May 9th -15th is Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, and is an invaluable opportunity for people to talk about all aspects of mental health.
We are sharing a story from one of our fundraisers, Paul Sharpe, whose walk along the 630-miles of the South West Coast Path is an integral part of his recovery from depression.
Paul lives in Derbyshire and has enjoyed many holidays in Cornwall with his wife Claire over the years. He is a wildlife enthusiast and avid walker. Last year, Paul became depressed following redundancy due to the closure of the print and design company that he’d worked at for 37 years (a result of the pandemic).
We joined Paul for the stretch between Lamorna Cove and Mousehole and chatted to him about his journey before stepping foot on the Path, and how he is feeling now he is a few weeks into the challenge.
Before the SWCP journey began
I had worked as a graphic designer for a print company for 37 years, starting straight from school. I found being made redundant and the whole situation very traumatic and it made me quite depressed. I was fortunate to have my wife Claire provide me with the support I needed at home and encourage me to seek help from external sources. Speaking about how I was feeling was not easy. I had lived a good and happy life up to this point, and I was not used to talking about feelings, especially negative feelings. I knew though that I had to talk and once I started it was a relief. Getting help was crucial and I feel extremely lucky that I was offered the support that worked for me and led me down a path to recovery.
Passion for the Path
Claire and I have loved and walked the South West Coast Path for years, with a particular fondness for the area between St Ives and Zennor. I have always had the ambition to walk the entire 630 miles, and so when I found myself with the time and the opportunity to walk it, I decided to take the plunge and attempt to make that ambition a reality. It gave me a much-needed focus in the months leading up to the start of the challenge and has been a rewarding way (so far!) to close the chapter on the trauma I’ve experienced over the past two years and immerse myself in all that the Path offers.
Reading books such as 500 Mile Walkies to The Salt Path to The Man that Hated Walking gave me the confidence that the walking experience would have a restorative effect on me.
Part of my passion for the Path comes from my passion for wildlife. The SWCP is an incredible place to explore and watch wildlife. My ambition to walk the Path also became a wildlife pilgrimage whereby I can immerse myself in nature. I have been showcasing spring on the Coast Path through my Instagram @paul.scharp covering birdlife and migration, wildflowers, insects, mammals and marine life. It’s been wonderful to observe so much wildlife over the past few weeks and share my knowledge with people that I meet along the Path. This journey has confirmed to me that walking and getting out in nature is good for you both physically and mentally. Part of the joy of walking the Path is the moments where you pause, relax, and watch wildlife………….and it has the added benefit of being a welcome distraction when you’re walking 18 – 20 miles a day!
Combatting the Path solo
I thought that walking the Path alone would be lonely, but it has been far from it! I have met and had chats with more people over the past few weeks on the Path than I have had at home in recent months. A community of people on the Path offer support and advice as you travel and are good company in the evenings at the campsites and B&B’s. Fellow walkers all empathise with one another and those in front of me on the Path let me know what to expect and I do the same for those behind me. We have all connected through Instagram and follow each other both physically and virtually – it’s been a part of the experience that I had not expected and it’s lovely.
Fundraising on the Path
I thought I’d start with a target of £630 – £1 for every mile of the Path. Incredibly, this target was reached before I even set out on the journey. I have now increased my target to £1000 and have almost reached this amazing target – maybe I’ll have to increase it again! Many of the donations I have received have come from people I meet on the Path who donate whilst talking with me – the wonders of modern technology (if you have a signal!). I am grateful to everyone who has donated, and it gives me a tremendous boost knowing that my journey is not only helping me personally but also helping the charity that looks after the Path that I am walking on.
Thank you, Paul
A huge thank you to Paul for sharing his story with us and supporting the Path. So many people have told us how much the Path has helped their mental health and wellbeing. It was wonderful to meet Paul on such a spectacular sunny day and have him talk so openly about his depression, journey to recovery, and how much the SWCP means to him. It’s always inspiring meeting people like Paul – good luck with the rest of the Path – your completion certificate will be waiting for you at the end!
If you would like to support Paul’s fundraiser for the Path, please visit his Just Giving page to help him exceed his target or add a message of support https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/paul-sharpe-swcp-630
Follow Paul @paul.scharp