Communities along the Lincolnshire coast can look forward to renewed wealth as a result of the opening of the new coast path.
That was the message when a stretch of what will be a 2,700-mile 'Natural Trail' around the English coastline was opened at Chapel Point on Wednesday - linking Skegness to Mablethorpe.
Lincolnshire's coastline was at its stunning best as Rural Minister Lord Gardiner officially invited guests at an opening ceremony in the North Sea Observatory to join him outside in the sunshine for the ribbon cutting.
Among the other guests were Marian Spain, Interim chief Executive of Natural England who are leading the project, as well as partners from Lincolnshire County Council. Representatives from East Lindsey District Council, the Lincolnshire Coastal BID, local ramblers and parish councils along the stretch were also present .
Marian Spain thanked everyone involved in creating the footpath. She said. "You'd think it would be no mean feat creating a footpath - that you'd only have to put a line on a map and put in a gate.
"But there has been a lot of detailed work by Natural England, friends at the council, communities, landowners and volunteers.
"We are talking it carefully and slowly because we want to get it right and make it accessible to everyone and something that people want.
"We know how important connection with nature is for physical and mental well-being, with more research daily showing the benefits to young people especially.
"We can also use this path to bring back economic life back into some communities. Twenty-eight million people already walk paths, spending £381 million and creating 6,000 jobs, Half of this money is spent in the south-east and south-west - now Lincolnshire can get their share."
There was praise for the area's accessibility, diversity and potential, as more of the coast's natural countryside sees investment to attract new visitors and business opportunities.
Rural Minister Lord Gardiner, said: “When I google satellite viewed the area and saw all of the holiday homes I didn't realise how beautiful Chapel St Leonards is - it's a magnificent town. .. "England’s beautiful coastline is a sight to behold, and I am delighted that more people than ever before will be able to enjoy its striking scenery during this Year of Green Action.
"It is a flagship project and one that we at Natural England are very proud of, involving 8,000 consultations with 8,000 people at an overall cost of £25m.
"It is part of a National Trails and when you think of them you think of super fit , middle aged people, tanned to perfection with all the clobber, climbing over Pennine Way. Here in Lincolnshire it's a little bit different and this gives us a tremendous opportunity to widen the appeal from the usual hikers and get them in the great outdoors.
"This is a trail you can do in your shorts and flip-flops."
Coun Colin Davie, executive councillor for economic development at Lincolnshire County Council, described the opening of the path as a "win, win" for everyone. He said: “I’m delighted that the England Coastal path now runs from Skegness to Mablethorpe, through our beautiful Coastal Country Park.
“We have such a spectacular coastline with amazing wildlife, Blue Flag beaches and ‘excellent’ bathing waters – perfect for people to explore.
“I’m sure the new coastal path will encourage many more people to visit Lincolnshire and explore our brilliant coastline.”
The new 16-mile route takes into account the area’s important coastal habitats, including the seascapes and unique habitats of Anderby Marsh, Chapel Pit and Wolla Bank Reedbed. Walkers will be able to enjoy the adjacent sand dunes, clay pits and beaches, where a range of bird species such as the bearded tit and reed bunting thrive.
Also welcoming the opening were members of Horncastle and Skegness Ramblers. Chairman Michael Casey said: "I think it's marvellous. This along with the work being done on the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park makes it a wonderful area for walkers."
But there were come concerns. Coun Phil Gaskell, a volunteer for Coastal Access For All. took the opportunity to flag up concerns regarding access around Northshore Golf Course in Skegness. He said: "Caafa were delighted to attend the opening of the Skegness to Mablethorpe section of the new England Coast Path..
"I have, however, noted that the signs on both entrances of the right of way known as Granny's Opening have been removed but am pleased to say the Footpaths Officer at LCC will look into the possibility of some other signage. Our other concern is that the only section of the new coast path which is not “accessible”in the broadest sense is the point where the coast path takes to the beach between Winthorpe and Granny’s Opening."
Chapel St Leonards residents Sylvia Elliott and Sandra and Roger Warren were enjoying the sun along the path and said they were delighted to now be able to walk the path to Chapel Point.
Sylvia said: "I can now walk from home alongside the beach to the North Sea Observatory. It's lovely."
However, Roger added: "We need some better benches though."