RAMBLERS celebrated winning a legal victory over Southern Water to get a footpath reopened after 46 years.

The coastal footpath in Telscombe Cliffs runs through the Southern Water pumping station just west of the town.

After four-and-a-half decades of unauthorised closure, the path has finally been reopened to allow walkers to follow the coast all the way from Brighton to Newhaven.

The water company obstructed the path through its works in the early 1970s, and for many years it denied that there was a right of way.

The path along the cliff was demolished and the ramblers campaigned to get East Sussex County Council to help reinstate the public right of way.

The South Downs Society reported the blockage to the county council in April 2005. The council recognised the blockage was illegal and said a new route should have been provided by the firm.

But Southern Water said the blockage pre-dated its occupation of the site and said an alternative rough around the area was adequate

Everyone thought it was a lost cause until an eagle-eyed member of the South Downs Society (SDS) spotted that the footpath still legally existed.

The ramblers, local footpath secretary Peter Seed and the SDS, together with local residents, began a long campaign to get the path re-opened.

Their campaign was finally successful, and earlier this year Southern Water erected gates to allow the route to be followed across its property.

It was the culmination of the longest-ever campaign by the ramblers, in Sussex.

Former footpath secretary Malcom McDonnell described the victory as “the ability of ordinary people to overcome faceless bureaucracies”.

To mark the occasion members of Sussex Ramblers were joined by members of the SDS and the Open Spaces Society, and local dignitaries for a symbolic walk from the Telscombe Civic Centre to the site.

Vice chairman of the Sussex Ramblers Clive Grumett said: “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people. It’s wonderful to be able to walk this whole coast again without being diverted along the busy A259.”

Rambler Chris Smith added: “This is why you should join.”