South West Coast Path National Trail – www.southwestcoastpath.com – has been voted the best British walking route by Walk magazine for the second time in a row and the timing couldn’t be more apt. In the past months, the UK has suffered some of the most severe weather ever to hit these shores and the South West has taken the biggest battering.
Those images of wild storms sweeping the south-west earlier this year were a reminder that you don’t need to be on exposed mountain tops to need the benefit of a top performing layered clothing system that offers comfort, protection and flexibility. Combining a good thermal baselayer, such as a Sub Zero Factor 1 Plus, with an insulating mid layer and an outer for weather protection is the answer; not forgetting a hat and gloves.
What the award and the weather have highlighted is just how well-managed the coastline is for walkers. Mark Owen, the National Trail Officer for the South West Coast Path, said,
“The storms have put enormous pressure on those that maintain the Coast Path on a day to day basis with the Highways Agencies and National Trust coastal rangers out in force trying to keep the Coast Path accessible wherever possible – and they’re doing a fantastic job!”
“Relatively few areas have had to close and where there are problems that can’t be solved immediately, due to a landslide or unstable cliffs, short diversions have been put in place to re-route walkers along an alternative public right of way. While walkers need to take care when walking along the more rural routes that are harder to reach and may take longer to repair, the majority is still safe, especially in the more urban areas.”
The award was voted for by readers of the magazine, published by the Ramblers’ Association, and the editor Dominic Bates agrees that it was a well-deserved win, “With management of national trails now devolved to local trail partnerships and cutbacks beginning to bite, the organisations behind the South West Coast Path have been hugely successful at raising money through public and private funds to invest in improvement projects along the route. It’s proof positive of the public’s appetite for coastal walking and will be grist to the mill for our continuing campaign to get the England Coast Path completed.”
If you’re planning to walk more than a couple of miles along the SWCP, then it pays to be prepared. Whilst not an expedition, the ups and downs of the route plus its remote sections mean that you should be packing your rucksack carefully. A map and guidebook are useful for reasons beyond navigation – transport, food, drink, local interest, for instance. When wet, walking on sections of the path can be demanding so decent footwear is important, particularly socks – pack a spare pair.
Though well populated with pubs and cafes, carrying some food and drink is a sensible precaution. Anyway, you may prefer to avoid the hurly burly on a quiet headland. A first aid kit for tackling scrapes and blisters plus sunscreen (sea breezes can disguise the power of the sun). The sea-breeze can easily mask the strength of the sun, and if the weather is bright and you don’t want to end up pink and sore at the end of the day, don’t forget to slap on some sun screen.
Photo credit: Richard Taylor