My first target, the start.

My first target, the start.


Depression has been a big influence in my life and through years of struggling to deal with it alone, then with help, things dramatically changed.

On the 4th of April 2010 i left the place i loved and walked away from all that i saw was getting me down, all the people i thought i was letting down, the society i'd always struggled to fit into and the place i felt tied to.

I'd been trying to take my own life but never could make that one final commitment, so i looked at my life and knew i needed to get away and surround myself with the few things i knew would stop me going mad.

Exercise, fresh air, the great British countryside and all the fascinating features of nature. flowers, insects, birds, etc...

With those and the desire to live, i set out on what would turn out to be a life changing experience.

I left with little possessions, a sleeping bag, few clothes, knife and my camera, this would be an epic journey of self discovery and i'd photograph as much as i could.

In life we need little more than food and shelter.
Food i'd need to find or earn, the shelter i'd make or find in the form of old barns, etc..

I soon learnt that some people were inspired by my method of dealing with my own depression, they found ways in which i could help them and earn a meal or a hot drink. Some days i'd not eat properly, but my desire to succeed and so seek out these kind hearted people kept me going.

I was on the North Somerset coast in the UK and was to walk the south west coast path, a 630mile coastal route around the south west corner of England, Britain's longest national trail.

For over one hundred days i travelled around the coast, meeting many amazing, kind, thoughtful people along the way.
I got back in touch with nature on a level few will ever experience.

This is my story, my journey to share with you.

Please read the 'notes for readers' to the right.


11. The pain, the pleasure and an apple.

Distance: 87.5 miles
Total height climbed: 15541ft (4737m)

I'd woken to the sound of a bus pulling up at a bus stop nearby.
What time is was at that point, i had no idea. I did know however, it was time to get myself out of here.
If it was morning, then the builders would be arriving on site. The site i was using as a shelter.

I dressed, then when i went to put on my stripy buff, i could not find it.
I quickly recalled, that i'd hung it on a chair back in the village inn last night. It was wet from the ice used to cool my aching heal. No worries i had another one.

Nothing appeared to be open once i'd left the building. Even the builders hadn't turned up yet.
The sky was only slightly cloudy, thin fluffy white clouds hanging like a quilt in the sky.
It would be a fine dry day, so i decided to just get moving and get miles under my feet.
The silhouette of some apartments made a nice cutting edge against the morning sky, i took some photo's the time on the camera said, 7.30am. This was the earliest i'd been up and out on the path and it felt good to make the most of the day ahead.

The early morning dew lay across the grassy hillside, it made my boots squeak as i walked the green path.

Up a little, past a lone dog walker, then a long straight view down across the Cornborough and Abbotsham cliffs.
The sky had cleared further and only a few light wispy clouds streaked across the blue.
The sea too was clearing and had a blue-green shade to it.
It was nice to see the change in the sea colours too.

Back from where i'm used to seeing the Brisol channel, it's narrower and the ever changing tides pick up lots of silt that make the water a murky brown colour.

I'm now nearing the end of the channel to where it meets the Atlantic ocean.

The coast line here has a slight curve to it, allowing me to see the distant line of the coast.
In that distance i see a small cluster of white cottages, i wonder if that's my next chance for food. But right now it's far in the distance and not something, to raise any hope for.

I'd  been walking now for two hours, my Achilles injury was back and it made me adapt my posture to try and lessen the pain. It was an awkward way to walk and i knew that it would translate through my body to create another ache somewhere. That's just how the body works.

At the bottom of a slight rise up through a cattle rutted field, a sign was fixed to a gate post.
On laminated paper i read the notice. It appeared some cattle had got through a gateway and onto the path, during the wet weather recently.
It warned walkers that the path was badly damaged for the next couple of miles, with some sections of steps now very messy and waterlogged.

