The Ramblers have welcomed news that Natural England have started work to turn the coast to coast path across northern England into an accessible national trail .
Natural England have announced they will work with the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and the Lake District national parks as well as relevant councils and the Wainwright Society to develop a feasibility study that will lead to the creation of a fully accessible trail.
The plans come on the back of the Government’s National Disability Strategy - launched last week – which sees new initiatives to improve the lives of disabled people. This includes confirmation that Natural England will carry out a full audit of the existing route and assess any improvements that may be needed to bring it up to National Trail Quality Standards. The work to develop this proposal will be taking place over the course of this year with a view to presenting a formal proposal early in Spring 2022.
The proposals follow the independent review led by Julian Glover which called for action to make our protected landscapes greener, more beautiful and open to everyone and bring national trails into the national landscapes family. The Ramblers have previously urged the Government to increase the ambition, scale and urgency of its response to this review, if the benefits of walking in nature are to be extended to everyone. The government is expected to respond to the review’s recommendations in full later this year.
Alison Hallas, Ramblers Policy and Advocacy Officer, said: “COVID-19 and lockdown have shown just how important it is that everyone can connect with nature – whatever their background and wherever they live. An accessible national trail that links three national parks and communities across the north, as well as connecting to the new England Coast Path, will be a fantastic addition to our footpath network.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to fund maintenance of the trail and to ensure it is more accessible to disabled people. However, it is vital the Government also ensures that all our national trails receive the support and funding stability they need, and the value of our path network is fully recognised in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.”