SWCPA member Keri discovered the South West Coast Path during a difficult time in her life. Before long, walking the Path became her way of overcoming life’s challenges, making her feel calmer and able to cope with the things that had happened. Here Keri shares her story and tells us about the eventful end to her completion of the Path.
I first started doing the Coast Path after my father died, as he loved walking there. Initially it was just along the North Cornwall coast where he used to go. Then one day I suddenly thought ‘Why not keep going and do the whole of Cornwall?’ I live at Launceston, which is about 20 miles between the North and South coasts of Cornwall.
I work full time and stayed at my mums on a Friday night for jobs on Saturdays, so my only free days were Sundays, during stormy weather I wouldn’t get out. So it took me nearly six years to complete the Path, trying to juggle my time – and in theory I did it twice as I always had to get back to the car.
I was never the most confident of people and I was at a low point in my life when I started this venture back in 2014. I found walking on the Coast Path gave me time to reflect on things that had happened over the years, as well as losing my Dad, I lost both my sisters and went through a divorce. I went out on my own and found that the solitude made me feel calmer inside and more able to cope with other things in my life. Once I finished Cornwall, I thought why stop here, let’s do it all! So then I started the North Devon section and it snowballed from there.
Then a couple of years ago I was finding I was getting very sore legs and getting very breathless on the hills. I put it down to old age initially, but when my legs started to swell badly in March 2020 I saw the doctor who thought possibly inflammatory arthritis. This was at the start of lockdown, but I decided then and there that as soon as it was permitted I would finish the Coast Path, as I may not get another chance, still assuming it was an age thing as I am 63 now. I found the distances I could cover in one walk were getting shorter and shorter, but I was determined to finish.
Then in October I was told it was lung cancer. While not being the best of news, it did explain a lot and it wasn’t just me being feeble. I was offered a lobectomy and afterwards I was told it was the walking that made me recover fairly quickly from the operation. I did Golden Cap in summer 2020, which looking back I wonder how I got up it at all. It did take me a while, but I guess it would if you have lung cancer. Unfortunately I have been told I need to have chemotherapy, but it will be the thought of getting back to the Path that will help keep me going.
The Coast Path is amazing with all it’s different elements, sometimes steep, rocky paths, sometimes easy level going and sometimes woodland. It brings you closer to nature and to realise what matters and what doesn’t. By the time I had finished I was more confident about my own abilities and less thinking everyone else must know more than I do. I finally finished the last section I had left at Prawle point on 30th August 2020. It took me about six years to do it all given my other commitments and health issues, but it was a journey I’ll never forget.
Good luck ladies, I wish you all the best. It’s a mammoth journey and your adventure will be unforgettable.
Hi Gail – fantastic inspiring piece or writing for everybody- and you make me smile with the mention of the…
Last year on the 27 April I walked a marathon around my front and back garden it took all day…
They don’t stand a chance, you can’t run from her, she’s gonna win!
Umm, not sure I’m capable of a book. 🙂