Morecambe Bay, seen from Grange over Sands. Photo: Philip Platt CC-BY-SA-2.0

Morecambe Bay, seen from Grange over Sands. Photo: Philip Platt CC-BY-SA-2.0

Plans for the latest section of the England Coast Path have been revealed.

If approved, the 125-mile stretch from Silecroft in Cumbria to Cleveleys in Lancashire will give walkers access to the route around the whole of Morecambe Bay.

The new section of path completes the final 71 miles of the route in Cumbria and marks the start of the process in Lancashire. Included in the planned stretch are 27 miles of new path, where there was previously no access.

Natural England, a government advisory body on the outdoors, said there will now be an eight-week public consultation on the proposals.

The planned path starts on the south-western edge of the Lake District and runs to the Lancashire coast north of Blackpool, including the first 54 miles to be designated in the county.

In Lancashire, the proposed trail continues around the limestone cliffs and headlands south of Silverdale, passing close to Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserves rich in wildlife including otters, bearded tits, marsh harriers, egrets and red deer.

In Cumbria, the planned route between Silecroft and Silverdale includes parts of the Lake District national park, circuits the lagoon at Hodbarrow and the sand dunes at Sandscale Haws, and introduces significant new access around the Furness and Cartmel peninsulas and the Leven estuary.

There is now a period of eight weeks for the public to have their say on the proposals. If approved, this route will become part of the England Coast Path, the 2,700 mile long-distance walking route and England’s newest national trail currently being developed around the entire English coast by Natural England.

Chris Kaighin, Natural England’s area manager for Cumbria, said: “The proposed route showcases the Cumbria and Lancashire coastline, from celebrating our industrial heritage at Barrow-in-Furness, to capturing local beauty spots such as the spectacular viewpoint of Humphrey Head near Grange-over-Sands.

“We thank everyone for their time and input so far to help share the proposals. Over the next eight weeks, we are inviting all organisations, farmers, local residents, visitors and businesses to have their say on our proposals. All the responses will be taken into account and we look forward to hearing people’s views.”

The proposed Lancashire stretch also includes the promenade through the famous seaside town of Morecambe, and takes in the ancient chapel and carved graves of St Patrick’s at Heysham Head National Trust site.

A circuit of the Lune estuary will connect Lancaster with the historic ports of Sunderland Point and Glasson Dock, and the Wyre ferry links Knott End to Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

The plans cover the whole of Morecambe Bay, renowned and protected for its internationally important birdlife, which enjoy the UK’s largest expanse of intertidal muds and salt marshes. European and UK protected sites, National Nature Reserves, ancient woodlands, wetlands and limestone pavement also feature along the route. Nature conservation experts have been consulted to ensure the path does not have an impact on the internationally important birdlife of Morecambe Bay.

Cllr Celia Tibble, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “I am very pleased to see the proposed routes for the coast path and would urge everyone who enjoys our beautiful coastline in Cumbria to put their views forward.

“The England Coast Path is a fantastic route to explore areas of natural beauty in a different way and to experience our wonderful coastline and landscape.

“I’d like to thank all of the partners, individuals and communities that have been part of this project so far and look forward to the next stage of development. My thanks also to the county council’s countryside access team for their hard work and enthusiasm for the project, who will also deliver the ground works following the consultation process.”

The planned route in Cumbria also passes through the Arnside and Silverdale area of outstanding natural beauty, including Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Grubbins Wood reserve, one of the many coastal woodlands on the route.

Lucy Barron, Arnside and Silverdale AONB manager, said: “We welcome the publication of the proposed route of the England Coast Path through Arnside and Silverdale area of outstanding natural beauty and encourage people to put forward their views as part of the public consultation.

“The coast path will enable visitors to enjoy a new perspective of this stunning area. The coast boasts exceptional views across Morecambe Bay and an unrivalled diversity of different landscapes in a small area: limestone grasslands and clifftops, the Victorian seafront village of Arnside, woodlands, and some of the finest sunsets in the country.”

Figures released by Natural England last month revealed the huge popularity of England’s coastal paths with 29.1 million walking trips made over a six-month period, boosting local economies and bringing health and wellbeing benefits to visitors.

The data revealed that visits boosted the economy by £350m in 2017, with 97 per cent of people feeling refreshed and revitalised as a result of their visit.

In Cumbria, work to prepare the Whitehaven to Silecroft and Walney Island stretches for opening should be complete later this year, joining the Allonby to Whitehaven stretch which was opened in 2014.

Anyone can make representations to Natural England about the report during the eight-week period. Owners and occupiers of affected land can make objections about the report on specified grounds, which will be considered by a planning inspector before the Secretary of State makes a final decision.

All representations and objections must be received by Natural England no later than midnight on 4 March. Copies of the reports can be viewed at Millom, Askam-in-Furness, Barrow-in-Furness, Ulverston, Grange-over-Sands and Knott End libraries; the Arnside and Silverdale AONB Offices; and the Morecambe, Lancaster and Fleetwood visitor information centres.

More details are on the Government website.

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