The South West Coast Path is the UK’s longest National Trail. The 630 miles of coastline stretches the entire length of the South West peninsula from Minehead to Poole Harbour.
The route was designated a National Trail in 1978. Walkers are treated to breath-taking views, dramatic coastal scenery and moorland, along with over 115,000 feet of ascent and descent. The path is hugely popular because it offers something for everyone depending on what they need: a relaxed stroll, a challenging hike or family fun.
For Raynor Winn and her husband Moth, in 2018 the South West Coast Path offered a much needed connection with the outdoors and the chance to keep fit when Moth was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their reasons for walking the path, and experience of the path itself, prompted Raynor Winn to write The Salt Path, a critically acclaimed book that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide.
For BCH Camping
and our customers, The South West Coast Path is on our doorstep so we’re featuring the book in this blog to offer some walking and reading inspiration for the summer.
The Salt Path
Published in 2018, The Salt Path chronicles Raynor and Moth Winn’s story, starting when they were made homeless. They had been evicted from their beloved family farm of twenty years due to an investment deal with a former friend that turned sour. At the same time they received Moth’s devastating diagnosis of Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD), a rare terminal condition that causes parts of the brain to become damaged and shrink.
With seemingly nothing to lose and nowhere to go, they packed their essentials into two rucksacks along with a tent and sleeping bags, and set off on the South West Coast Path. The idea of walking the coast path came to Raynor when she found a book in one of their packing cases by a man who had walked the South West Coast Path with his dog. She hoped the walk would do Moth some good and that it would offer a sense of purpose for both of them.
They began the trail at Minehead in early August. Moth had been taking Pregabalin to ease the nerve pain but unfortunately he left his medication behind. After a while the pain lessened, he felt much better and his head was clearer so it seemed the walking was helping.
Kindness and hostility
Throughout their walk they came across different reactions to their situation. They found that, in the main, if they told people they were walking because they were homeless, they received a negative, prejudiced response. If they said they had sold their house to do the walk they were seen as inspirational.
There were acts of kindness that kept them going, such as the man who took them back to his house for food. On other occasions, they were treated with suspicion, hostility and fear. All the time, however, Moth’s health was improving. There is a poignant moment when Moth runs along the beach with the tent above his head.
Knowing how the walk was helping Moth and that they had nowhere to go once the walk was finished, the end of the path was looming with dread. For this reason they carried on past the intended final stop of Land’s End.
By the time they reached Lantic Bay and Pencarrow Head they took up a friend’s offer to stay with her for free if they helped her with building on her farm. This was a welcome offer but once they stopped walking, Moth’s stiffness and neurological pain increased making it difficult for him to move. They were determined to complete the walk and did so the following year. Again, once Moth started walking his condition improved.
The book ends with Moth enrolling at university to keep his mind active and challenged and at the same time a kind acquaintance has offered them accommodation in Cornwall.
The Salt Path went on to be a Sunday Times Bestseller and was nominated for the 2018 Costa Book Awards and the 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. The Costa Book Awards judges described the book as, "An absolutely brilliant story that needs to be told about the human capacity to endure and keep putting one foot in front of another." It went on to win the inaugural Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize.
Publisher, Penguin, describes The Salt Path as, “an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.”
The South West Coast Path
- a number of National Nature Reserves and Heritage Coasts
- five areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- two World Heritage Sites
- a UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve
- a Geopark
- a National Park
It has been listed as the UK’s best walking route by Walk magazine, Coast magazine and Country Walking along with other publications. The walk offers many heritage and geological features, incredible wildlife and stunning scenery.
If you’ve been inspired to walk the South West Coast Path by reading The Salt Path, let us know!
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