£1.25m helps repair flood damage to coast path
The South West Coastal Path has been returned close to its former glory following the devastating flooding last year, officials say.
The iconic trail was littered with closures during the winter, prompting officials to issue landslide warnings across the region to keep walkers safe.
Many sections of the path have been restored or re-routed in Cornwall, which along with South Devon bore the brunt of the damage, thanks to a £1.25 million fund set aside by the county council.
More than thirty landslips and cliff collapses were recorded between November and February in mid and east Cornwall, particularly on the south coast between Caerhayes and Rame Head.
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Steve Church, from the South West Coast Path Association, said the damage last year was "unprecedented".
He added: "At one time it looked as if summer visitors would have to contend with a number of lengthy inland diversions, but we are delighted with the repair work that has been done.
"While there remain a few lengths still to be dealt with but this superb resource is now back in good order."
The walkway remains a massive attraction, bringing 6.2 million visitors each year and an estimated £389 million spent in the region.
Much of the path is privately owned as well as being controlled by the National Trust, which has also helped carry out works.
Of the 36 sections affected by flooding since December, just 18 short diversions remain, each adding no more than a quarter of a mile to the original path length. Nine routes are diverted in Cornwall, three in South Devon, two on Exmoor and four in Dorset.
Marc Owen, national trails officer for the South West Coastal Path Team, said the number of diversions had to be seen in context of the sheer size of the path, some 631 miles.
"There are still diversions but it has mostly been put right and the path is walkable," he added.
"There are some big projects we would like to do and a number of enhancements but an awful lot of work has been done, particularly by Cornwall Council.
"In Cornwall the path brings £175 million in visitor spend so whilst the repairs have been expensive this year, as a long-term asset it more than pays for itself."
Cornwall Council said its contractor Cormac had created new, "equally stunning, routes" away from damaged sections.
The portfolio holder for Environment and Planning, Edwina Hannaford, said: "The South West Coast Path is a fantastic asset for Cornwall and a big draw for tourists and locals alike."