Anglesey's landowners hold key to completing coast path

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More than 30 years after the project was first discussed, moves are under way to complete what would be Britain's longest circular pathway amid spectacular North Wales scenery.

The Anglesey coastal path, a continuous 220-mile walk, would take in the site of the world's second-largest raven roost - 1,800 of the birds have been known to congregate at Newborough Forest on the east of the island - and offer encounters with the chuff, another Anglesey trademark.

The island's economic development agency, Menter Mon, has secured £230,000 of funding from the European Union to complete the last quarter (a total of 55 miles) of the path. But they must first counter the resistance of several island landowners.

Richard Seaman, manager of the Bodorgan estate, in south-west Anglesey, expressed the fears. "We are concerned that a path would cause erosion and add to the litter which is regularly cleared from the coast line," he said. Mr Seaman has also voiced concerns about the effects on an area of acidic grassland designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest".

The EU grant can be used to compensate landowners, but whether a modest pay-off would interest wealthy families such as the Tapps-Gervis-Meyricks, who own the Bodorgan estate, remains to be seen.

However, the political climate could weigh in favour of those attempting to complete the path, whose incentive is a tourism asset to rival the 186-mile-long Pembrokeshire's coastal path in south-west Wales.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, now before Parliament, proposes greater accessibility to private land, and is part of renewed scrutiny of such private fiefdoms as have stalled the path's completion.

Gerallt Llewelyn Jones, managing director of Menter Mon, has already drawn together the Country Landowners' Association, Anglesey council and the two farming unions, the FUW and NFU.

"This is the first time money has been brought into the project and I am confident," he said. "We know better than to come at this from an authoritarian angle. We are interested in what's possible."

That could mean abandoning hopes that all of the path will fall within 40 metres of the coast, as much of Pembrokeshire's path does, and accepting 85 per cent sea views. Menter Mon has sought a one-year trial.

The National Trust is sympathetic to much of the pathway, as, of course, is the Ramblers' Association. Anglesey council is eyeing up nearby Denbighshire, which says that for every £1 spent on its section of the 177-mile Offa's Dyke border path (from Prestatyn to Chepstow) £20 is spent in the local community.