Shakespeare Cliff, Dover (North Downs Way)

Though devolution has brought the administration of paths in Wales to be separate from that of paths in England, the basic structure was conceived as one. Of course, Offa’s Dyke Path, which plays hopscotch with the boundary along much of its length, is the classic example of an English/Welsh path.

At the top of the tree, there are the National Trails — Pennine Way, South Downs Way, and so on. The two major metropolitan trails around London — the London Loop and the Capital Ring — have become quasi-national, at least in the minds of publishers, though they do not qualify for acorn waymarks.

The next stratum contains the routes which are essentially at county level, maintained by the local authority. There was a great swell of these routes in the 1980s (the centenary of county government in 1989 was a particular spur): some are all but ghosts on today’s landscape, but many are still maintained as part of the local leisure structure. Analogous routes, such as canal towpaths and former railways, probably belong here.

Then there are the others: the pipe-dreams of individuals, and of special-interest groups. Many of these rise and fall, while some become established classics, most notably A Coast to Coast Walk, originated by Alfred Wainwright and now joining the list of overwalked routes like the Pennine Way, the path which spurred AW to create its antithesis in his unwaymarked and less structured coast-to-coast route — hence that all-important indefinite article in the title. It has been announced that this route is to be given National Trail status — listen out for those grave-rotatory noises on Haystacks.

There is an aspiration to create a coastal route which covers the entire coastline: clearly the South West Coast Path is the first anchor, but other parts are already in place — see the regional lists linked below for some of these. Some areas, though, will take years to bring to fruition. 

On this site, most of the Railway days out walks find themselves in areas outside Greater London.

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