The world’s longest coastal path to open in England in 2021

Author of a new guidebook to the Path Stephen Neale offers a taste of what’s in store next year


The Thames pilot steered the foot ferry out of Tilbury dock, Essex, towards Gravesend, in Kent. He told me some of his passengers only travel one way.

  • “Why?”
  • “Because they’re trying to walk the entire coast,” he said.
  • “How many people say that to you?”
  • “More than you think,” he replied.

It was 2018, and I was researching the England Coast Path for my book of the same name. When the route opens, hopefully next year, it will be the longest coast path in the world. And all those people who have tried, and failed, to walk the entire coast, without cutting miles inland, will now have a better chance to succeed.

The world’s greatest public right of way network

A monumental achievement. Not for the walker. But the landowners, volunteers and politicians, who across almost two decades, made it possible. The path will connect everyone of us to our salty waters via the world’s greatest public right of way network. A triumph of economic regeneration and mindful human experience in nature.

My own relationship to the coast is not associated with long walks. It’s linked to living in a seaside town at Southend, walking a little of the shore each week, crabbing as a kid and being mild ly obsessed with exploring new places that don’t involve tramping the coast every day for several years.

I like to walk, but I don’t think of myself as a walker. Any more than I considered myself a walker when I played golf.

The England Coast Path opens up a catalogue of mini adventures, sleeps, new foods and thirst quenching drinks like water, coffee and warm beer.

Twin forts

Cliffe Fort in Kent is one of my favourite mini adventures. I take my own water because there are no shops or cafes. Apart from that, the old ruin combines almost everything that’s good about our coast.

It was built in the 19th century at the mouth of the river Thames to guard London from French war ships. At one time it was fitted out with a launcher for the Brennan torpedo— the world’s first guided missile, until it accidentally sunk a Thames trawler  [ . . . ]

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