Coastal access in England was given a welcome injection of cash, following an announcement last December by the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Natural England (NE), which is responsible for mapping the coastal path and adjoining access land and for producing reports for confirmation by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is getting on with the job.
Last Tuesday I joined nine members of the Ramblers East Yorkshire and Derwent Area on the Yorkshire coast, for an interview about coastal access to be broadcast next month on Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
We met the producer, Lucy Smickersgill, cameraman Mark and ‘Sherpa’ Kelvin who uncomplainingly helped carry the equipment. Our meeting point was at the end of the coast road at Aldbrough in East Yorkshire, where the road disappears down the cliff. This coast here is frangible and disappearing at a measurable rate.
This stretch of coastal access, (number 47 on the progress map here) is between Kilnsea in the south (near Spurn Head) to Filey Brigg (north of Flamborough Head).
The industrious Ramblers have already identified where the path should go, choosing options as close to the sea with the best views. They have sent their proposals to NE and expect to discuss them before long. (In fact this stretch was originally scheduled to be done much earlier, but East Yorkshire Council refused to participate then and so it was postponed.)
Once NE has identified the coastal path, the area of adjoining access land becomes apparent. We have rights of access between the path and the sea, and inland to the nearest sensible boundary. So this is more than just a path and in that sense is superior to the Wales Coast Path.
A particular advantage of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 provisions for coastal access is that they allow for roll back when the cliffs crumble into the sea. NE identifies where the route will be aligned after erosion and this forms part of the report. This will certainly be important here: we could see the cracks and slippage on the cliff edge.
Only three days after we did our filming we learnt from the BBC that a new crack had appeared in the cliffs at Mapperton, three miles north of Aldbrough.
We set off south from Aldbrough towards Withernsea, past a caravan park. There is no definitive path here but the route is well used, with a broad space between the caravans and the cliff top which allows for walkers.
As always happens with filming we walked back and forth along the same stretches many times, and stopped to record Tom Halstead, vice-chairman of the Ramblers’ area, addressing the group.
The route then ran alongside fields past Hill Top Farm,
and when we came to the gap at Cliff Farm we stopped. Here the path is likely to take an inland turn before rejoining the coast a bit further south.
Lucy interviewed Tom and me (as Ramblers’ president).
Mark stood on a promontory to take photos.
This part of the Yorkshire coast is a well-kept secret, yet it is truly magnificent. The new access will benefit local people and visitors, and should bring much-needed income to this area which suffers some social deprivation. There are plenty of studies which show the economic benefits to an area of a nearby long-distance path.
Roll on coastal access in East Yorkshire!