New Coast to Coast National Trail a “missed opportunity” for multi-use access

A sheep on a hill looks out over a large lake
Photo: Rob Heath
A £5.6m upgrade has been announced to create a new National Trail in northern England - but only for walkers

Natural England has today (12 August 2022) announced plans for the popular Wainwright Coast to Coast route to become a National Trail. The 197-mile route runs from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay across the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The National Trail designation means the route will benefit from £5.6m of funding for improvements, including replacing some stiles with accessible gates, path maintenance surfacing and high-quality waymarking.

However, Cycling UK and the British Horse Society have expressed disappointment at the lack of consultation with cycling and horse riding groups to enable a wider range of people to enjoy the trail by making it a multi-user route.

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said:

“While creation of a new National Trail is something to celebrate, this upgrade was also a missed opportunity for Natural England to make a truly inclusive trail. Despite the legislative intent for National Trails to be accessible to walkers, cyclists and horse riders, Natural England has ignored cycling and horse riding groups during the route’s development.”

Mark Weston, director of access at the British Horse Society, agreed:

“The British Horse Society is equally frustrated that at present the proposed route is not being taken forward as a multi-user trail. It seems a wasted opportunity in these financially constrained times not to provide a multi-user route that would enhance the health and wellbeing of so many more people, and bring so much more spend into the region. The British Horse Society along with Cycling UK will continue to press for the Coast to Coast trail to be a multi-user route.”

Natural England could have achieved so much more for so many more outdoor enthusiasts

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (section 51) makes clear that National Trails in England should not only be considered as routes for walking, describing them as enabling the public “to make extensive journeys on foot or on horseback or on a bicycle”.

However, of the thirteen existing National Trails in England, only two can be ridden from end to end – the South Downs Way and the Pennine Bridleway.

Over the past two years Cycling UK has been working with the trail manager for the North Downs Way to create a rideable route, which is soon to become an official alternative route for the National Trail.

The Ridgeway Partnership are also working on proposals for a fully rideable Ridgeway route.

Cycling UK is calling for Natural England to make the Coast to Coast route a multi-user National Trail from the outset, rather than leaving it as an afterthought.

Duncan Dollimore added: “A walking trail is great, but with ambition and adherence to their responsibilities, Natural England could have achieved so much more for so many more outdoor enthusiasts.”