Leading South West businesses are showing their support for the region’s world-famous hiking trail, the South West Coast Path, as the charity which looks after it braces for a turbulent storm season.

South West Water, Forthglade Natural Pet Food, and industry body The South West Business Council, are the first businesses to back the Coast Path in a campaign to protect it from increasing extreme weather. The support comes as the first of the winter storms begin taking their toll on the National Trail.

The South West Coast Path Association (SWCPA) is appealing for donations to its Every Mile Matters campaign to help protect the 630-mile-long Path. Drawing on the success of the NHS’s Every Mind Matters mental health campaign, Every Mile Matters likewise aims to draw support for, and change perspectives on, something often taken for granted – access to the coast and wider environment.

The Coast Path provides health-giving happiness to over nine million people every year and adds over £500million to the region’s economy. The Trail has remained open during the pandemic and connects hundreds of coastal communities. Wrapping its way around the entire coastline of the South West it is one of our most precious wildlife corridors.

The Coast Path is a vehicle for change, helping us repair the growing disconnect between modern life and the natural world. Yet its long-term future is at threat due to under funding and coastal erosion caused by climate change.

Dan Jones, head of communications at South West Water said: “South West Water has supported the South West Coast Path for many years so we were more than happy to lend our support to the Every Mile Matters campaign to secure the path’s long-term future in the face of the rising threat from climate change. None of us want a tomorrow without the National Trail.”

Julian Gray, director of the South West Coast Path Association said: “The lockdown has shown how important the Coast Path is for people’s health and wellbeing and the local economy. It’s great to see businesses stepping up to support the Coast Path to ensure it’s there for future generations.”

Since 2013, the South West Coast Path Association has been tracking “exceptional coastal erosion events” with the help of its volunteers. For an incident to make it on to their records there needs to have been a direct impact on people’s ability to use the South West Coast Path, and a subsequent need for an intervention to repair, restore or even completely move the route of the Trail.

Over the last eight years the Association has recorded 180 exceptional events, which have destroyed parts of the Trail. Many events were cliff falls, landslips, or collapses of key infrastructure such as stairs or bridges caused by heavy rain fall, flooding, or storm surges. Climate change research indicates that we should expect these events to increase in frequency and severity over the coming years.

Gerard Lovell, managing director of Forthglade Natural Pet Food said: "As Devonians who benefit so much from having the South West Coast Path on our doorstep, we feel honoured to play our part in the Every Mile Matters campaign. By helping with costs to maintain the Path, we hope many generations to come can enjoy it as much as we do. The Path offers such a peaceful yet breathtaking place to escape and explore and what better way to do so than with our four-legged friends by our side."

Over the past five years, the Trails Partnership has had to invest an extra £2 million in the South West Coast Path to keep it open and accessible as maintenance, repair and improvement costs have risen by approximately 40%, now costing £1,400 on average per mile, per year. If the SWCPA can’t continue to meet this level of investment the Coast Path will cease to exist in the same way it does now.

Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council said: “The South West Coast Path Association are front runners in ensuring that the challenges we now face regarding physical and mental fitness can be tackled. The National Trail is a huge asset which too many within the region have not fully appreciated - Covid-19 has lifted the lid on the need for healthier communities and healthier businesses. Damage to the footpath over the winter requires constant effort to repair, and with climate change the level of damage will only increase.

"This initiative is therefore crucial to keeping this regional asset fit for purpose and in ensuring that the Path can be enjoyed for 365 days a year. If the investment can’t be met to maintain, improve and protect these assets they will be seriously under threat. We, as a community, need to do all we can to protect this great network.”

Through Every Mile Matters, the team at the SWCPA are aiming to raise £100,000 to help protect the South West Coast Path and ensure it is there for future generations to enjoy. With the support of businesses like South West Water and Forthglade, they have already raised £70,000 to help increase the Path’s resilience against the onslaught of extreme weather; conserve the rich biodiversity of the Trail’s wildlife and distinct cultural heritage; and continue to champion the real, positive impact it has on people’s health and wellbeing – not to mention local livelihoods.

Businesses can find out about campaign sponsorship opportunities by contacting the SWCPA Fundraising Manager at everymilematters@southwestcoastpath.org.uk