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Last year’s success brings the walking event back for a second year

Word by Rebecca Bentley

Many of us have enjoyed the spectacular views and fresh air along parts of the 630-mile long South West Coast Path, stretching from Minehead in Somerset down to the tip of Cornwall and back up to Poole in Dorset. A large number of people even took part in the Great South West Walk last year to mark the 40th anniversary of the South West Coast Path Association (SWCPA), and raised a staggering £600,000 to help maintain and improve the path for years to come.

Such was its success that the association will hold a second event again; the Great South West Walk 2014 will take place from September 20 to 28. Organisers hope to see 1,500 people taking part in 100 guided sponsored walks of various lengths and levels, in the company of local experts and rangers. There will be walks of all types and for all abilities – whether you want to walk with your family, soak up local wildlife or get the heart pounding, the SWCPA has everything covered.

The South West Coast Path is the longest of the country’s 15 National Trails and is steeped in heritage. It was originally a means for the coastguard to track and pursue smugglers, so it is a vital part of Cornwall’s history. As a charity with a membership of over 5,000, the SWCPA represents those who enjoy the path and campaign to help it flourish. Cornwall Today is proud to be a media partner in the Great South West Walk for the second year running.

Ken Carter, project chairman of the Great South West Walk 2014, says: “When we held the Great South West Walk last year to celebrate the SWCPA’s  40th anniversary, we never imagined we would receive so much support. Our £250,000 target was greatly exceeded, and over £600,000 was raised from sponsorship, resulting in 130 improvement projects along the South West Coast Path.

“Everyone has their own reasons for loving the South West Coast Path – it really is the thread that brings companies and individuals to put something back into the path. With public sector support declining, it is more important than ever that we raise the profile and money needed for improving the coast path.”

With the proceeds from this year’s event, the SWCPA plans to undertake 50 improvement projects around the entire path with the help of countryside organisations including the National Trust, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and local walking groups.

Esther Pearson is a new member of the SWCPA team, and as business development manager will be working alongside companies that want to do their bit to ensure the path remains somewhere both people and wildlife can enjoy.

“Recent research has shown that during 2012, the coast path had 8.6 million users across the South West, which generated around £436 million in the area and helped support 9,771 full-time jobs,” she explains. “Because of this, it is a vital economic asset to the tourism industry in the South West. That’s why we’re looking for businesses to get involved through sponsorship.”

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