My teenage years were spent wildly dreaming of walking around the British coast. I would fall asleep at night imagining the views, the solitude and the fresh air – with the sea lapping on my left. Hitting my 50th birthday, and having a little more time on my hands, I set about planning the adventure. Joining the Association and opening the guide book it dawned on me that the ‘norm’ was to walk anticlockwise, with the sea to the right. How confusing!
Planning each section was nearly as exciting as walking it. I am proud to say, of the 21 trips I made to complete the path, only 4 involved a car. Trains (when the line hadn’t been swept away), came up trumps and I was able to enjoy the adventure as soon as I set off from home. Before even setting foot on the path, I became so familiar with the Great Western train journey – from the home counties across the Somerset levels and through Devon. It’s impossible to think of a favourite stretch I walked (although the rugged north Devon coastline takes some beating), however I can say I had a favourite time of year to walk – Spring. Bright flowers, bird song, the promise of warmer weather(!) and lengthening days became a seriously uplifting experience.
I have walked with family, friends and alone; each were special in different ways. Family – this was something wonderful to share, and in years to come we will have built memories together. Friends – I have never laughed so much despite the baking sun or thick relentless mud. Alone – it felt amazingly liberating, calming and rewarding. Several sections were walked with my recently bereaved father (fit, but in his 80’s), where we tackled challenging sections together including fierce autumn storms around Penzance. We even came across a dead turtle on the beach! We relished the opportunity to challenge ourselves, to share our passion for the outdoors and be positive about the future. Walking is so good for the soul.
Over 9 years I have amassed a large collection of photographs – wonderful views, walking companions, impossible stiles and belligerent cattle. I also have several pictures of gates, many of them open. During my many walking hours I have often pondered on the meaning of this. Open gates? Was it a prompt to look for new opportunities? excitement about the future? or anticipation of the unknown? Whatever the meaning, it has given me impetus to plan my next adventure. I finished the path a week before my 60th birthday, sharing the walk, bubbly and cake with family on the hottest of Easter weekends in April 2019! A truly fitting celebration for a fabulous adventure!
Thank you to all at the Association for developing this wonderful asset, generously supporting its upkeep and encouraging so many to enjoy it.