When it was open, it was a popular route up the cliffs and to Highcliffe Castle, and had some great viewpoints on the way. There were a couple of benches, and it was wide enough for a mobility scooter to turn. The first two pictures below were taken in May 2012 and show the path when it was open.
However, because of safety issues it was closed in March 2017. See below for details of the saga since then!
As you may know, Christchurch Borough Council is reluctant to rebuild the zig zag path, making it difficult or even impossible for frail people, people with young children or buggies, the disabled or anyone who does not fancy going up and down more than a hundred steep steps, to access the beach from the Castle. I admit that I feel it should be rebuilt, even though it is expensive, as the nationally-recognised blue-flagged beach and the Castle are major tourist attractions in the area. We have reserves, and surely this is a ‘rainy day’ which they were meant for. Otherwise, what is the point of having them?
The slideshow below shows the situation, with the path and with the steep steps. Notice the helpful sign in the second slide showing the way up this prohibited path! The white sign says the following:
HIGHCLIFFE CASTLE ZIGZAG
The ZIGZAG PATH at Highcliffe Castle is to remain CLOSED
Why has the zigzag path been closed?
Having been monitored for over a year, the path was closed for public safety in March 2017 as surveys showed a failure of the retaining timber and there is a continuing significant risk to public safety.
How can I get to Highcliffe Castle while the zigzag is closed?
There are steps from the beach up to the grounds of Highcliffe Castle approximately 250 metres to the West of the zigzag.
There is no sloped access directly up Highcliffe Castle [sic]. There is a sloped access from the beach at Friars Cliff where it is possible to walk through the grounds of Steamer Point Nature Reserve to the Castle. Sloped access is also available at Highcliffe Beach but there is no cliff top access through to Highcliffe Castle.
Thank you for your patience while we carry out this essential work
Note – this is in reverse order. Scroll down to see earlier happenings. There is space for comments at the end.
WEDNESDAY, 5 DECEMBER
It’s being rebuilt!
Here is an article in The Echo. Just click the picture to read it, and see a slightly bigger picture of the aerial view.
FRIDAY, 30 November – View from the Ground
The zig zag path rebuilding is under way. It is a large project. The picture below is the view from the promenade, and the one below that is of the excavation of the path, taken from the beach.
Unfortunately, though there is supposed to be a board showing a timetable and the progress, I could not see it. However, there is a lengthy article on this site about the ‘history’ of the project. This link opens in a new window.
THURSDAY, 1 NOVEMBER
New month, and good news in today’s Christchurch Times:
The beginning of long-awaited work to repair a coastal access path in Christchurch is now just over a week away.
Contractors for Christchurch Borough Council are all set to commence the scheme on the Highcliffe Castle zig zag rebuild on Monday, November 12. A statement from the local authority says that the work is scheduled to be completed by Thursday, April 18, 2019.
Councillor Vicky Hallam, chair of Christchurch Borough Council’s Highcliffe zig zag task and finish group said: “We are pleased to see work on rebuilding the zig zag path beginning. This is an extremely complex engineering scheme and after a great deal of hard work it is fantastic to see the contractor starting work on site. I look forward to seeing the path reopened.”
The budget for the project of almost £900,000 was approved by councillors in February this year.
This was after a dramatic U-turn was performed by the council on whether to fund the zig zag reconstruction.
Members of the council’s community committee narrowly voted not to fund the project in summer 2017 due to rising costs. However, a campaign followed, led in large part by members of the Rothesay Drive Residents’ Association.
MONDAY, 20 AUGUST
Echo report – The path rebuild has been approved
FRIDAY, 10 AUGUST
Path reconstruction to be given the go-ahead. Read The Echo.
WEDNESDAY, 25 JULY
Schedule for the rebuild:
This appeared in the free Christchurch Courier today. Key events are the Planning Committee determination on August 16, and the start of works in November. The path should be completed by Easter 2019!
SUNDAY, 22 JULY
Very interesting, not to say worrying, post in our local NextDoor blog:
HIGHCLIFFE CASTLE STEPS – WARNING
Hate to say “I told you so,” but knew this was going to happen. This morning I went down the steps at Highcliffe Castle and nearly broke my ankle on rotten timber on the last landing before the last couple of steps on the beach.
Have tried contacting the Council. Left message. Have tried emailing them but the email address on their website is invalid so have tweeted them and am about to message Highcliffe Castle to see if they can put a warning up.
