RAMBLERS can enjoy a rejuvenated stretch of coastal path on the Jurassic Coast as new access rights come into force today.
Improvements have been made to the area between Lulworth Cove and Rufus Castle on Portland as the first part of a national project to create a continuous path around the English coast.
Environment minister Richard Benyon travelled to Dorset in January to approve the plans for the Weymouth Bay stretch of path. Signs and gates have now been put in place where needed.
The existing South West Coast Path has been moved closer to the sea in places, including at Bowleaze Cove and Hamm Beach, where it has been moved away from roads.
The path can also roll back as cliffs erode or slip, solving maintenance problems. Dorset County Council has been working with Natural England on the project. Council leader Angus Campbell said the new access rights will bring extra benefits for residents, visitors and businesses.
He added: “An improved alignment in places, coupled with the ability to roll back the path in response to erosion will add to the recreational, economic and health benefits that the path already offers. We are delighted this stretch has been established as the first section of the England Coast Path.”
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 guarantees the right of access for members of the public to beaches, cliffs and other land alongside the path for the first time.
Work will now get under way on the next stage of the path – from Portland to Lyme Regis – with landowners being consulted before improvements are carried out.
Other stages of the England Coast Path are being developed in Somerset, Cumbria, Kent, Norfolk, and the coast around Durham.
Mr Benyon said: “Opening up miles of English coastline like this will allow thousands of people to better enjoy this spectacular natural environment and support local economies through tourism.
“This is the first stretch of England’s coastline to be improved under the new coastal access provisions and it is now ready in time for the 2012 Games."
For route details visit www.naturalengland.org.uk