Dean wants more of a discussion forum so to get the ball rolling:
The Welsh coastal path is a huge slow expensive ecological disaster.
I am relatively new to iSpot and certainly to the regional forum discussions.
Although I have walked most of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and along chunks of the Glamorganshire coast, I am not a supporter of the drive to be able to circumnavigate the country on coastal footpaths. In my experience, only the sections of path that are within a mile or so of car-parks are used by more than a few people. Much of the rest of the route is "empty", and my daughter and I have enjoyed "encounters" with all sorts of wild-life during our walks.
Is John's concern that more people will be attracted to the round-Wales path, thus leading to more environmentally-damaging car journeys? Or is the principal concern that people will spoil previously unvisited habitats? Perhaps it is something else.
The disturbance from extra visitors and the damage caused by the construction of the path are both of concern, especially when they involve drainage and the laying of hardcore. But I see the biggest problem as the fencing. As part of the deal to the farmers to cut down on disturbance to livestock, the narrow strip with the path on is fenced off from the inland pasture. This means the strip of unimproved cliff-top grassland does not get grazed. For a year or three it will look marvellous, more flowers than ever, and all involved will be congratulating themselves on producing such a picturesque path. In ten years time it will be over-run by gorse, bramble or blackthorn and all the grassland flowers, not to mention the oil beetles, ground-nesting wasps, etc, will have died out. That is what is happening on Anglesey.
I know this is not in Wales but we to have had a very similar problem in Northumberland it was decided to make it possible to walk the whole of the Hadrian Wall from Wallsend North East coast to the Solway firth North west coast thus crossing the whole country. It has increased the traffic and damage to the surrounding environment and the tranquillity of the whole area,plus I have noticed an increased amount of rubbish too.
I also used to live on the Gower peninsula in south Wales in Oxwich were I was a farm worker and most of the land was not accessible to the public but I could understand why
I cannot claim to know Anglesey well, but I seem to remember that the coastal area is generally pretty flat, with a few small hills. In addition, of course, I guess you aren't too far from some large centres of population, so the area is presumably attractive to large numbers of walkers, both serious and casual. Many other parts of the coast aren't so "unlucky", so numbers of "intruders" probably remain lower.
It sounds, too, from your description that paths are being laid to enable less-able-bodied people to use them, again unlike many other areas, where the rugged nature of the paths and the up and down nature of cliffs and coves make them less accessible to all but the fit and the determined. I can understand that whilst such facilities might assist in the drive towards increasing the "nation's fitness", they obviously cause problems in other respects.
I believe that other coastal land-owners have faced similar problems in preventing wide-scale incursion of undesirable plants (gorse, bracken, etc) and their adverse impact on the diversity of flora and fauna. I have certainly come across many wider strips of coastal area that have horses, cattle or sheep on the "wrong side" of the fences to help control unwanted growth. I haven't studied the impact of that tactic, but I understand that it is redressing the balance in several places. Any scope for that in Anglesey? In several areas of the Pembrokeshire and South West Coastal Paths, the area between the wire and the cliff edge is pretty narrow, so the adverse impact on nature is more limited.
I don't know whether landowners can seek to divert the paths if they encroach on habitats where specific species are under threat, but perhaps the bureaucracy associated with such claims is too great to make it practical. I guess too, that the increased tourism fostered by the paths brings more income for some/many of the local inhabitants?
Is there a local "protection" group in your area to present the wild-life diversity case in mitigation of any of the work?
There is a grazing animals project on Anglesey which aims to put livestock on the "wrong" side of the fence, but that is only feasible where the cliff-top unimproved grazing is fairly wide, which is not the case for much of the coast. Much of the fenced off path is only a few metres wide and you couldn't mix livestock and dog walkers in such confined conditions. The livestock would end up on the rocks below.
After the Big Wigs launched the completed Welsh coastal path last year I thought at least we know the maximum extent of the damage. But no. Yesterday I visited what had been an unspoilt oakwood coming down to the Menai Strait just west of Britannia Bridge, and found they have pushed another piece of coastal path through it, so now it is all barbed wire, drainage ditches, infilling of seepages (people walking the coastal path mustn't risk dirty shoes) and dog muck. And that in an SSSI. Anything goes in Wales if you mention the magic word Tourism.
I walked the same new section of path last week. Red Squirrels Trust Wales have been controlling grey squirrels there for several years and I wanted to see where exactly the planners had placed the footpath route relative to trap locations. The fencing looks fine, my complaints are more that contractors had left bits of wire and staples lying around, and there is also old rusted wire elsewhere that could have been removed but had been left. The footpath isn't as bad an eyesore as I had first thought it would be; at least it is not covered with slate waste chippings! I do agree that there are points where some thought could have gone into protecting the wetter features. All in all it is a great addition to the coastal path system.
My biggest grumble about coastal paths is that we have missed opportunities to integrate with species/habitat conservation which are often the very features that the path managers market to draw in visitors...