The Wainwright Society is supporting a new campaign to have the Coast to Coast Walk upgraded to National Trail status. The campaign was launched by Rishi Sunak, the MP for Richmond, N. Yorkshire, in April.
It has long been the Society’s wish for the Coast to Coast Walk to be designated as a National Trail and a campaign was launched in 2007 (Wainwright’s centenary year). However, the financial crash of 2008 seemed to have dashed all hope of success as it was clear that there would be no funding for the project at that time.
Despite Wainwright’s reservations about ‘official’ long distance footpaths when he wrote the book in 1973, he was well aware of the walk’s popularity in the late 1980s when he made the Coast to Coast television series with Eric Robson for the BBC. He was, rightly, proud of his creation and I feel sure he was delighted that so many people had followed in his footsteps.
Whilst it remains one of the most popular walks in the UK, it has no official recognition and is not even marked on Ordnance Survey maps. In 2013, it was agreed with the local authorities that the route could be waymarked and the Society raised money through its annual Challenge and sales of the Calendar to fund waymarking discs designed by the Society that were installed along most of the route.
Following discussions with Rishi Sunak MP for Richmond, he decided to launch a campaign to have the walk nominated as the next National Trail. The launch was held on the Coast to Coast route at Surrender Bridge in Swaledale in April. It what might be regarded as typical April weather (snow, rain, a biting wind and bright sunshine in quick succession) a small but determined band of Society members with friends together with representatives from local businesses and rangers from the Yorkshire Dales National Park walked with Rishi along part of the route providing a photo opportunity for the BBC cameraman, who was filming the event for Look North. We then retired to the warmth of The Buck in Reeth for refreshments whilst interviews were conducted.
The Society is supporting Rishi Sunak’s campaign since it is likely to represent the best opportunity to have the walk upgraded to National Trail status. It is hoped that Natural England will agree to provide funding following completion of the English Coast Path in 2020. The aim before that is to start building support among a range of organisations including local and regional councils, official bodies such as the national park authorities, local businesses, voluntary groups such as The Wainwright Society and individuals and that, hopefully, will lead to the political action to start that process.