I passed through the kissing gate and after a small muddy cattle trodden climb, i was passing through a heavily pitted and wet path.
The wet clay and puddles were unavoidable, i tried hard to avoid the deepest bits. However, more often than not, i slipped off the narrow firm verges ad into the slop i went. Somehow though i did manage to stay upright.
During the next couple of miles, with clay laden boots my walking turned to a hobble as a blister developed on the ball of the foot.
Most of the hundred or so steps along this route, were pieces of wood about 12mm thick on edge to form and up stand of 200mm.
Where the cows had stepped up or down the steps, the soil that would of formed the ground that a walker would normally step on, was either worn away, or now a slippery  slope.
I tried to keep pressure off the blister by, stepping so the arch of my foot was on the thin wooden bits. or my heals.

I was now near Babbacombe and finally the mess finished, letting me hobble along a grassy path the through a pretty wood, where a little more wet mud challenged my passage.
A lot of the path now was either small woods or scene less walks. Or was it just that the pain i was suffering from my foot distracting me?

Whatever it was, all i recall is an uncomfortable few hours.
It seemed like ages that i hobbled across fields, then woodlands.
I wondered just where those white cottages were that i'd seen this morning.
My mind was fighting to be positive as with every step, the sting in my foot sent a rush of pain to my brain. I could not distract myself from it.
I'd look out across the fields, up into the blue sky and when in the woods, i'd see the dappled light as the sun shone through the branches up above me.
Onwards i went, to a never place in the never distance. I was suffering, i was low. I wondered just how much of this i'd have to endure along this chosen path.
One thing i did know for sure. And that was suffer it i will and fail i will not.

On the edge of one of the woods was a signpost, it informed me i was close to a place called Bucks Mill.
It had to be the place i saw, the white cottages from afar, my spirit were lifted as were there's house's, there's people, and people would have food and drink.

A new lease of life flowed through my body and for a moment i forgot my pains.

I descended down to the view of a small settlement, maybe a dozen houses. I listened for voices, i looked for a sign to a cafe, and inn a shop..
There was nobody about and no facilities to buy food or get a drink. And with that realisation and as if a trigger had been pulled in my foot. Once more the pain seared up through my leg, up to my head and down to my heart.
All that life was taken from me in one cruel blow and with that i yawned. I now just wanted to drop to my knees and rest here.

Rest here, but why? i asked myself.
There was no answer that said i should. I needed to carry on and had to look for help, i could not expect help to find me..

Attached to a wall, a sign gave me further hope. A place named Clovelly was just a few miles along the path. An engraved acorn marking my way once more.
Once more i found myself approaching steps.
The hard timber edges caused me pain. So instead, i opted to walk the slope to the side.
This felt better on my foot and after a short while the wonderful sights and spring time smells kept the pain to a more comfortable level and i managed to have a better time, enjoying the walk, for the first time today.
Suddenly, a mis-placed footing, caused the most unbelievable pain to shoot through my foot.
This almost made me drop to my knee's in tears.
I'd stepped carelessly on a root and put pressure directly on the blister. It resulted in the blister bursting.
The initial agony was nothing compared to the pain that followed. I put weight on it to keep walking and with every step, it felt like i was walking on razor blades.
A pain i'm unsure i've ever experienced before, not even collapsing a lung, breaking bones or chemicals in the eyes ever caused me so much pain.
I will not fold to this, i will fight through the pain, as pain is only weakness leaving the body.
I'd referred to a saying i've had on a printed tee-shirt.
What rubbish is that? I asked myself.
No let me correct you here. It's actually the body telling you, that you have damaged it and you need to attend to the injury.
It does not mean to man up and walk it off.
I should of course of stopped and dressed it. Prevent germs getting in and making it worse.
Early on when i began this walk, i made a rule. I was not going to use medication, plasters or creams. I was doing this on my own and my body would have to cope and deal with all the mess i put it through. I'd basically make myself suffer.

So following the guidance of an item of clothing i once owned, i put more pressure on my wounded foot and through gritted teeth, marched on.
I'd like to think the pain soon subsided, the truth is it took about a mile to ease. And in fact, it eased so much it was the most comfortable it had been all day.

My new found comfort made the rest of the walk much better and faster, i was soon on the Hobby drive and on the home straight to Clovelly. Well at least i seemed to believe i didn't have far left.

The hobby is a hard packed road built after the Napoleonic wars to give employment to Clovelly's returning soldiers.
I followed it's winding route along the contours of the woodland, crossing bridges where the hills released water into valleys, then down to the sea far below.
As the drive curved back out from the valley bridges, views out to sea and down to Clovelly reaffirmed my hope, hope that soon no matter what, i will soon rest.

