Steve Pattemore recently completed walking the South West Coast Path for the 4th time – that’s 2,520 miles – the equivalent of walking from Plymouth to Turkey or climbing Mount Everest 16 times! That is extreme dedication to the cause – congratulations Steve!
We were so happy to welcome Steve to SWCP HQ at Royal William Yard and present him with a unique Mile Maker sign as a thank you for the many years that he has supported the charity, and to celebrate his incredible achievement on the Path.
We asked Steve a few questions about his experience walking the Path over the years, and asked him – what’s the next adventure?
How long have you been a member of The South West Coast Path Association?
I’ve been a member of the Association since 2009, and believe that supporting the charity and its membership ensures more money to look after the Path, as well as providing more lobbying power at a National level. Not to mention the member benefits and the ‘feelgood factor’ in supporting!
People visit from all over the world to walk it and yet it’s right here in our country! What’s not to love about ending a day’s walking into a little fishing village, having enjoyed fantastic views and stunning scenery.
When did you first complete the South West Coast Path?
I first completed the 630 miles of Coast Path in August 2008 and this my 4th time completing. I had a setback in 2009 due to Cancer and wasn’t able to fully get back to walking until 2012, but during chemo, the Dr’s asked what I did and when I said ‘walking’, they said to keep at it, as it’s the best thing that I could possibly do – so I did! This gave me the idea of walking the Path in the opposite direction and yes, the scenery is completely different!
On average, it’s taken me 3 years to complete, between 50 – 60 days each time. I sometimes stay in self-catering accommodation and sometimes campsites, that way I can use local transport and my car to get me to the start and finish points each day. I love the planning of it all!
It’s difficult to capture my favourite stretch, but probably St Ives to Sennen Cove in North West Cornwall because it is so rugged and wild.
What other National Trails have you walked?
I’ve also walked the West Highland Way in Scotland (96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William) with a group of friends from work a few years ago. It was the longest pub crawl I have ever been on! I’ve also completed The Wainwrights (The Lake District’s 214 peaks). But yet, I keep coming back to the South West Coast Path because the view is never the same due in part to the terrain, wildlife, colours of the season. It is all encompassing and gives such an amazing ‘feel-good’ factor!
Have you witnessed how climate change has affected the Path?
I’ve been walking the SWCP for 18 years. In that time the Dawlish wall and railway track have been severely damaged and in many places I’ve seen sections where the path I’ve previously walked on, is no longer there and the sea has eaten away at the cliffs. Cliff erosion has occurred close to where I live with large pieces of the cliff falling into the sea between Seatown and West Bay. Without any doubt, warmer wetter winters and more intense winter storms are having a dramatic detrimental effect on the Coast Path all along it’s 630 mile length.
What’s the most difficult section of the Path?
I think the Hartland Quay to Bude section is the most challenging. I have affectionately (with a slight grimace!) named it the ‘toblerone trail’ because it is so up and down – you need to mentally prepare yourself for the miles of rolling valleys and hills.
For you, what are the benefits of walking the Path?
It is a combination of both mental and physical. The Path is a great place to explore, it provides a sense of purpose. The natural endorphins that kick in when you’re walking have a long-lasting positive effect. Following a day of walking, you may feel physically tired, but mentally you are recharged.
As a seasoned SWCP walker – any tips?
- Plan your day – make sure you have done your research to prepare for the day ahead. Check the weather, distance and elevation, and allow yourself a comfortable amount of time to reach your end-of-day destination.
- Wear good gear – this includes socks (I recommend John Arbon socks which are made from Exmoor blue face sheep wool); boots (I wear Scarpa); leg warmers to protect your skin when wearing shorts from stinging nettles and brambles; walking poles to aid with reducing pressure on the knees; sunglasses; hat; clothes that wick.
- Carry a good map and guidebook. Do not rely on your phone.
- Take plenty of food and water. I usually carry 1.5 – 2 litres of water to walk about 13 miles.
I’ve already started walking my 5th time around and hope to complete in 2025. After that I don’t know, I will be 75 by then and might have to re-evaluate my goals!
Carpe Diem – Seize the Day
Photo: Steve walking down the ‘Steps to Devon’ in Royal William Yard, Plymouth. Site of the completion of his 4th time walking the SWCP.
Are you a Completer?
Did you know that you can submit your completer story via our website? We really enjoy hearing about the many journeys that people take along the Path – share your story with us.
If you’d like a certificate to commemorate your achievement you can purchase one at our online shop HERE.