Expanding coastal access in Wales

Rebecca Brough, policy and advocacy manager for Ramblers Cymru, looks at the success of the Wales Coast Path and the opportunity this summer to extend access to coast and cliffs

I am a coastal creature – born in one seaside city, raised in another and now working in a third!

The Welsh coast has always been a visible and vital part of my life.  For me, summer at the Welsh coast is always a time of excitement, exploration, activity and of course just a little drizzle.  But this year the coast has something else washing up against its proverbial shores – the exciting promise of more access rights.  As Ramblers toast the coast this month to celebrate the announcement that Natural England have started work on all stretches of the England Coast Path, the Welsh Government have launched their ‘Taking Forward Wales’ consultation. It is a timely reminder of both how far we’ve come, and the distance left to travel to ensure Wales is a world-class walking country.

Rebecca and her daughter looking at the camera with a beach in the background

Before looking at the future being suggested, it’s impossible not to give the Welsh Coast Path its due as the pioneer it is. Back in 2012, with its development actively supported by Ramblers Cymru, the Wales Coast Path opened up new walking experiences, and brought global recognition and financial reward for Wales’ tourism business.  As the first continuous path around a nation’s coastline anywhere in the world, it set the benchmark and the vision for others to follow – and of course, with the England Coast Path on track to open in 2020, they now are.

A dog sitting on a beach with the shadows of two people stretching alongside it

With the England Coast Path hot on our heels, Wales needs to keep moving forward, and so back to the opportunity presented this summer. Welsh Government is consulting on plans to amend the Countryside and Rights of Way Act to extend Open Access land to include coast and cliffs. This is something which the Wales Coast path, being a linear path, didn’t bring about. Guaranteeing access to the foreshore and cliff line is a great opportunity to put that right and to take us close to the full freedom to roam we would like to see in Wales. We are calling on walkers from across the UK to welcome this proposal by sending a letter to Welsh government, supporting coastal access in Wales. Please add your voice to this call by responding to the consultation using our draft letter, then get outside and head to the beach!

p.s. The consultation also contains proposals we aren’t so keen on – such as a blanket conversion of footpaths to bridleways – but that’s for another blog… You can read more about it here.