For three kilometres,the hobby drive wound it's way to Clovelly, my foot although not so painful now, really needed to rest and i aimed to somehow stay in this area for a day of two. I just hoped somehow to find away to earn my way here.

I'd never even heard of Clovelly so had no idea of the charms that awaited me.
I knew the village was a long way down off the hill, but the visitors centre and car park up the top, told me something special was waiting for me around the corner.

Although the acorn signs told me the south west coast path didn't go down to the village. My head told me to and my feet would over rule my head if it changed it's mind.
There was no road leading to the village, the only road, seemed to head away and said private access only.

My option was down a cobbled lane, fairly steep, with the occasional small step.
The cobbles had polished black marks on them, i figured from car wheels spinning as they struggled to find traction on the ascent up the hill. I would later find out their true origins.

On a corner a Donkey stood, a man sat with him and a board read out a message to people passing by. It was asking for kind donations to help in the care for this and the other Donkeys from the village.
It turned out they were an important part of the villages history and still play apart in it's tourist appeal.

Years ago, any goods that needed to be carried up the cobbled streets were carried on Donkeys. They'd take ash from the fires, fish from the harbour and other things. Goods came into the village on sledges dragged down the streets.
Once the fishing industry declined and other jobs weren't needing the Donkeys, the village inn use the Donkeys to carry up it's goods.
Up until the 1990's, the Donkey carried visitors luggage, empty bottles and barrels, as well as laundry and rubbish.
These days now, they occasionally still carry luggage, but other than that they only give rides to children in their meadow.
In the winter they get exercise from the local children who drive or ride them through the woods.
Today though was it's day off and he was here to have it's photo taken, to be stroked, admired and to tempt people into making kind donations towards it's care and well being.
It was very well mannered and i stroked it in appreciation but took no photo's. I'm unsure why not.
I wasn't going to include a tourists view of my travels, however when i've ventured into such magical places, that almost step back in time, i just have to share just why, to me they are so special. It's all for me apart of the therapy i was receiving during my travels.

Back on the cobbled path, i mixed it with the other visitors and descended down, between the corridors of white cottages, shops, and narrow alleyways.
A tea room was a welcome sight, so i took my chance and entered.
There, i was greeted by a young lady and i immediately requested to speak with the owner.
The owner came over to me and casually i introduced myself.
She listened intently and told me she had no little jobs that needed doing, all odd jobs had been attended too during the winter. And that her staff had everything under hand around the cafe.
However! In spite of this, she asked me to take a seat and she'd make me a coffee.
This was followed by the question of whether i ate fish.
I gave her a surprised look and replied with a "Yes."

A young lady served me with a coffee and shortly after a place arrived with the following delights and i looked in amazement before tucking in.

On my plate was a fillet of Mackerel, two slices of lemon lay on top. There was a good portion of warm baguette, a wedge of bread of another sort and a ramekin full of butter, which was levelled to the top with a knife.
A whole apple sat in the middle, there was grated carrot, some lettuce, red onion, sliced tomato and cucumber. And on the side, a dollop of coleslaw.

I'd been so hungry all morning, it was now almost 2pm. I knew this as i'd turned on my camera to take a picture of my lunch before i indulged.

It's funny how normally when hungry, a person may eat at such a rate, as to not have time to even savour the flavours passing the tongue. Not me, not a chance.
Food for me, was becoming a luxury and that i should enjoy every mouthful i got.
I had no reason to rush it. So bite by bite i closed my eyes and felt the texture of the food, the flavours, and absorbed it all almost in a sensual manner.
The staff if they looked over must of wondered what on earth i was thinking of. It makes me smile to remember those moments again.

The owner came over and made precious time to talk to me.
I couldn't thank her enough for her kindness. It's then she explained just why she wanted to help me.
It turned out years ago she and her boyfriend at the time, travelled the UK coast on a motorbike. They had little money so relied very much of the kind heartiness of others along the way. And in exchange they would try to help people, much the same as i'm trying to do now.
Once again people were passing on the kindness they received from others. I was thankful to them all.

