What is the Steam Coast Trail?

The SCT is an ongoing community project in West Somerset to develop a network of multi-use paths to link Minehead to Williton (and maybe even beyond…)

 

Rather than building one huge path we use a ‘jigsaw’ strategy, adding pieces of the puzzle as we go, linking existing B roads and cycle paths to create an ever-expanding network.

 

Phase One opened in December 2016 and runs from Dunster Beach almost all the way to Blue Anchor and is approximately 2km. It links about 25 kilometers of existing cycle paths and B-road cycling.

 

Phase Two - Old Cleeve to Washford - opened in October 2018 and is just over 1km. This path runs adjacent to the railway line from Washford Station. From the Dragon's Cross (Old Cleeve) end Blue Anchor can be reached via the Old Cleeve Road.

 

Can dog walkers use the Trail?

Yes, responsible dog owners are very welcome. Owners should give way to wheeled traffic and take all dog mess away with them.

 

What about horses?

Sorry, no horses allowed. The Steam Coast Trail is for walkers, human-powered wheeled-things, and mobility scooters only.

 

Are the Trails wheelchair-accessible?

Phase One is currently only wheelchair accessible from the Dunster Beach end, you need to turn wheelchairs around once you get to the end of our Trail (700m from Blue Anchor) as the shingle coast path is currently the only route to Blue Anchor.  

 

Phase Two is completely wheelchair accessible and has level resting areas.  

 

How are the Trails made?

The Steam Coast Trail is led by volunteers and one Project Officer and works closely with cycling and walking charity, Sustrans. We are always looking for volunteers to help so please get in touch if you’d like to join the team.

 

We have many brilliant local supporters but the Steam Coast Trail so far has been mostly funded by grants from the Coastal Communities Team, EDF’s Hinkley Point C Community Impact Mitigation Fund and the Coastal Revival Fund.

 

Where next?

This is the question we get asked the most! The vision of the Steam Coast Trail is to link up the main settlements along the West Somerset coastal strip - Minehead, Watchet and Williton. But we also want to pick up as many of the other villages as well, including Dunster, Blue Anchor, Old Cleeve and Washford. We want to see a network of cycle routes, away from the A39, so that residents and tourists can travel around the area on foot, by bike or with mobility equipment without having to battle with traffic.

 

That’s nice, but where exactly?

This is a tricky one, as it depends on a whole heap of factors: firstly, we start from the premise that we want to open up access to as many people as possible including bikes and those using mobility equipment. This means that we need to find level routes with very gentle gradients...not particularly easy in West Somerset, but they are there!

 

Secondly, it requires the availability of land. Routes that might be suitable in terms of gradient, might not be suitable if they run through the middle of someone's farm yard, or result in unacceptable ecological damage by cutting down important hedgerows. It is down to the private land owner whether they are agreeable to working with the Steam Coast Trail, they are totally within their rights to tell us to go away! Thankfully a number of them are very supportive of the project.

 

Thirdly, it comes down to money. It is surprising just how expensive building a multi-use path can be, and large grant funding pots are few and far between. Where the path goes will depend on how much money we can get to spend on the build. Clearly, the longer the off road path, the more expensive it will be. We have to strike a balance between what is a good route, and what is a fundable route.

 

That doesn't exactly answer the question of 'where'. We do have a good idea, but until the three elements above line up, it would be rash to jump the gun!

 

How does the Trail impact the unspoilt nature of the existing coastline and countryside?

Under consultation with Natural England and the Environment Agency, we try very hard to keep all of our infrastructure as unobtrusive as possible: limited and sympathetically coloured signage, and we are opting away from sealed, man-made surface materials and going for local materials where possible. For example, crushed shingle on top of a sympathetically coloured retaining lattice; wooden bridges and posts. Where we do use tarmac, we chose a variety that will fade over time.

 

We also have an ecological consultant as part of our team who makes sure our contractors don't build during nesting seasons, that they avoid disturbing habitats like reed beds and ensures we maintain or enhance the surrounding biodivertity.

 

Why does the Trail from Dunster Beach fall short of the path at Blue Anchor?

The Steam Coast Trail (SCT) ‘Phase One’ path runs from Dunster Beach and ends approximately 700 metres from Blue Anchor Bay Road (the esplanade).  The land between the end of our path and the sea wall at Blue Anchor, including the beach down to the low water tide line is privately owned by the Blue Anchor Chalet Owners Association (BACOA).

 

SCT and BACOA are working towards a mutually agreeable plan that would adequately address the legitimate concerns BACOA has about safety, privacy, buildability and sustainability. Relations are friendly between both groups and we hope to come up with some creative solutions in the not too distant future.

 

Please respect that although the chalet owners are happy to welcome visitors to this stretch of beach there is no public access (on foot or bike) permitted to the chalet park itself.

 

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