Damaged Exmoor South West Coast Path reopens in time for Jubilee weekend

The cost of the damage is estimated at between £15,000 and £25,000. Credit: Exmoor National Park

Parts of the South West Coast Path are reopening for walkers after a three-month-long clear up operation following storm damage in February.

The path that runs through Exmoor National Park’s 35-mile heritage coastline will be accessible again in time for walkers to enjoy over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

National Park rangers were forced to close more than 20 paths across the National Park, including a 5-mile stretch of the iconic South West Coast Path, when Storm Eunice left long sections impassable.

The stretch of the South West Coast Path at Westward Ho! Credit: ITV West Country

The South West Coast Path Association launched a special appeal to help cover the cost of the damage, which is estimated at between £15,000 and £25,000.

They joined local landowners, contractors, communities and the National Trust who own large stretches of the coast to complete the clear up operation.

The worst damage from fallen trees and root balls happened across a remote 3-mile section between Culbone Church, near Porlock, and Desolate, near Lynmouth.

The clear-up was especially difficult here, as it included deploying mini-diggers along narrow stretches of high coastal woodland that were difficult to access.

Sue Applegate, Exmoor National Park Rights of Way Officer, said: "I’m sure many walkers will be delighted by news that the coast path is fully reopen in time for the bank holiday weekend, with the Exmoor section famous for its high sea cliffs, rare Atlantic rainforest and spectacular coastal views.

"After the storms there were trees down everywhere; including multiple larger ones snapped off at the base and left hanging dangerously. Getting those paths closed and diverted quickly was a matter of public safety.

"We saw treble the amount of path closures we would expect for that time of year and are extremely grateful to local landowners and walkers, whose cooperation and input has been crucial in getting paths reopened. Also to everyone who has so far donated towards this unforeseen cost."

February's storms hit the South West Coastline the hardest, with the Exmoor coast being one of the worst affected areas in the UK.

The Met Office issuing a rare red weather warning for the area that saw winds gusting over 81mph and many moorland villages left without power for several days.

This led to extensive damage across Exmoor’s infrastructure, with a total of 485 trees logged as blocking paths especially along the coast.

Dan James, Rural Enterprise Manager, said: “Walking for pleasure has seen a huge surge in popularity since the pandemic, with our most recent visitor survey showing that twice as many people are coming to Exmoor for longer walks of more than two hours.

"The benefits of walking in nature can’t be underestimated and we’re proud of the vital role our rights of way network plays in supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing.”