With an empty plate and coffee cup i got up to collect some dishes. Even though i'd been told i need not bother, i still wanted to do something to help.
I checked outside and in to find the super efficient staff, indeed had it all under control.
Thanking the lady once more i went to leave with my heavy load.
Seeing me lift it, she told me i could leave it there, and that she'd place it outside when she had closed the cafe.
It was a welcome relief to not carry my burden for the rest of the day. My foot had began to hurt again after the rest. Therefore having less weight to place on it, would be great.

Leaving the cafe or tea room as it was named, i looked at all the character that the properties had.
One cottage had engraved fruit, vegetables and flowers cut into it's wooden door and window surrounds. Window boxes of flowers gave colour to the street.
Talking of which, the main street through the village is called 'up-a-long, down-a-long'  depending only whether you were going up it or down it.

Clovelly  was restored during the mid 1880's when it was was rescued from decay by the lady of the village, Mrs Chrisitine Hamlyn.
She saved many cottages, had the street completely cobbled with pebbles from the beach and had mains water and electricity installed to every cottage. she also had the stream culverted.
She had an imagination and this is evident in the charming finishing touches and the seats and wooden summer houses she built around the area.
I'd explore for all these maybe tomorrow. I like it here so i will stay and rest my feet a while.

Hobbling down the streets, i look at the sledges outside all the properties.
There's a gentle flow of tourists shuffling up and down the streets. Many like me with a camera pointed at some unique feature within this village.
Large arched doors, tunnel like openings, narrow secret stairways and then a look out point.
I stopped with the tourists and took photo's of the harbour below, the sea was calm, and the sky still bright and blue.
As clovelly was deep in the cleft of the hillside, i would think it's a fairly shady place for most of the year.
It was now early April and the sun was getting slightly higher in the sky, shining down onto much of the village. The whiteness of the lime washed buildings was brought out in all it's natural splendor.

There was so much to look at here, that would be for tomorrow. Now i was to rest a while.
I came to the harbour and walked out onto the quayside wall. Right out to the end of it and sat down. I removed my boots and socks and inspected the damage.

For all the pain i'd felt, all i had was a small blister, the skin wrinkled and white. I massaged my feet and then let them air for a few hrs in the mild sunshine.

Groups and couples came and joined me for the views, both out to sea, along the coast both east and west and back to the village.
Whilst i idled my time away, four small yachts sailed towards the harbour. One by one, they moored along the harbour wall. In a well organised manner they all got lashed together and the four owners gained the attention of most of the visitors as they shared banter and drinks with each other.

A couple of local lads were tomb stoning off the end wall. Which meant basically jumping into the water from a height.
He knew the depth of the sea based on the tide times so knew he was jumping in a safe depth.
The water was clearly still quite cold. This i could tell, because as soon as they  emerged from their salty dip,  they would stand and shiver, then jump straight back in. This i watched with amusement, a small part of me wanting to jump in too.

Along the harbour wall was a row of lobster pots, herring used to be the main catch here, now it appears that lobster and crab are the more commonly caught. Speaking to a local fisherman, the catches weren't yet plentiful.

In the shallows of the harbour, a dog had taken a fancy to a mooring rope. It was trying to retrieve it to it's master. However due to the rope being tethered at both ends, the dog was only able to go from side to side through it's efforts.
Myself and the other visitors were all looking and waiting for the dog to give up and the commands from it's master to, "drop!" Fell on very wet fluffy ears.
A prompt from a man in one of the yachts, sparked an little rescue from one of the young tomb stoning lads.
He intelligently ascended a ladder at the shallower end of the harbour and swan over to the dog.
The soggy and tiring mutt however, wasn't keen to give up it's prized possession and gift to it's master. It continued it's splashing paddle to nowhere, "drop..drop it!" The lad commanded. Finally after a couple minutes, the dog released the rope and to an applauding crowd, it and the lad swam to the beach.
A waggy tailed shake from the dog and the harbour side audience fell back to a tranquil hush.

Time stood still for a good while and i just sat the glow of sun as it arced it's way across the sky in front of me.  Gradually the tourists left, and filtered from the village in an almost ghostly fashion and once more i was alone. Even the four men in their boats had retreated to the nearby Red Lion Hotel.

