Coastal path the 'ultimate challenge'
THE start of a New Year is the perfect time to set fresh fitness goals – and what better way to get healthy and challenge yourself at the same time than with a hearty hike along one of the world's best walking routes, the South West Coast Path?
Whether you want to tackle a short but demanding section, or take on the whole 630 miles, there's a walk out there for all ages and levels of ability and unlike the gym, you won't have to pay a penny. Be warned, though – it is seriously addictive.
Read on for the South West Coast Path team's pick of the Top Five Challenging Walks for 2013, which can all be downloaded at www.southwestcoastpath.com/challenges
Langdon Hill, Golden Cap & St Gabriel's Chapel walk, Dorset (4.3 miles)
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Here's one to get the heart pumping – the challenge is to reach the summit of the 191-metre Golden Cap near West Bay in Dorset, the highest sea cliff in Southern England. Some steep ascents and descents, rewarded by spectacular coastal views.
The Hangmen Hills, Exmoor (4.7 miles) A challenging but inspiring walk on the highest point on the Exmoor coast that amply rewards the effort involved, with far-reaching views over coast and hills, through an area rich in history.
Sennen to Coverack, Cornwall (56 miles) A stunning five-day itinerary along wild and windswept Cornish cliff-tops. This walk passes spectacular granite rock formations around Land's End, the most westerly point in England, and Lizard Point, the most southerly.
Heddon's Mouth, Somerset (2.1 miles) A challenge for those with limited mobility – made easier with a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter which can be hired from the National Trust at Heddon Valley and used to explore many of the paths.
630-mile experience The South West Coast Path is perhaps the UK's ultimate challenge for the long-distance hiker. A fast walker can complete the 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset in around 30 days, but a more leisurely pace is between seven and eight weeks. No matter how long it takes, it is a stunning achievement. Sign up to the Great South West Walk in April to get started – or complete during the event.
The South West Coast Path has received £2.1m funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, from 2007-2013. Europe has invested in rural areas to deliver a three-year-series of investments as part of the Unlocking our Coastal Heritage Project.
In England, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development 2007-2013 is delivered through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).
It is an important part of the Common Agricultural Policy and helps create genuinely sustainable farming, forestry and food sectors, whilst bringing wider benefits for the economy, the environment and rural communities.
It is the European Union's major investment route for protecting and enhancing the environment while securing a range of public benefits for society.
Defra is the Managing Authority and is delivered in the region by the South West RDA, Natural England and the Forestry Commission.
For more information, see www.sw-ruralgateway.info