The survey shows that particularly during the challenging nature of lockdown, the Coast Path has been a lifeline for so many people when it came to staying physically and mentally healthy.
Nearly 80% of respondents said that they feel more positive after walking on the Coast Path; three quarters said that they feel less stressed; 57% said they feel able to sleep better and 62% feel inspired to be more active. The survey, which was carried out by the South West Coast Path Association heard from over 1,000 people about how the Trail has supported them during this difficult time.
It’s not just humans benefitting from strolls along the coast either, 75% of dog-owners agreed that their four-legged friend is more content after being on the Coast Path.
Findings from the South West coincide with a national survey by Natural England in May where the large majority of adults agreed that green and natural spaces are good places for mental health and wellbeing (89%) and places that encourage physical health and exercise (83%).
These findings are even more important at a time when staying physically healthy has become the national priority, and our mental wellbeing is under greater pressure than ever before. In recent studies by King’s College and UCL, 50% of the British population say they are experiencing disturbed sleep and a third of us in the UK have experienced feelings of stress and anxiety because of coronavirus.
Our National landscapes, including the Coast Path are increasingly recognised as the ‘Natural Health Service’. Green prescriptions are positive and cost-effective treatment and preventative actions, reducing strain on the NHS. It is estimated that walking National Trails saves the NHS £167 million a year, with The South West Coast Path alone delivering £40 million in health benefits – that’s £63,000 for every mile of the 630-mile route.
Our Director Julian Gray said, “Since lockdown, more people than ever are choosing to visit the Coast Path to reconnect with nature. We are already looking at how we can better support those who are new to this type of activity to ensure they have the information and confidence they need to enjoy and respect these spaces fully.
“We hope that people maintain these new healthy habits and that with them, comes a renewed appreciation of the power of being active in nature for our health. Some are predicting the psychological impacts of living through a pandemic to be significant and long-lasting, so as a society, connecting up our Natural Health Service with our National Health Service will be more important than ever”.
Over 1,000 people responded when asked “What does the Coast Path mean to you?” Most answers were very emotive, focusing on how the Trail made them feel with responses included; “Emotionally refreshed; excited; a sort of feeling of loss when not there.” and “Grateful that the Path is available and open to the public and well maintained.” Others talked about the Trail giving them the opportunity to: “Escape, to breath and to be in my own headspace”, “Reduce stress from our job in the ambulance service” and “Shut out the strain of everyday life and have me time.” One response summed up the general mood in saying that the South West Coast Path is “Vital for my physical and mental health”.
Findings from the survey coincide with a nationwide poll that sought to find out which of the 16 National Trails in England and Wales is the nation’s favourite. The South West Coast Path took the top spot beating popular trails such as the Cleveland Way, Pembrokeshire Coast Path and North Downs Way, with more than a third of the vote.