I completed the South West Coast Path to raise money for Heart Research UK after the sudden death of my husband in 2016. The walk was undertaken in the summer of 2017 with my dog Ruby. We did the whole path starting in Minehead on 12th May and ending in Poole on 19th September. Ruby was then a 9-year-old Cockapoo and she loved every minute of it. We raised over £4,00, which was perhaps an even more outstanding achievement.
The walk itself remains one of the best things I have ever done in my life and did much to help me, to help both of us, cope with loss and grief. When I was suddenly widowed, it would have been very easy to sit in my own home and feel justifiably sorry for myself. I was afraid of being alone for the rest of my life (I was then 66) when I had always been part of a couple, I was missing my husband terribly and I was coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on from the way in which he died. At the time I was also suffering with a bad back and nerve damage down one leg, which made walking a challenge on its own and I suffer with Morton’s Neuromas, which make walking tricky anyway. It is perhaps ironic that I chose to walk 630 miles with only my dog for company, a bad back, bad feet and a dodgy leg – when the thing I was struggling with was being alone and my own physical vulnerability. In fact, that total immersion into solitude broken only occasionally by fellow walkers, in the midst of such beauty and the physical challenges that made me poignantly aware of my existence (and at times my desire to keep existing, when faced with some tricky weather and situations) was perhaps the only way I personally could have made it through the difficulties of that first year.
I am eternally grateful for the existence of the South West Coast Path. I am grateful for both staff and volunteers who ensure it continues and is maintained. That completion certificate will mean a lot to me.