Someone is going to have an accident and the steps will be blocked off and then there will be no access to the beach!
Monday, 23 July – a reply
There is now a notice and warning signs – put there by the Castle I think – but don’t be surprised if “Ealth and Safety” don’t close the steps in this heatwave!
Wednesday, 25 July – Pictures
These show the steps from the bottom, where there is a clear sign. The lower one shows the slopes from the top – no sign!
SUNDAY, 15 APRIL
It is the view of Bob Hutchings of the Rothesay Drive Residents’ Association that the Council’s timescale for the work is too long.
He said: ‘First of all the officers are insisting it has to have full planning permission. Why? It is a path replacing an existing path.
And if the Council does require planning permission why doesn’t the Council grant itself permitted development rights as it did that with the beach huts, and was going to do with the ill-fates beach retreats?’
He said the requirement for planning permission was the main cause of delay as that needs the production of numerous reports on everything from heritage to biodiversity.
‘We are grateful that the councillors decided to do this, but quite frankly we think it should be done a lot quicker. They should start now. Why are they planning to do the work over winter? They say they don’t want the work to affect visitors, but there won’t be any visitors there as the zigzag is closed!’
WEDNESDAY. 21 FEBRUARY
An end – of sorts. Yesterday the Council allocated a further £239,500 to the scheme. The total budget now allocated is £884,500. Costs have been reduced: for example, Stewart’s Garden Centre will look after the planting, which will save a considerable sum. The estimate includes ‘spare’ for contingencies.
There is a more complete article in The Echo.
Here is the posting from Nigel Brookes on NextDoor, the local blog.
Fantastic news, Council Members, at the Full Council meeting yesterday evening approved additional funding of £239,500 to allow the rebuild project to proceed. This sum does include sizeable contingencies, which are unlikely to be required.
The Residents Group (Bob Hutchings, Nigel Brooks, Ian Nichols, Angus McMillan and Andy Rogers) worked tirelessly with the ‘Task and Finish Group’ (comprising Members and Officers) to bring about this successful outcome.
If you were able to sign the Petition back in October or have come along to support the campaign at Council meetings (or worn the Zig-Zag badge!) you are warmly invited on Friday morning around 10.30am to come to the Highcliffe Castle, Castle Kitchen where Bob and Nigel would like to buy you a nice cup of coffee (with a cake) to celebrate our success. There’s lots more to do before the path finally re-opens but at least we’re now under way and we can chat to you about how we hope to move forward in the coming months.
TUESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY
Meeting tonight – more on the Zig Zag path in The Echo
TUESDAY, 13 FEBRUARY
Going ahead? Possibly, probably … Echo article
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM DEHLIA RICKETTS, POSTED ON NEXTDOOR:
The Task and Finish group set up by the council to look at the Castle Zig Zag repair are reporting their findings to the full council meeting on Tuesday February 20th at the Civic Offices.We need to get as many people as possible to the meeting to let the Council know that the Zig Zag is very important to local people – be there, if you can, by 5.45pm.
MONDAY, 29 JANUARY
Caring for our coast, including the zig zag. Read The Echo
FRIDAY, 24 NOVEMBER
Zig zag update, and famous stickers! An Echo quote from their article to tempt you:
… the campaign to reopen the walkway from Highcliffe Castle to the seafront has continued to build with the production of several zig zag car sticker and badge designs.
Stewarts Garden Centres has given financial support to create the items, which have already travelled as far as Cairo and New York.
WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER
New zig zag proposal – All we want is a ramp, not a palace: Echo report
THURSDAY, 2 NOVEMBER – MORE ABOUT THE PATH
Echo report about yesterday’s meeting
WEDNESDAY, 1 NOVEMBER – GREAT PROGRESS
After the Council meeting yesterday, some good news.Nigel Brooks has posted in NextDoor, Highcliffe, the comment below.
Highcliffe Castle Zig-Zag path – BREAKING NEWS
AT LAST **********SUCCESS*********** the Council voted this evening, Tuesday 31 October (by 13 votes to 6) to rescind its previous decision to close the zig-zag completely and, instead, they agreed to fully investigate alternative ways to proceed and then seek tenders for the work. That’s a really positive step forward and we’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure that the Path does get rebuilt. It may not happen overnight but … watch this space. If you’re at a loose end on Friday morning 3 November (say, around 10.30am) and would like to meet some of our team of 5 ‘retired professionals’ and perhaps have a look at the two documents we prepared for Councillors ahead of tonight’s meeting, then do please pop round to the Highcliffe Castle, Castle Kitchen. If you have been actively involved in the campaign, by way of a ‘Thank you for your support’ Bob Hutchings and Nigel Brooks would love to buy you a nice hot cup of something.
