A MAJOR fundraising campaign has been launched to improve a historic Hampshire footpath with links to the D-Day landings.

The Lepe Loop crosses beaches where troops left for the Normandy invasion in June 1944 but is often impassable in wet weather.

Campaigners want to upgrade the five-mile path as well as installing new information boards telling the story of the area's wartime past.

A bid to raise £25,000 is being spearheaded by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA), Hampshire County Council and the Friends of Lepe group.

The appeal is part of the nationwide Make One Million campaign, which is run by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), and aims to raise £1 million to renovate footpaths in all 15 of the UK’s national parks.

The Lepe Loop enables walkers to complete a circular route between Lepe Country Park and the village of Exbury.

Money raised by the fundraising campaign will be used to improve the path's surface, making it more accessible throughout the year, as well as replacing finger posts and interpretation boards.

Lepe played a major role during the build-up to the D-Day landings and evidence of its contribution to the invasion can still be seen.

The beach was used to build some of the concrete caissons that were towed across the English Channel to form the artificial Mulberry Harbour, which kept the troops supplied by ensuring that cargo could be offloaded.

The name is said to have been devised by a group of D-Day planners who were sitting under a mulberry tree in Exbury.

Lepe was also the point where PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean) left the mainland.

More than 170 million gallons of petrol were pumped to the advancing Allied forces in Europe between D-Day and VE Day the following year.

NPA ranger Chris Marshall said: "As well as being enjoyed by thousands of people each year, the national park’s coastline is precious habitat for wading birds, so we hope people will join us in grabbing this opportunity to improve one of the coast’s most popular paths."

The scheme was also welcomed by Hampshire County Council’s executive member for recreation and heritage, Cllr Seán Woodward.

He said: "We want everyone to fully enjoy Hampshire’s amazing coastline and countryside, and Lepe is a particularly special place with its spectacular views.

"Crucially the improvements will make the route more weather-resistant, enabling it to be enjoyed all year round."

To donate to the campaign go online and visit mendmountains.thebmc.co.uk/new-forest.