West Dorset
Coast Path Action Group

Dorset County Council: Representing the community?
DANGER: Path closures seriously effect your enjoyment of your coastline.
KEEP OUT means use a 'coast path' where you can't see the coast!
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No more closures and diversions
of the South West Coast Path in West Dorset.
Enough is enough.

The CPAG group was formed in May 2003 out of frustration with the inaction over the closures of major sections of the coast path in West Dorset. It is proving itself to be a highly effective pressure group.

Despite the recognition of the Jurassic Coast of this part of Dorset as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, more and more sections of the coast path have being closed off to public access and re-routed.

Our short history

In the early summer of 2003, a group of us who are keen walkers and runners decided we’d had enough with inaction or inappropriate action with regard to sections of West Dorset coast path. Two of us are councillors on local town and parish councils, one is an ex-town clerk, others are active in running clubs, local conservation and environmentalism. We wanted to make the public and politicians realise that the newly acquired World Heritage status for the Jurassic Coast seems to have ignored the sad state of affairs of the coastal footpath. That is despite the fact that the path should enable users to enjoy some of the most spectacular views of Golden Cap, Lyme Regis and the largest landslip in Europe at Black Ven above Charmouth.

And so, the West Dorset Coast Path Action Group (CPAG) was formed. Next, we called a public meeting, managed to get over a dozen features and letters in the press including the Western Gazette, Bridport and Lyme Regis News, BBC Solent, the Midweek Herald, Pulmans, the Dorset Magazine and lobbied groups such as the Ramblers’ Association and the South West Coast Path Association. With a committee living along the coastline from Seaton in Devon, via Lyme Regis and Charmouth and on through to Bridport in Dorset we immediately gained the support of many local hoteliers, guest house owners and publicans, who were weary of tourists telling them that the so-called coast path, particularly between Lyme and Stonebarrow to the east of Charmouth, was mostly re-routed inland along roads and tracks.

Our aims

• To act as a pressure group to maintain the existence of a coast path in West Dorset, where it belongs – as near as possible to the coast.

• To publicise path closures and work with other bodies and individuals in order to ensure the maintenance of permanent rights of way along the coast.

• To encourage sensible use of the South West Coast Path in West Dorset so that it can be enjoyed by local people and tourists.

At the beginning of the summer we launched a petition, and now have 1,000+ signatures from local people and tourists who want to see the coast path in West Dorset reinstated on a permanent bases – where it belongs – along the nearest safe route to the coast.


By October, CPAG had its own leaflet describing its aims and detailing the current closures. It is CPAG’s belief that the coast path is the jewel in the crown of the Jurassic Coast. It has always been a major asset for the area and the towns and villages now dubbed as the ‘gateways’ to the coast.

Particularly contentious is the closure and re-routing of the coastal sections of the coast path at Seatown; between Stonebarrow and Charmouth; and from Charmouth west to Lyme Regis. We fully understand that this is a complex issue, but feel that full public consultation over the future of the path is essential. In particular, this does not seem to be taking place with regard to the route of the path between Lyme Regis and Charmouth.

Richard Road, the Head Countryside Ranger who manages the West Dorset sections of the coast path informed the CPAG meeting at the Royal Lion Hotel, that Dorset County Council was in the final stages of negotiation with the Lyme Regis Golf Club to establish a new route for the coast path to replace the section that used to run along the coastal strip of the golf club and then beyond down across the top of Black Ven into Charmouth. Mr Road described the new permanent route as remaining on Timber Hill road up to the alternative footpath from the main Charmouth-Lyme Regis road which cuts across the fairways to the top of Fernhill woods, where a new path would be established along the edge of the golf course to meet up with the old Lyme road and thence down through the housing to the west of Charmouth. CPAG, and many of those who attended our public meeting, take the view that this would hardly represent a true re-instatement of a ‘coast path’. In CPAG’s view, the new route needs to be the subject of full consultation with local people in the area.

CPAG and, we believe, many members of the public (locals and tourists) feel that there is a real danger that unless action is taken now the coast path will end up as path permanently sited up to 500 metres inland with hardly any views of the coast at all.

Instead, CPAG urges the adoption of special status and the application for special funding for the coast path along the Jurassic World Heritage Coast. This would be best achieved through a rolling programme of management planning to tackle the erosion points and look at the coast path in relation to the Coastal Path Action Plan and management of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In early October we held a photographic exhibition based on ‘What’s been did and what’s been hid’ – views from the old path and what we have instead of it. This was held at the Hotel Alexandra in Pound Street, Lyme Regis. In the near future, Richard Road has agreed to another meeting with CPAG representatives.

Also in the pipeline is a day of participation for locals and visitors to walk or run between Lyme and Seatown and make their own judgements on the original, existing and proposed footpath routes.

We urge you to actively involve yourself on this issue. If we lose sections of the ‘real’ coast path now, future generations will lose the walks and views that thousands of people have treasured over the last centuries.

Membership of CPAG costs £5 a year to help fund the campaign. Cheques to CPAG, please. Also available are CPAG leaflets and petition forms.

Nigel Clarke, Chairperson
Tel: 01297 442513
CPAG, 2 Russell House, Lym Close, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3DE


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Dorset’s clifftops green?
And did the naked rambler once
See more or less than we have seen?

And did the walkers to the shrine
Of Golden Cap enjoy the thrills?
And was the soul more lifted up
To see the sea as well as hills?

Bring me my walking stick of old!
Bring me my map of yesteryear!
Bring me the guidebook I’ve not sold!
Bring me my clubs! What? Sorry, Dear!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my words be very bland,
Till we have all persuaded them:
A coastal path – not one inland.

Copyright © 2003 Nick Cornwell

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