After years of planning, the England Coast Path is close to completion, which is a fantastic achievement and will include sections through Merseyside and Cumbria.
A few years ago, on a project in southern Africa, by chance I met a colleague whose coastal exploits I’d heard a lot about. Over a number of years, he’d been walking the coastline of the UK, which seemed a great adventure and a fantastic thing to do.
Seeing the attraction of doing this, not long after I cycled the length of the Cumbrian coastline, which was really interesting although of course on a much smaller scale.
One of the challenges in any such trip is gaining access to the shoreline, so for walkers hoping to do something similar, and day trippers too, the England Coast Path is a great new development.
Stretching for about 2,800 miles, it will be the longest coastal trail in the world and one of the most varied, taking in cliffs, estuaries, nature reserves, seaside resorts, remote beaches, cities and more. It is being implemented in stages and includes several existing coastal trails, such as the South West Coast Path, with improvements to signage, access and footpaths as required.
Two sections of particular interest to me are those through Merseyside and Cumbria so I thought I’d take a quick look at current progress.
England Coast Path in Merseyside
Along the coast, Merseyside extends from Wirral to the Mersey Estuary and then up the Sefton Coast to Southport. There are already some superb coastal walks in this area such as along the north Wirral coast and past the Another Place statues at Crosby Beach.
The Dee Estuary is also famed for its birdlife and other highlights include Liverpool’s spectacular waterfront and the seaside resorts of New Brighton and Southport.
For planning, the England Coast Path is divided into sections and, in the western part of Merseyside, the Birkenhead to Welsh border section is currently under development. This includes the Wirral shores of the Dee Estuary, north Wirral and the promenade from New Brighton to Seacombe.
To the northeast, the Cleveleys to Pier Head, Liverpool section begins to the north of Blackpool, and detailed proposals have been submitted.
England Coast Path in Cumbria
The Cumbrian section of the coast path will stretch from the coast near Silverdale, at the border with Lancashire, to Gretna on the Scottish border.
There are five sections of which two are complete, from Allonby to Whitehaven and around Walney Island, with the rest at various stages of planning. Some highlights of the Allonby to Whitehaven section include:
- Roman influences – the remains of Roman coastal forts near Crosscanonby and at the fabulous Senhouse Roman Museum in Maryport
- Museums – Maryport Maritime Museum and the Rum Story and Beacon museums in Whitehaven
- Historic ports and harbours – at Maryport, Workington, Harrington and Whitehaven
- Wide sandy beaches – from Maryport to the Victorian seaside resort at Allonby
In contrast, Walney Island is perhaps best known for its two nature reserves, which include spectacular coastal birdlife and Cumbria’s only seal population. Other highlights include great views inland towards medieval Piel Castle and the Lake District fells, with even Blackpool visible on a clear day, and remote beaches on its western shores.
The England Coast Path is being implemented by Natural England and the www.gov.uk website gives information on current progress. The first section was opened in 2012, at Weymouth Bay in southern England, and the whole route should be open in the next couple of years, including the sections in Merseyside and Cumbria.
The National Trails website describes places to visit on the open sections. The day-by-day accounts kept by coastal walkers are another great resource and this type of blogging has become increasingly popular in recent years. Ruth’s Coastal Walk is a nice example with links to many more.
A superb book, the England Coast Path, by Stephen Neale, gives insights into the hard work that has gone into creating the route with numerous suggestions for places to visit along the way.
Two more books on the coastline
Mersey Estuary If you’d like to know more about the Mersey Estuary, my book The Mersey Estuary: A Travel Guide describes places to visit around the estuary, walks and cycle routes, and its history, environment and wildlife. It is available from most bookstores and as an ebook; see www.troubador.co.uk for more information.
The Cumbria and Lake District Coast More recently I’ve published a book on the Cumbrian coast also featuring places to visit and the history and wildlife of the area. It includes the Lancashire shores of Morecambe Bay and the Dumfries & Galloway shores of the Solway Firth. If that sounds interesting you can read more about it at this webpage.