Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage Project
The ‘Unlocking Our Coastal Heritage’ project, led by the South West Coast Path Team, is well under way with £2.1m in European grant aid through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to be invested by 2013.
Its aim is to increase the economic value of the South West Coast Path by protecting and enhancing heritage features, improving the quality of the route and working with businesses to improve the facilities and information provided to visitors.
It’s one of six projects in the region to share a total grant worth over £14m, all of which have a common agenda - to make the most of the region’s landscape and features as part of a Sustainable Rural Tourism theme.
It will be delivered in partnership with The National Trust and local Highways Authorities to improve the information provided about the coast, and so increase enjoyment and understanding of its environmental, historic, cultural and natural features.
Key to this project’s success will be closer working with the tourism sector, so that visitors are made more aware of what the Coast Path gives access to. By encouraging links with private investors to raise additional funds, it intends to improve the overall experience at specific tourism businesses along the Coast Path and thus increase their dwell time and visitor spend.
The coast and countryside are the main reasons people visit the South West according to research by South West Tourism. Their latest Visitor Survey (2009) cites walking as the most popular activity (37%), while the beach and coast came second (18%) on their list of things to do in the region.
Combining the two, the South West Coast Path is the jewel in the region’s crown, providing a continuous trail around the South West peninsula and giving access to some of the best coastal viewpoints in the country. It’s estimated to be worth more than £222m to the regional economy and this is set to increase.
”This project has the potential to bring significant benefits to rural economies and to visitors, without damaging the environment that they have come to enjoy,” said Mike Johns, RDPE Programme Manager for the DEFRA, the organisation responsible for delivering RDPE investments in the region.