The latest section of the coast path includes the White Cliffs of Dover. Photo: Immanuel Giel CC-BY-SA-3.0

The latest section of the coast path includes the White Cliffs of Dover. Photo: Immanuel Giel CC-BY-SA-3.0

One of the country’s best known stretches of shoreline has been added to the England Coast Path.

The White Cliffs of Dover are among 66 miles of route opened to walkers as part of the latest section of the new national trail.

Natural England, the Westminster government’s advisory body on the outdoors, said the route, from Ramsgate to Camber near Rye, is the first stretch of the path to open in the South-East.

Once complete, the England Coast Path will give walkers a 4,345km (2,700-mile) access corridor around the nation’s shore. The official body said work is underway on 60 per cent of the route.

Natural England said: “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.”

Environment minister Thérèse 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.

Included in the route are heritage areas 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 national nature reserve of Sandwich and Pegwell Bay.

Latest Natural England research due to be published later this summer shows 313 million visits were made to the English coast between March 2014 and February 2015. Findings also show that between March 2009 and February 2015, there was a 138 per cent increase in visits to paths, cycleways and bridleways at coastal locations.

On average, during the same period (2009 to 2015) £18 was spent on coastal visits, compared to £6 on a visit to the countryside.

According to figures from the South West Coast Path report Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage, that national trail is worth £400m a year to the regional economy, equating to £630,000 per mile.

Cross-channel visitors will be able to step off the ferry at Dover or Ramsgate and straight on to 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 £3.4bn tourism industry.

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