Passport to fitness: The new stamp to chart your progress around the South West Coast Path

ITV News' Bob Cruwys went along to see what it's all about.

Walking along the coast is becoming more popular so now you can get a special passport stamped to chart your progress around the West Country.

The South West Coast Path is the UK's longest and most popular National Trail.

It is 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, around Devon and Cornwall to Poole in Dorset, and it is considered among the World’s Great Hikes, but it's good for a short walk too, just to clear your head and get some exercise.

There has been a steady growth in the number of people using the path. It's estimated to be around 9 million people every year, a figure which is continuing to rise.

The South West Coast Path

The Director of the South West Coast Path Association, Julian Gray, has walked his local bit of the path more than a hundred times.

He said: "During the lockdowns, what happened was people reconnected with their place and they started to get out locally and visit and feel all the benefits you get from walking."

The physical and mental health benefits are proven but it can be addictive too.

People set out to complete the whole thing, not necessarily in one go, but in sections here and there, and now there's a passport scheme so you can record and chart your progress as you go.

Each of the stamps has a unique design

Mr Gray said: "We've got over 135 passport stamping points and we have split the coast path into seven different areas including Exmoor, North Devon and South Cornwall, where the stamping point is an anchor.

"Each section has got a unique icon to represent that section. It's a bit like stamp collecting, you are going around the path and filling your book up and you can see your journey as you go through."

One of the stamping points is inside the Rame Head Coastwatch station. The National Coastwatch Institution has just become an official stamping partner, with 24 stations on the South West Coast Path.

The volunteers who staff the outposts help to keep people safe on the coast and save lives at sea. Every day, during daylight hours, they're always watching and keeping an ear on the radio.

Rame Head Coastwatch station

Coastwatch Station Manager at Rame Head, Rob Hillman, said: "We also monitor the walkers on the coast path, which is a fairly new thing, this coast path passport, but we do have a lot of visitors anyway.

"They go to the chapel at Rame which is really nice. The children also come in and look through the binoculars, they look at the RADAR. They are better at the camera adjustment than we are because they are used to computer games. The more people come in the better. It spreads the word about Coastwatch."

There are cafes, shops, pubs and restaurants involved in the passport scheme as well, it is designed to encourage walkers to stop off at local coastal businesses, helping them to get a share of the £520 million the Trail brings into the local economy each year.

Mr Gray said: "Tourism has been a helter skelter over the past two or three years and what we can do to try and help those tourism businesses, which rely on the coast path and work from the coast path because we are their future pipeline so in the long term they are going to be helping us as well so it's a symbiotic relationship."