Walkers can enjoy 66 miles of new and improved National Trail with the launch of the first stretch of the England Coast Path in Kent and East Sussex today.
The continuous route between Camber and Ramsgate is the first section of the England Coast Path to open in the south east of England.
It gives unbridled views of coastline, including the iconic White Cliffs and the unique areas of Dungeness and Pegwell Bay, popular for bird watching, their landscape and their summer flowers.
Natural England is currently establishing a 2,700-mile path around the entire English coastline by 2020 and work is already under way on 60 per cent of the route.
When completed, it will be the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world. It will also become a National Trail – the nation’s finest and most popular long-distance paths.
Speaking at the National Trust’s White Cliffs centre, the Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, said: “I am delighted to be here for the formal opening of this 66-mile section of the England Coast Path – the most significant rights of way project for a generation.
“This beautiful and iconic stretch will allow walkers to enjoy amazing views, fabulous wildlife and places with significant cultural and historical value – all from a high-quality footpath. It will also connect coastal communities and encourage walkers to visit more of the coast, bringing an added economic boost to the region.”
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, said: “We are a proud partner in Natural England’s England Coast Path. The path represents one of the biggest steps forward for countryside and coastal access in a generation, making space for nature and people around our shores.
“The coast path offers the chance to create a corridor for wildlife habitats to recover and thrive, while allowing people to experience natural heritage at first hand.
Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “We have already opened up miles of coastal paths across the country, allowing thousands of people to explore and enjoy our spectacular coastline.
“The White Cliffs of Dover are one of our country’s most iconic and instantly recognisable landmarks, and with none of us living further than 75 miles from the sea – many much closer – opening this path will allow more people than ever before to experience this national treasure first-hand.”
The route provides a link between communities and towns along the coast including Camber and Lydd, Greatstone and Hythe and Deal and Sandwich.
It includes areas of great heritage: from the supposed landing site of Caesar at Walmer to embarkation points on the River Stour at Richborough used by soldiers and horses in the First World War; and from Napoleonic Martello towers dotted along the coast near Dymchurch to extensive Second World War defences at Dover, such as Winston Churchill’s tunnels inside the cliffs at Fan Bay.
Three miles of new path have also been created at Sandwich, giving access around the peninsula for the first time.
Walkers can enjoy new views along the River Stour across Pegwell Bay towards the cliffs at Ramsgate and overlook the wonderful National Nature Reserve of Sandwich and Pegwell Bay.
Cross-channel visitors will be able to step off the ferry at Dover or Ramsgate and straight onto the England Coast Path.
According to Visit Kent, access to the coast and its natural and cultural attractions generates a significant part of the county’s £3.4 billion tourism industry.
Natural England has worked closely with Kent County Council and East Sussex County Council, who have made the path ready to open today.
Clive Pearman, Kent County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said: “The opening of this section of the coastal path will give local residents and visitors alike the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, with its stunning views and scenery, and the unique wildlife, in its many forms, which frequents this coastal region.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone, and we hope that this section of the coastal path invites many of the visitors to our county to step beyond the traditional visitor attractions to both enjoy this area, and thereby to contribute to the economic growth of Kent.”