Completer

A journey I’ll never forget

"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."

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.

Keri at Pentireglaze, near Polzeath. North 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. 

Golden Cap. Photo by Gary Holpin

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.

  1. NOW – Keri time to write the book. including all the wonderful photographs you have taken. go for it girl.…

18 comments

  1. Keri, you are one of the most brilliant people I know and during our more than 50 years of friendship I have seen you battle through some seriously tough times. Your achievement here, in the face of adversity, is truly humbling and absolutely amazing. Well done indeed, you are a true inspiration! Sharon x

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Sharon. You have known me a long time and always been there when I needed you, especially through the school years which were so tough for me.

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  2. Dear Keri, you were our saviour when my daughter was having such a hard time trying to stay on her pony (40 years ago) but thanks to you she went on to achieve no mean succes in her horse career. You, yourself Keri, must be an inspiration to others. having such difficulties in you life, but thinking of others and not yourself. You WILL come shining through this. God Bless You.

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  3. What a fantastic achievement Keri, and particularly shows what amazing perseverance (despite ill-health) that you have. Thank you for sharing your story on the path.

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  4. Hi Keri

    I am in awe of you, what perseverance – I’m sure your dad is looking down on you and filled with pride. You should be very proud of youself too – what an achievement.

    I also went to the same school as you and Sharon – don’t know if you remember me. I hope all goes well with your treatment – sending you a healing hug from Derby. Take care.

    Sue Allerton

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      1. Yes goid thanks Keri. I have a little jack russell dog who I exercise – keeps me sane too. We havn’t got the gorgeous coastal paths that you have in Cornwell but we do have some nice walks and parks near to home. I will be thinking of you. Take care x

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  5. Hi Keri, this is Debbie writing from Los Angeles. Thanks so very much for sharing your inspiration and perseverance. The Path must be magical and I’m looking forward to heading there this fall after 2 cancelled trips last year. I’ll remember you as I walk and reflect on how many others found solace and strength following in your steps. I hope you know how much of a gift your story is!

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    1. Hi Debbie, you are very kind. You will enjoy the walk as there is no other like it. I hope the weather is kind when you come.

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  6. This is amazing! I have walked the SWCP twice (once in each direction) and did the ascent surveys. But I was fit and healthy when I did it. You have done it in spite of your serious health problems and lung cancer. That is truly inspiring and shows enormous courage, determination and fortitude. I now have terminal cancer. I remain stoic and positive about my situation so many of my friends have called me inspirational, but that, while flattering, is nothing compared with you. You are truly inspiring. As Debbie Karaman says, your story should indeed be a gift to all who read it. It would make a good book!

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  7. Keri – that’s a fantastic achievement, well done and for sharing it with so many, you’ll find the strength and determination to get through this next chapter in your life and the next walks

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  8. Hi Keri. Your story is amazing. Well done to you on perservering. It took me 7 years to go and I only did it one way! Hope you get well soon. 🙂

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