We launched our flagship campaign nearly 12 months ago, and since then hundreds of you have kindly joined in by donating, fundraising, or sharing your stories using hashtag #EveryMileMatters. On World Health Day, here’s a look back at what we’ve achieved together so far for the health and wellbeing of the Trail’s communities.
What does Every Mile Matters stand for?
The Coast Path is so much more than a footpath, it’s a cause worth defending: it provides health-giving happiness to millions of people every year, connects hundreds of coastal communities, helps the region’s economy thrive and is one of our most precious wildlife corridors. It’s also a vehicle for change, the path to recovery that society needs as we heal from a global pandemic. A complete, uninterrupted, flourishing, properly funded Trail should be an essential, not just a ‘nice to have’. This is what Every Mile Matters aims to demonstrate.
Winning hearts and mind during a pandemic
A silver lining of the pandemic, if one is to be found, is the transformation it has inspired in the nation’s attitude towards getting active outdoors for the benefit of their physical and mental health. You only need to look around parks and footpaths at evenings and weekends, or at hashtags like #hikingadventures to see how many millions of people are now enjoying this energising pursuit, often for the first time. We are hopeful that this is also gradually translating into a deeper understanding of the need to care for, and fund, the wild places that contribute so significantly to our wellbeing. It is encouraging for example, that a considerable number of those who have generously donated to Every Mile Matters are first-time supporters of the Association.
“I have recently struggled with mental health issues, so to help me recuperate I walked a section of the Coast Path on my own just for some ‘me time’! I walked without earphones and felt amazing during and after, having enjoyed and absorbed the surroundings.” – first time Every Mile Matters donor
Whilst we certainly don’t want to give the impression that coronavirus has had positive influence on our work – it’s been a very challenging time for the charity – it’s undeniable that the feelings and trends emerging as result, resonate perfectly with Every Mile Matter’s call to revalue the powerful impact of this often taken-for-granted landscape on human health.
Your impact on the health Coast Path-users of all kinds
We had planned for the Every Mile Matters campaign to champion the Path’s positive effect on mental and physical wellbeing long before we knew we were headed for a global health crisis, but the trauma, anxiety and loss experienced by so many during the pandemic, not to mention the physical health complications of some covid survivors, has made this aspect of our work event more poignant.
With your support over this last year we have:
- Worked with Exeter University to research the physical health benefits of the Coast Path to society. You can read the full report on our website, but the most impressive headline is that our humble Trail saves the NHS £75 million every year in prevented deaths and reduced ill-health and disease. Read the report.
- Worked with Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support to lead orientation Coast Path walks for new settlers to the Plymouth area, helping them find that sense of home you get from immersing yourself in a place. Read more about our project to give a ‘walking welcome’.
- Worked with Active Devon to lead beginner walks for inactive and isolated older people across Devon. Through our Couch to Coast project participants work up to a 5 kilometre walk on the Coast Path over a period of weeks, forming friendships along the way. Read more about ‘Couch to Coast’.
- Started working with Devon Disabled Ramblers and Cornwall Rolling Ramblers to review and update our downloadable easy access walk descriptions on the website and to audit paths. Read more about our accessibility work.
- Found new ways to digitally share uplifting stories from the Coast Path with our community, to keep them connected to each other and the Trail during the lockdowns via the medium of art. Read more about our ‘Inspired by the Coast’ project.
- Kept the way open for millions to find somewhere special to escape to for both local exercise and active staycations. The South West Coast Path stayed open throughout all national lockdowns.
None of this would have been possible without you, so thank you to each one of you that has supported our work over the last year, we’ve been humbled by your steadfast dedication to the South West Coast Path during this time of such uncertainty. A special thank you too goes to South West Water, lead EMM sponsors, whose support has underpinned the campaign so far. Let’s hope we can all enjoy the health benefits of the Trail before too long.