Now almost in the shadow of the 400ft cliff, i decided to get my bag and look into a way to earn a little supper. Although i had all afternoon to do this, i was content to just absorb the feel of this place and appreciate being here.

Once i'd re-booted my feet. i began walking back and up the steep cobbled up-a-long street, over the blackened rub marks on the pebbled surface, left by the sledges.  Incidentally someone told me they put butter on the sledge rails to help them slide by reducing friction.
A cat sat on the deserted cobbles. The village now so silent, so still.  I reached the tea room and found my bag under the porch. Picking it up and placing it on my back, i wandered back up as far as where the donkey stood, then turned back. It was a ghost town. Not even the local inn was open right now.

I turned and returned to the breakwater, the quayside i'd sat on earlier. The peaceful emptiness meant i could take photo's whilst it was deserted.

Behind the cliff tops the sun was still shining, though it would soon be making it journey down beyond the horizon, i'd like to see that tonight. The thinly clouded sky, should make a wonderful sunset scene. I'd need to move from here and head along the coast to see it from a better spot.
I went down to the rocky shore line and headed out towards a headland.
On my left, a shallow cave gave me somewhere to store my bag. I took off the yellow wrap over bag and placed it in the cave. I'd need spare batteries, perhaps my book to read, my torch and of course my camera.
Placing the camera around my neck and the book and batteries in the old rucksack, i then clambered over the rocks along the shore.
The cliffs rose tall and dark to my side, the rocks under my footing where smooth and rounded, polish by the movement of the sea.
I slipped quite a few times on the wet rock, nervous of my weak knee being further damaged i tried to walk cautiously.
If i landed on my right foot and the footing was uneven, my leg would twist and knee joint pop out. I had to protect it, i must stay focused.
It was either large rounded car sized boulders or ones the size of footballs, making it slow and difficult. I didn't even know if there was a way back without coming back the way i came. In the dark this would be even harder. Yet still i carried on, determined to reach a point, somewhere to watch the sunset.

The cliff turned a corner where it lit up the rocky wall. In places the rock turned and rolled creating shaped like fossilised rainbows.
A large rock formation was ahead. 'Black church rock' as it is named turned out to be an amazing natural rock structure jutting out in the tidal zone.
From the side i first saw it, the layered features were hidden by shade. I could however see it's triangular shape, with the two eye like holes. I had found the place i wanted, somewhere interesting and dramatic to photograph.

I made my way across to it. To the left there was an old mill house with a path along side. My way out i thought.
Glad to not have to walk back via the shore, i went round to the sunny side of black church rock. It's then i found further appeal to it.

The rock was made of layers of tilted strata. The layers of rock were at about 45 degrees to the ground.
Leading up to it were the remains of it, left a sea level. The remaining layers had little oasis's of life, saved in lines of trapped sea water.
I spent some time trying to make use of the falling sun, which i'd not be able to make full use of tonight. It was setting beyond the next cliff and had already dropped from sight.

It was time to leave, i was a mile or so from Clovelly, tired but content.
From pain to pleasure i hqd felt today, further rest would serve me well.

Leaving the beach looked at the old wall and buildings at mouth mill, then found a path leading back up onto the cliff top.
Through a small woodland startled rabbits ran for cover as i ascended heath above. Through a gateway and past the Gallantry Bower. A tumulus, it's stone and earthy mound clearly visible.
Reaching a gateway, a backpack laden walker headed my way. I'd seen him earlier in the day, whilst in the village. He asked me if i'd seen anywhere suitable to pitch a tent, advising him about a area of grass, back down at mouth mill, we exchanged good nights and resumed our walks.
One last look back and the sun had descended below the distant land, a row of trees silhouetting against the orange canvas.

It would soon be getting dark, as the path entered another wooded area, the remaining light struggled to find it's way through to light me way.
Down, down, down the path gently wound, across and through the woods it went, then i reached a road. The road must of been the access road, leading to the villagers car park and the place for visitors to catch the landrover back up the the main car park at the visitors centre.
I turned right here and found myself back at the top of the cobbled main street, the one i first walked down when i got here earlier in the day.

