SOME 14 years after the scheme was first dreamed up, construction of the West Somerset Steam Coast Trail has begun.

The community-led project will see 1.5km of multi-use path built between Dunster Beach and Blue Anchor.

Once completed, the path will provide an accessible, surfaced route for walkers and cyclists along this popular section of coastline.

This is the first phase of Friends of the Steam Coast Trail’s (FSCT) ambition to create a network of safe multi-use routes away from the busy A39, for future generations to come.

FSCT were awarded £637,050 from the Coastal Communities Fund to deliver phase one of the Steam Coast Trail, and joined forces with West Somerset Council and Sustrans as project partners.

Extensive land negotiations delayed the start of the construction of the path, but now the build can begin in earnest.

With good weather, it is set to be finished early in the New Year and will be open for everyone to enjoy.

Cllr Karen Mills, Economic development lead member for West Somerset Council, said: “This is a positive first step in a much bigger vision for West Somerset.

"The benefits to the economy of developing cycling routes for locals and tourists has been proven elsewhere.

"It is well worth the years of volunteer effort that has driven this project forward, and I hope that success continues to come.”

Originally planned to meet the highway at Blue Anchor, the current construction will finish on top of the shingle bank.

Harry Singer, chairman of FSCT, said: “It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, with loads of activity behind the scenes.

"It is great that the build is finally here.

“We are really keen to work with land owners, so the delay in progress was worth it to keep everyone on board with the project.

"We haven’t been able to bring everyone along with us, but we hope that the Blue Anchor chalet owners will see what a great asset the path is and will be happy to work with us in the future.

"The benefits of walking and cycling to people’s health and wellbeing are well known, and the Steam Coast Trail should help boost the tourism economy too.”

Jim Whittaker, a West Somerset resident said: “It’s a great achievement to get this far and hopefully the whole project will receive the support it needs to reach completion.

"It will allow enjoyment of our amazing coast and countryside in a unique way and will serve local individuals, families, businesses and visitors for generations.”

Work has already begun on phase two of the Steam Coast Trail.

Planning permission was granted for a section of path between Old Cleeve and Washford on July 1 this year.

Friends of the Steam Coast Trail are now actively looking for further funding to deliver the next section of path.

Harry Singer added: “The community has expressed overwhelming support for the provision of safe routes in West Somerset for the past decade. We now want to keep the pressure up and keep them coming.”