SUNDAY, 29 OCTOBER – ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL (2)
Echo article about the proposal below – is it a viable solution?
THURSDAY, 26 OCTOBER – ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL (1)
As you probably know, after Christchurch Council resolved to close the Zigzag path we set up a group (consisting of 5 retired professionals with the following skills: Civil Engineering, Construction, Geology, Surveying and Finance) to fight the decision. We have been working hard since that diabolic resolution was passed on 9 August. We’ve met several times for discussions with Council Officers and with various construction firms.
We’ve put together a viable, affordable scheme to rebuild the path and that scheme will be shared with all Councillors ahead of their meeting next Tuesday. Our plan has been to show unequivocally that the cost reported to the Committee on 9 August was very significantly overstated. Moreover, we’re showing that a good quality path (with an estimated life of 60 years) can be built within the Council’s approved budget.
We will be able to share our plans shortly after they have been presented to Councillors.
So, what do we want now? We need your support at the Full Council Meeting at 6.00pm on 31 October at the Civic Offices. It is vitally important for the Council to see that people do care about the path; the more people they see at their council meeting the better. We have no active part to play at the Full Council Meeting – other than simply being there – the Council will debate a Motion (see below) calling for the previous decision to be rescinded and for further consideration to be given by the Full Council to rebuild the path. It’s the most important stage yet. Please be there if you possibly can.
The Motion states –
• That the decision be reconsidered by full council taking account of:
1. The Coastal Strategy Public Consultation
2. Further funding options explored
3. Alternative design and build tenders being sought and received
4. The full cost of retaining a similar on gradient path to the beach in this location be known
Nigel Brooks MBA MRICS Chartered Surveyor
THURSDAY, 19 OCTOBER – ANOTHER SUGGESTION
Echo article, with suggestions from the Residents’ Association.
TUESDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER – FULL COUNCIL MEETING
and presentation of a petition from Highcliffe residents
From Nigel Brooks, Highcliffe, circulated on NextDoor:
‘The Petition, with 3,000+ signatures, objecting to the decision not to rebuild the path, will be presented to Christchurch Council, Civic Centre, Bridge Street. Please come along to show your support, from 5.35pm for a press ‘photo call’ and Full Council meeting from 6.00pm. Thank you for your support!’
A message from Gwynne James, circulated on NextDoor:
‘I simply could not believe this utterly stupid decision but then remembered that we are dealing with Christchurch Council where the requirement is to hand your common sense in before making a decision!
This morning my wife and I witnessed families trying to negotiate the very steep wooden steps from the Castle down onto the beach with push chairs, children and beach stuff – it was almost impossible – and dangerous.
All it wants is for someone to be injured trying to negotiate these steps and sue the Council to make the estimated bill for the zig zag seem quite reasonable!
With the zig zag out of action the Castle is all but cut off from the beach and the loss in potential earnings must be huge. The loss of the zig zag also throws up the very important issue of wheel chair access etc which, by law, the Council must seriously consider.
I’m pretty confident that the idiots responsible for this decision will have to reconsider their decision very quickly.’
19 AUGUST: We’re not happy – residents to protest
16 AUGUST: Beach defence plans – and the path
8 AUGUST: Council priorities
5 AUGUST: Don’t use zig zag
5 SEPTEMBER: Echo article about the path, and the meeting tonight.
Interesting comments at the end
Local Councillor Mrs Derham-Wilkes appeared at the end, just after the interviewer and a very tired-looking dog had struggled up the 117 steps. For copyright reasons I cannot publish the clip, but this is exactly what she said:
I know a lot of people will be affected by it, but I’m afraid sometimes in life you have to take the tough decisions and make them and on this occasion this is what we felt we had to do. (Interviewer: And there’s no possibility of a U-turn?) Reply, half-smiling: There won’t be a U-turn. No. The decision’s been made. It’s concluded.
3 OCTOBER: Echo article – there could be land mines under or near the path!