The South West Coast Path at Bigbury-on-Sea. Photo: Derek Harper CC-BY-SA-2.0

The South West Coast Path at Bigbury-on-Sea. Photo: Derek Harper CC-BY-SA-2.0

A support group for England’s longest national trail is looking for walkers to join a relay along the whole route to celebrate the association’s 40th birthday.

The South West Coast Path Association has set a target of raising £¼m towards improvements on the path.

It aims to get at least 30 people on the trail each day over April and May next year in a series of sponsored walks along the whole 1,014km (630 miles).

The Great South West Walk will be split into a north and south section, with the latter kicking off at Poole in Dorset on 3 April, and walkers setting off from Minehead on the north Somerset Coast on 16 April.

The two contingents will meet for a celebration party at Land’s End on 7 May.

The route has been broken down into 56 legs and each will be guided by local experts, rangers and path wardens, who are all assisting the SWCPA with the event.

Walkers will be asked to raise £50 of sponsorship each, with further matched funding being sought from relevant organisations.

Association chair Brian Panton said: “We are offering walkers the opportunity to specify which project their sponsorship supports, providing there is enough funding for that project to take place – otherwise it be used for the project most in need.

“People can take part in a half-day or full-day walk, through to a number of legs over several days, building a walking holiday. Whether people are walking long or short distances, coming from near or far, we hope that thousands of people will take part to support this spectacular coast line.”

Organisers hope individual sponsorship, grants, corporate sponsorship and matched giving will help them reach their £250,000 target. This will enable over 40 improvement projects spread along the route of the entire path to be completed during 2013.

These projects have all been selected to enhance the experience and enjoyment of walkers using the path, they said.

More information about each leg of the walk, the dates and the corresponding improvement project is on the Great South West Walk website.

At typical walking speed, the South West Coast Path takes 56 days to complete, with the highest point being reached at Great Hangman on Exmoor at 318m (1,043ft).

Two-thirds of its length is within areas of outstanding natural beauty and it passes through four counties: Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

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