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Possible Route Changes on Exmoor - What do you think?
2:13pm Thursday 30th March 2006 in South West Coast Path
Mark Owen Coast Path Development Officer.
The strap line on Coast Path publicity material is 'the ever-present sense of the sea', but when walking our spectacular and beautiful coastline in some locations it is difficult to judge which of two (or more) coastal paths best provides this. Which is better; a path with wide-ranging views along the coast, but too far inland to hear the waves crashing below, or a path that closely hugs the coastline but has only limited views? The answer will of course depend on the quality of the views from each, but unless one route has either a particularly spectacular feature or an eyesore can't be seen from the other, deciding which is 'best' is going to be down to personal taste. The nature of the path itself may also be a consideration, and again this is an area where judgements can be subjective.
On several locations on Exmoor, in addition to the official 'Coast Path' for many years there have been 'alternative coast path' routes described in the guidebooks. The Coast Path Teamis now looking at two of these to see whether it would be better for walkers if we switched them round. The current Coast Path would then become the alternative route while the alternative would become the Coast Path. To help decide whether this should be done, we would welcome your views on any or all of the following proposals to feed into the formal consultation process.
The first of these is right at the start of the National Trail at Minehead. Currently the Coast Path leaves the seafront at the Coast Path marker and heads inland up the 'donkey track' climbing steeply before joining a bridleway that ascends more gently towards the summit of North Hill. The fact that this route offers only very limited glimpses (and no sound) of the sea makes for a rather odd start to a National Trail that owes its identity to being coastal! This may be particularly important for people planning to walk the entire Path, especially if they aren't local. The proposed change would therefore see the Coast Path continuing along the seafront, past the harbour and along public footpaths to Greenaleigh Farm before ascending a track through the woods to rejoin the existing route.
The second location is between Culbone and Yenworthy Wood, a few miles west of Porlock Weir. The Coast Path currently runs climbs out of Culbone Woods and along a track to Silcombe Farm and continues along a green lane to Broomstreet Farm, before descending back into the woods below Sugarloaf Hill. The alternative route follows a more level permissive path through the Exmoor National Park-owned Culbone Woods.
At a third location on Exmoor I feel that a route change is certainly needed. Between Porlock and Bossington the official route remains along the shingle ridge, although this was breached by storms in 1996. This has brought great wildlife benefits by creating a new area of salt marsh ( a nationally rare habitat), but at the same time made the official route along the now broken ridge unsafe. The Coast Path was therefore initially diverted, taking a route through Porlock Village and inland of the A39 through woodland to Porlock Weir. Since 2002 yet another alternative route has been in use that runs close to the new high tide mark on Porlock Marsh, but at the eastern end diverts inland during the bird-nesting season each year. The proposed new route would largely follow the 'marsh' route described above but avoid the section that is seasonally closed to protect nesting birds, and so be available to walkers all-year round.
In each of the three cases, each of the path alternatives would still remain available, but because the official route of the Coast Path would be different, the way in which they are signed would change.
In each of these three cases, each of the path alternatives would still remain available, but because the official route of the Coast Path would be different, the way in which they are signed would change.
So if you fancy a day out on the Exmoor coast in the next few weeks why not use the current Coast Path and the proposed new route to do a circular walk? You can find all the details of the proposals (with maps) in the Path News section of our official South West Coast Path website. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone or mail if you would like us to send you the information. When you've done the walk, do tell us which alternative you would prefer to be the official Coast Path and why.