Sunday, 6 September 2009

Claiming back our coastline

Fancy a stroll around the coastline of Britain this autumn? That's a mere 2,784 miles if you do. But, if you set out from the Northwest, then you might not get very far.

In a report published by Natural England, an advisory body to the government on the natural environment over the summer, the Northwest faired particularly badly.

Only 44% of the Northwest coastline is accessible - that's 184 miles. But 237 miles of British coastline is not accessible. This reflects industrial use on Merseyside and along the west coast of Cumbria.

No one in England lives more than 70 miles from the sea but, in the Northwest, you're unlikely to walk for more than a few miles before finding the path blocked off.

The coastal access map was drawn up for the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which is expected to become law when it passes through Parliament in November.

The Natural England audit forms part of an effort to make England's coastline accessible to walkers. Separate projects operate in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The idea of forming a complete ring around the coast dates back to the 18th century but has been revived in recent years by the ramblers seeking the right to roam.

The 53 councils involved in the mapping project have backed the idea of increased access, doubtless tempted by extra tourism revenues.

But landowners in some parts of the country have criticised the bill, while military installations and industry oppose the right to roam.

Even The Queen is involved. The Times reports that HRH is likely to be one the first landowners to open up private land on her North Norfolk Sandringham estate for ramblers.

Dr Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, said: “The news that the public lack full access to nearly 1000 miles of coastline is a sobering reminder of how much is at stake in the Marine & Coastal Access Bill."

Do we want to reclaim our coastline in the Northwest? I'll be discussing this topic with Duncan Barkes on City Talk Breakfast this Tuesday from 7.45am. Post your comments below and I'll put them on air.


  1. I was just thinking about those brave folk who did the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the '30s(?) and how we owe them a lot. We need to keep safe-guarding our right to roam - it's important to retain a connection to the landscape and the natural world. And as a "maritime nation" you'd think we'd be able to get down to the sea!

  2. Too right. Thanks for your comment Celia. What do other people think? David