£277K investment to fix ‘missing link’ in Coast Path ensures safety of Devon walkers

Walkers who were previously forced to use a dangerous section of the A399 between Combe Martin and Ilfracombe in North Devon to avoid high tides at Watermouth can now look forward to continuing along the Coast Path in safety, thanks to work as part  the South West Coast Path team’s ‘Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ project.

At a cost of £277,000, the long-awaited improvement to the coast path at Watermouth, which was officially opened today, represents the biggest single investment out of the entire ‘Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ project. The project is supported by a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England with additional funds provided by Devon County Council and the South West Coast Path Association.

Says Mark Owen from the South West Coast Path team: “By moving the trail off-road and re-aligning the A399 further into the hillside to provide space for a footpath on the seaward side, walkers can now walk safely regardless of the level of the tide. The great work achieved at Watermouth Bay has shown what a great partnership of public and private working together can do. By improving the sight lines and drainage, the work has also made the route safer for drivers.”

The missing link at Watermouth is just one of 250 path improvements carried out in the past three years at an overall cost of £925,000, the majority of which have been small-scale path improvements costing under £10,000. These include projects to re-align the path onto a more scenic, or safer route, improved drainage on muddy sections making it less vulnerable to extreme rainfall and therefore more usable throughout the year, new and replacement steps, levelling and surface improvements, as well as stepping stones over boggy areas and new bridges. In addition, approximately 120 projects were also funded with sponsorship raised through the Great South West Walk, some of which were the result of cliff falls caused by the wet weather of 2012 and required emergency funding from Natural England.

These improvement projects represent some of the key aims of the overall £2.1m investment through the Unlocking our Coastal Heritage project. Research suggests that usage rates on footpaths are severely affected by proximity to traffic; in particular the “casual” walker will be put off by a negative experience of walking a stretch of the Coast Path that is “on road”. Under Strand 2 of the project, route improvements have been made at three sites to improve the walkers’ experience, and also their safety, so encouraging repeat visits and benefiting local businesses.

Steve Church from the South West Coast Path Association said: “It is great that walkers can at last enjoy this great stretch of Coast Path without having to worry about the tide or risk walking on the busy road. This is our largest ever contribution to a Coast Path improvement project and has been worth every penny to ensure walkers’ safety and pleasure for many years to come.”

For more information about the Unlocking our Coastal Heritage project and the four strands that are designed to conserve, enhance and interpret the Coast Path, visit

Pictured above (from left to right) -

Martin Caddy, Field Officer, North Devon AONB and Biosphere Service, Rob Vincent from MacPlant Construction Ltd, Simon Hill, Principal Engineer, Engineer Design Group, Andrea Davis, Devon County Councillor for Combe Martin Rural, Bryan Cath, South West Coast Path Association Area Representative for North Devon and Exmoor and Dave Edgcombe, Projects Manager, North Devon AONB and Biosphere Service.


Published on: Dec. 5, 2013