The rules

United Kingdom has over 7,000 islands, rocks, tidal sandbanks and abandoned shopping trolleys, so even as haphazard a walk needs rules…what is part of the mainland, and do I need to walk up ever little inlet? If you’re walk along the coast, then what exactly is the coast?

Well I’ve decided:

  1. The coastal path is the main guide, if it goes there so will I. The coastal path isn’t everywhere though, and sometimes it strangely skirts inland for no reason, in those cases I will make a judgement call usually based on time and tiredness whether I want to walk along the coast proper. I do prefer walking along beaches or cliffs than some inland path with no view. Although safety concerns come in, I have walked around a headland for miles along the shoreline then found the sign ‘Danger! Quick Sand!’ on the other end…
  2. It’s part of the mainland and thus part of the coastal walk if there is a physical connection during most or all of the tides. A connection is a bridge, a walkway or causeway available most of the time. I’m not walking all the big named islands, that you can only get to by boat, although some I’ve visited already. Thus Isle of Sheppey counts, so probably will St Michael’s Mount when I get there if the tide allows, many piers and headlands, but not Guernsey or The Isle of Man.
  3. It’s only in the running to be even considered if the piece of land is above tide all the time. No sandbanks, tidal islands, etc. however accessible.
  4. When land is private or disused I usually walk along the beach as between high water and the water is actually owned by the Queen, if it’s physically or safely possible – I’m not walking at the bottom of a tidal cliff! They like to put up signs telling you otherwise, but unless you are the MOD (headed by the Queen) or the Queen you can’t actually have a private beach. Not along the waterline. I have walked 5 miles along shingle beach by a firing range before now – with no exit!
  5. Regular ferries are allowed across estuaries and rivers, although I’ve found precious few of these. I don’t have to actually ride the ferry, just walk to where the ferry is, if it’s out of hours. Regular means running most or all of the year, not some ad-hoc summer-only man in a boat. This also applies to my Thames River Walk too.

All of these are at my own judgement, if the walk can be a lot easier and quicker then I will break them, but only in cases where there isn’t really a guide either way (a path for instance, I will usually devolve to that) or the state of tide or weather is against me. I’m not going to schlep all the way back because the tides were wrong to walk around some rock! But if it’s there and the tides are good, then fine.

Some might get interesting when I get further into areas that don’t have paths (if I get to Wales or Scotland for instance) although their roaming laws are better now, but I bet the curse of the Mythical Private Beach is strong there…if a man with a gun is saying don’t walk, I’m not going to walk.