28-year-old Conor Morgan tells us more about his journey completing the South West Coast Path. How it taught him to respect the Trail, get to know the region he grew up in and overcome Crohns Disease.
Growing up near Salcombe I never appreciated how lucky I was until I ended up leaving the area and living somewhere more urban and built-up. I lived abroad and then came back to live in London, when a chance trip back down to the south west in 2015 started an obsession.
I boarded a train to Penzance with the intention of walking all the way around to St Ives. Easy right? Clearly not, I spectacularly failed and my knees gave way at Cape Cornwall. I limped up to St Just and a kind local drove me the rest of the way. It taught me to treat the Coast Path with a lot more respect, but it also spurred me on to do the whole thing.
So starting a year later, I began to piece together the whole trail, starting out as a poorly prepared walker, slowly but surely becoming more of a hiker. There were still mistakes where I underestimated the challenge. Heat exhaustion between Portholland and Portloe, another knee injury limping into Exmouth, food poisoning in Weymouth and horrendous egg-sized blistering along the Tarka Trail into Barnstaple.The journey to becoming a proper long-distance hiker has been as enjoyable as the Coast Path journey itself.
In October 2020 I set off from Woolacombe with the intention of reaching the finish line in three days, over difficult terrain, in wild and unpredictable weather, and by the time I reached Minehead I could’ve kept walking for the rest of the week. While those three days were sublime, especially the final few miles on the Exmoor hills before the drop into Minehead, I have brilliant and vivid memories from the undulating Lulworth Ranges, behind Chesil Beach, wading the River Erme and the path around Tintagel and Boscastle.
My favourite section will always be between Salcombe and Hope Cove, on paths I’ve trodden on since I was a toddler. Finishing in 2020 was always the plan, however it turned out being much harder to do so, not just because of coronavirus, but because of Crohns Disease. Diagnosed last year, I’d lost weight, was in a lot of pain and found energy hard to come by. Surgery in June this year left me at my most weak and unfit, but bit by bit I built my fitness and weight back up and by tackling the notoriously challenging path from Bude to the finish line after the surgery, I can say I’ve overcome my diagnosis.
At 28 years old, I can now look back on this for the rest of my life with great knowledge about the whole region I grew up in and with many more years left to go and do it all again!
Featured photo: Sea Campion and Thrift growing on the edge of the hill overlooking Bossington beach, Somerset. Photographer Stephen Spraggon.