The Footpath Group formed in 2009. It's full title is the 'Shotley Stour Footpath Renovation Group'. The primary aim is to protect and preserve a section of public footpath that runs from Bristol Hill, Shotley Gate in a Westerley direction up to 'Cockle Creek' a distance of approximately 900 metres.
In 2010 the group, working in Partnership with Statutory Bodies including Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB Unit and The Environment Agency successfully installed the first phase of Erosion Protection to Shotley Cliff. Phase 2 was completed in Summer 2011, the whole comprising 260 metres of gabions filled with crushed concrete, with an integrated access path to the rear which serves the dual purpose of reinstating a long extinct section of the circular coastal walk. The erosion defences are checked at regular intervals and appear to be working, while response to the restoration of the path has been generally positive.
The first image shows the sea defences and integrated path from the Western end, looking towards Shotley Gate, with Shotley Cliff to the rear, as it looked in August 2011.
The second image was taken the previous year, and shows only phase 1 of the erosion protection taking a battering from the waves. The gabion boxes diffuse the force of the waves and prevent further loss of material from the base of the cliff, which was previously eroding at a rate of several feet per year. This gradual erosion was endangering not only the cliff itself and the extensive wildlife habitat it contains, but potentially also a number of properties along the road which runs parallel to the cliff top (Stourside), as well as the road itself.
Two separate contractors were used for the two phases, Welham Plant Ltd of Woodbridge who installed the first 90 metre section in 2010, and Groupbridge, who were responsible for the installation of phase two in 2011. In both cases, the works were modified during construction to deal with circumstances as they arose; during the construction of phase one it became apparent that a set of steps down onto the beach, not a part of the original design, would need to be built in in order to avoid blocking public access, while the footpath was originally put in during phase two in order to more easily facilitate the construction, but was then extended and properly surfaced largely due to public demand. The area is now well used by both local residents and visitors to the area. A large section of Shotley Cliff and fifty acres of foreshore, as well as the land on which much of the new path runs and the majority of the gabions stand, was purchased by Shotley Parish Council in late 2012, and the Parish Council is now responsible for ongoing maintenance and management of this area. Quarterly inspections are carried out to ensure the continuing safety of the sea defences.
As a side project, during construction of the second phase in 2011, the same contractors were used to renovate the formerly derelict picnic area at the beginning of the cliff path adjacent to the foot of Bristol Hill, the remnants of the wooden benches installed several years earlier by Babergh District Council removed and replaced by new ones constructed from a durable recycled plastic material by Whitehouse Enterprises, and the entire area resurfaced. The 'before' and 'after' photographs below show the results. Several local residents have now donated benches (again constructed by Whitehouse) to the site in support of the renovation. Additional donated benches have been placed at intervals further along the footpath at the foot of the cliff, along with an all-weather shelter provided by the Parish Council and seating areas and an outdoor learning space in the woodland on the cliff (now known as Shotley Heritage Park). Further additions and renovations to the area are currently planned.