Durdle Door is one of the disputed climbing areas. Photo: Gwyn Jones CC-BY-SA-2.0

Durdle Door is one of the disputed climbing areas. Photo: Gwyn Jones CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Ramblers welcomed the official announcement of the route of the first stretch of the England Coast Path.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman is due today to formally declare where the section round Weymouth Bay will go.

The campaigning charity said the announcement brought the vision of a continuous coastal path one step closer.

The section in question was chosen to be the first as it overlooks the venue for the 2012 Olympics sailing competitions.

The Ramblers said they had worked closely with Natural England, the local authority and other stakeholders to ensure that the best route has been realised.

The organisation said the path, which runs from Rufus Castle on Portland to Lulworth Cove, will bring huge benefits to the local area, boosting tourism and the seaside economy, as well as improving social wellbeing, health and enjoyment.

The Ramblers are now urging the Government to press on with the next stages of the project and bring the benefits of the coastal path to the rest of England.

The England Coast Path is the result of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, one of the last major outdoor access laws introduced by the last Labour government.

There has been criticism of the speed of progress on the project since the coalition Government came to power.

In contrast, the completed Welsh coastal path is set to launch on 5 May; making Wales the first country in the world to have a continuous coastal path.

Responsible access to the Scottish coast is already guaranteed under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act.

Justin Cooke, Ramblers senior policy officer, said: “This is a great day for walkers everywhere as we see the first steps towards our vision of a continuous English coastal path become a reality.

“An English coastal path would take in exhilarating cliff-top walks, breathtaking shorelines, an abundance of wildlife and millions of years of the earth’s history, as well as breathing new life to our coastal villages and seaside towns.

“We now urge the Government to clearly set out the timeline for the next stretches of the path and bring the benefits of this exciting project to the rest of the country.”

The British Mountaineering Council, which campaigned with the Ramblers to gain coastal access for climbers as well as walkers, expressed its worry that it might lose rights gained under Labour’s Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

The BMC fought moves by landowners along the Dorset coast to ban climbers from sea cliffs under the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.

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  4. First section of England Coast Path officially opened
  5. Views sought on next two stretches of English coast path