A guide to the stories and legends of the South West Coast Path by Adam Skerret
My name is Adam Skerrett, aka ‘Mythwalker.’ I am a Celtic writer and storyteller, exploring the terrain where myth meets ecology. I’ve recently returned from a pilgrimage to ‘beat-the-bounds’ of Dumnonia – that ancient Celtic kingdom, which once included; Cornwall, Devon, parts of Somerset and Dorset. ‘Beating-the-bounds’ is an ancient practice, of ritually walking around the perimeter of one’s land. It typically includes visiting places of significance belonging to that land and connecting to those sites in a meaningful way.
My walk was a round one.
I took the reverse route around the South West Coast Path, and linked it up coast-to-coast to make a circle. Given that I live in the far West, my obvious starting point was Land’s End, a mere 6 1/2 miles from my home, as the chough flies. It is poignant that I started the trail here, because in the Celtic tongue, this place is known as ‘the end-of-the-end.’ And what is that, if not a place where new beginnings might be made?
For those intrigued about the route I took on this walk, it involved straying onto those unchartered territories North of Minehead! I then followed the River Parrett Trail from mouth to source, until I met up with the Brit Valley Way, which re-joined the SWCP at West Bay, Dorset. From here I made my way back South, to arrive home in the twilight of the Mid-summer Solstice.
I think that treating the SWCP as a pilgrimage, reminds us that we have agency within the landscape of our lives, and that we can myth-walk through those moments in the story that we feared we were stuck in.
Those stories emanate from the land itself, and are one of the ways in which the landscape has chosen to express itself; through the flora and fauna of its ecology, yes, but also through the stories, through its mythology. And the listening individual, can connect with these stories, and can enter enter in to participation with the living world.
The South West Coast Path runs like a song-line through many of the great myths of our land. As a scholar of myth, I could not help but be tempted to walk it. There is no substitute for getting out there and taking one’s self on an adventure.
Well, they say you can only truly know a place, by walking through it.
What struck me on my walk, was how wild and magical the coast of England still is. There is still much beauty that we have not yet squandered, and therefore it is important to speak up for it, for future generations to enjoy. I joined the SWCPA before setting out on my walk, as it felt like a small way to offer something in return for all the joy the trail has given me. I hope the book, the guided walks and all the work that is to follow will be a continuation of that giving back.
My quest now complete, I have begun walking the path of the page.
My forthcoming book is a guide to the stories of Dumnonia; from the mermaids and the smugglers’ coves, to the great Arthurian epics. It is a wonder tale, the story of my walk, woven in with the stories of the land; those places of truth and beauty through which I have travelled, and the people of truth and beauty which figure in that landscape. Part travelogue, part magical autobiography, Mythwalker is an old-fashioned romantic quest, to see what still lives and breathes and has its being amongst the fabled coasts of this land.
Like a Salt Path for the mythical realm, it is a re-wilded storytelling, which speaks to our sense of wonder, beauty and the mythic imagination.
Join me as the tale unfolds.
Mythwalker is more than a book, it is a call to adventure. This season, I began offering ‘Myth Walk Experiences’ in Cornwall. Part pilgrimage, part storytelling event, these are guided walks like no other, filled with poetry, myth and the opportunity to experience a felt connection to place. The aim is to re-enchant people with the natural environment, through bringing the local mythology to life, and treating those stories as living beings who delight in hearing their tales told back to them in the places where, they say, they happened!
The walks will return in 2023. In the meantime, you can view the archive of this seasons walks here:
A short film about my work, entitled Mythwalker, has been premiered at the World Trails Film Festival 2022 in Greece. But you can watch the film for free by visiting the Mythwalker YouTube channel.
To me, ‘myth-walking’ means treating the time spent on the path as an invitation to lean in to the wonder, take the imagination seriously, and experience the magic that is still afoot in the wild places of this land.
The South West Coast Path is a storied landscape, and when you walk it, it can sometimes feel as if you have entered in to those stories. I think we remember the myths and legends of old, because they still have something to say to us in these times. We each have an opportunity to find out what that is for us.
Read an extended version of this blog HERE
Adam Skerrett is Myth Walker; a man of myth, poetry and adventure. Adam is a trained actor and theatre-maker, and has an MA in Myth and Ecology, studying with renowned storyteller Martin Shaw. He is following in the footsteps of the ‘Droll Tellers’ – storytellers who walked the land, earning a living through their artistry.
“Adam is exploring the terrain where myth and landscape collide. You may find him in the folds of a fairy tale or on the darkening path to the Grey Wethers stones.”
– Dr Martin Shaw, storyteller and mythologist.