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Great news! We are launching our second GeoVation Challenge of the year ‘How can we connect communities and visitors along the Wales Coast Path?’ The challenge, is calling for creative thinkers, developers and entrepreneurs everywhere to submit their ideas for a chance to win a share of a £125,000 funding prize. In this guest post from Andy Middleton, co-founder and director of TYF, and Chair of the Judging Panel for this latest Challenge, he tells us about the pleasures of coastal exploring and why he looking forward to seeing and judging your ideas.
As a pre-teen coastal explorer on the south west coast of Wales, I discovered new and exciting places for scrambling, rock pooling and beach combing when the Pembrokeshire Coast Path first opened in 1970. New beaches, coves and headlands became accessible at the same time that my own independence grew in geographic reach, confidence and parental comfort. The coastline around St Davids is etched on my life like a vein of bright quartz shining bright in spring sun. From a degree in geography to a background, beckoning time as a travelled the world to a full-on love affair, the jagged coastline of Wales is in the DNA of everything I do, and without the free and open access that the coast path brought with it four decades ago, I sometimes wonder how different a life may have been.
It was only on travelling to the coasts of Europe and Australasia that realisation came of how much I’d taken for granted the right to walk freely on the edge of the land with camping kit, walking stick or surfboard under my arm. From Spain I recollect memories of mild panic of not being able to reach the beckoning blue sea for mile upon mile. New Zealand’s lack of access was more frustrating, with barriers to beach access after what felt like every turn; no exploring off the beaten track here, the signs told us.
Half a generation later and my whole living depended on the coast, perfected in the sport of coasteering that I started through TYF Adventure in St Davids, completely depending on a coast path for access to the start and finish points of our extreme playtime. Whatever the weather or time of year, we know that we can access the coast and make the most or worst of the conditions, according to our appetite for adventure.
Hearing in the mid 2000s of the then Welsh Assembly Government’s Minister for Environment, Jane Davidson’s commitment to opening of a path around the whole coast of Wales was one of those all too precious times when one can look back and say ‘that’s what the power of politics is good for’. At last, the pleasures of coastal access that had been a privilege in a few parts of Wales were to become a pleasure for all, giving a uniquely balanced view of a country that shows the beating pulse of its manufacturing and energy industries at the opposite end of an arc that runs to scenes of breathtaking beauty, fields of pink flowers and cartwheeling seabirds in blue skies
With the All Wales Path opening in May 2012, one of the most important to do list jobs for all communities that touch the coast is to work out how to best combine their unique cultural, culinary and historical offers into experiences that delight thousands of visitors, with narratives, tales and legends to stick in the memory long after coastal walks or visits have been completed. The Wales Coast Path GeoVation Challenge’s mission to connect visitors and communities around the maritime edge of Wales provides a unique opportunity to develop new resources that connect business services, health, access and wellbeing those who visit as well as those who live near this special resource. As Chair of the Coast Path GeoVation Challenge selection panel, it will be my pleasure to shortlist the dozens of great ideas that are put forward into a shortlist that will join the GeoVation Camp. Take your own first step, by putting the kettle on, gathering a handful of special friends around the table and sending in your best ideas for the Wales Coast Path GeoVation project; the exploration starts here.
The challenge runs until 2 May 2012. Enter here