Volunteers and rangers join forces to protect the Coast Path

On a beautifully sunny day in Abbotsbury, Dorset, a string of walkers are heading off on the South West Coast
Path. A normal sight on many summer days, but what is unusual about this 50-strong group is that they are here for business rather than leisure, as part of a Volunteer Day organised by the South West Coast Path Association.

It was one of a series of meetings held over the past week, where volunteers were invited to join forces with local rangers who maintain the Coast Path on behalf of the National Trust and Local Authorities. Together, they mapped out a series of route improvements.

As a charity, the Association relies on its volunteers to support its great work to promote and protect the South West Coast Path. Along with a 12-strong team of Trustees, the volunteer Path Representatives walk the length of the 630-mile national trail between them every year and each provide a detailed survey of around a 5 or 10-mile stretch.

This helps Mark Owen, the South West Coast Path’s National Trail Officer, to coordinate work required along the length of the Path with all the local rangers. This includes identifying where fingerpost signs need replacing, noting erosion levels of the surfaces and whether new steps are needed up a steep stretch.

He said:

“This volunteer day has provided a unique opportunity for volunteers and rangers to work together to help maintain the best possible experience for walkers along the Coast Path. It’s been wonderful to walk together and share our ideas.”

The meeting on the Coast Path in Dorset helped volunteers and rangers to identify areas for improvement with over 15 new projects put forward that now require funding. This is where the Association steps in to help.

The job of maintaining the Coast Path has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to a 30% cut in government funding since 2010 and further cuts are expected in future.

Esther Pearson, Director of the Association, spoke about the charity’s focus on fundraising to help plug the funding deficit. The ways in which people can help support its mission is by joining the Association as members, offering to volunteer, as well as supporting particular projects close to where they live or on a stretch that holds lots of happy memories for them.

Over the past week, volunteer Path Reps have attended meet-ups with rangers on the Lizard in Cornwall and at Morthoe in Devon, where they also heard from Natural England about the national plans for the roll out of the England Coast Path to be completed by 2020. Survey data supplied by volunteers is helping to inform the planning and implementation of this new route, which takes in the length of the South West Coast Path.

On the Lizard, plans for Dean Quarry were discussed and reasons why the Association has objected to a recent planning application were explained by Paul Rabbeth, the volunteer Path Rep for this stretch.

At Morthoe, volunteers heard about the work carried out by rangers to restore steps down to Rockham beach, thanks to funding provided by the Association.

To find out more about supporting the Path please contact the South West Coast Path Association on 01752 896237 or email [email protected]


Published on: June 6, 2017