Like most of the world, I was affected by Covid-19. I was affected earlier than most outside of China, as I was meant to move to Shanghai… Quite literally, the week China went into lockdown. I was stuck in the UK, waiting on the unknown, as the nightmare crept closer and closer.
After our lockdown in the UK, the Chinese borders were still closed. I had been teaching online and, once the summer holidays rolled around I couldn’t sit in my childhood hometown and do nothing. So, instead of moping about, I took my little tent, a 40L backpack and walked my home trail; The South West Coast Path.
I knew I had about a month to play with, so I wasn’t going to manage the entire 600 miles in that time. In the end I did three large stretches: Minehead to Barnstaple, Bude to Tintagel, St. Ives round to the Lizard.
By no means the purist route. I stopped off at various places and enjoyed myself; chilling in Bude, surfing in St.Ives, partying in Penzance… The home trail, which I had fairly low expectations of, turned out to be one of the most beautiful, restorative, fantastic journeys I have ever taken.
The first stretch included some of the hardest days, partially due to how hot it was, but also due to an almost new pair of boots and getting used to the backpack. I had decide to try and go as light as possible; a 40L backpack with the tent attached to the outside. It was fairly comfortable and by the end this bag really did feel like nothing! The boots, on the other hand, were almost debilitating by day 3. On day 4 it was wet… and this just made the foot pain even worse.
I had a friend join me to Barnstaple, and I made the decision to cut a section and jump on a bus down to Bude, to give my feet a chance to heal before carrying on solo. During this time I did day stretches of the coast path down to Crackington Haven, then caught the bus down there to continue rather than repeat myself.
This is where the personal journey really began. I was alone for a few days, all the way down to Tintagel, through Bostcastle. This was a beautiful part of the trip. In Tintagel I ended up having a bit of a mishap with some bad weather and a double booking at a B&B, so ended up sleeping in a barn! However, I also met some wonderful characters in the pub in Tintagel and managed to avoid the rain!
This night of overdoing it on the beer, and finding out the perfect weather forecast for the next few days drove the decision to skip another section- that and I had heard from other hikers that the next section was a little stuck up and locals weren’t as friendly to us grubby walkers. I skipped down to St. Ives. From St. Ives I walked around to Penzance, stopping to wild camp near Zennor head, Pendeen, Landsend and Mousehole. The night spent near Zennor was particularly perfect…
The section of coastline between St. Ives and Landsend could have been in the Mediterranean; the weather was unreal, the sea was perfectly blue and the sky didn’t have a cloud in it for days. It was absolutely perfect.
Once I got to Penzance I took another break. I was meeting a friend there in a few days, so I had a couple of mini adventures during that time. First, I met some crazy Cornish people in a pub and went on a full pub crawl around Penzance (of course). Then I decided to go back across to St. Ives and walk back along some of the section I had missed in my rush to reach Landsend during the good weather… Then some more friends were down to camp near Falmouth so I decided to skip over there and walk some sections with them on that side! I’m not including the miles covered in the ‘main walk’ as I have no idea where we walked or what distances were covered in those days!
Finally, I went back to Penzance to meet the last salt pilgrim, for the stretch of coast to Lizard Point. Again, a beautiful stretch of coastline, the Lizard SSSC and Kynance Cove were particularly beautiful, with some awesome sunsets and amazing starry nights.
This trip was born of frustration; of the need to get out. Of big plans put off and cancelled. It turned out to be one of the first times I have ever felt truly happy. It served as a trial for something bigger, longer and further away. The challenge of walking so far doesn’t seem so big now. In the end I covered at least 300km, with the breaks and fun in between! I fell back in love with home, a feeling I hadn’t had for the south west for quite some time.