the coast and input steps, signage, bridges and gates where these had been damaged.