For the last time today i'd walk down this path, i'd decided to sleep in the cave, back where i'd left my bag.
I didn't wish to eat, i didn't want a drink, i wanted to settle into a cave, to read and to fall asleep.

The dimly lit down-a-long looked much different at night. Yellow light casting subtle shadows cross the ground, whilst also reflecting back off the polished pebbled floor.
As i joined the beach, my torch that i'd taken from my bag lit my way. I could see two lights on the beach from people fishing.

On reaching the cave, i surveyed my location, it wasn't ideal. My mattress would be a piece of uneven smooth rock.  It lay upwards slightly into the rock face. At the base of which was a level area of pebble's, wet from the trail of water that seeped through fissures, and along spines of calcified lime, to then drip or run to the ground.
My bed would need to avoid the wet, and be in the most comfortable place as possible on this rock. It was nowhere near ideal, but i'd made my mind up, through laziness and stubbornness i made my bed and lay in it.
The usual order of bedding was laid out. I undressed and felt the cool air from within my room, i quickly entered my sleeping bag, pulled up the zip, turned on my side and opened the pages of my book. By the light of my head torch, i read a few pages of the book, till my eyes drew heavy.

Turning off the torch i rolled onto my back to realise where the beginnings of a bad nights sleep lay.
On my  bed of rock, where the rubbing of rocks eroded it to it's present shape. Were slight hollows and humps. I tried to shuffle around into a position that was comfortable, but nothing was.
The angle of the slab, it's shape, the chill it held, everything was wrong with it.
I tried on my side, at different angles or curled up. Nothing was good,so the best i could find i tolerated and finally with sound of the sea i fell asleep.

During that night i woke frequently, tossing and turning. I was either cold or uncomfortable but thankfully not unhappy, well not to much.

10. kind folk

I'd slept lazily through a dreamless night. It had been light for some time now, though i had no clue what time is was.
The light had been filtering through my green brolly but now it was even brighter, i guessed that the sun had risen and come round  lighting up my southerly facing shelter.
The water that had been lapping gently at the shore was now silent and the gulls that called to me earlier as i slept were distant too. I could hear voices, footsteps, bicycle bells and children, all passing along the popular path behind me.

It was time to rise and get what i knew to be a less enjoyable in terms of a scenic walk done. Today most of the walk will be along the old railway line, linking Barnstaple to Bideford via Instow.

Whilst packing my stuff i remembered my pie, so i ate that as i looked out across the river Taw which i'd previously thought was the estuary.
The sky was clear save for a few wispy clouds. Vapour trails from jets streaked across the sky rushing people to and from their holidays or on business.
Once i'd taken some pictures of the view and of my shelter i checked the time on the camera. 11:05am. Wow! A lie in, i thought.  Then i remembered my damp sleeping bag, so laid it out in the warm morning sun to air a little.

Up to now i'd been wearing scruffy paint splattered jogging bottoms and i wondered whether i was time for shorts and therefore a slightly tidier image. I chose to wear my shorts, up top a sports tee with my light weight raincoat, so packed the rest and after maybe 20mins of airing, i packed the sleeping bag too.

I set off up the now tarmac path and got into a good stride. It was a day to be polite and friendly to all i met, as today would be a very busy day on the path. Not only was it part of the south west coast path. There were various cycle hire centre's along it's route, so a lot of bikes were being ridden along it too.
Also i think it may of been a bank holiday, though by now i wasn't sure what day it was as it didn't matter to me.

As i neared the bridge over the river, i was warming up so removed the coat.
Over the bridge  and passing a large national cycle network sign, i was now on the old railway line and heading back in the direction i'd just come from. Only this time i was on the other side of the river Taw.
With little more to see than the salt fields and mud banks, my eyes were averted to that of all the lovely cute ladies that seemed to be using the trail today. Fit body's wrapped in tight lycra would of normally sent me chasing after them. All i could manage now was an appreciative smile. My once high level of confidence around the opposite sex, was now very low. Essentially i was homeless, jobless and worthless to them, so why would they even want to know me right now.

A family on bikes passed by, only for me to catch them up again several minutes later. The dad was stood there with the handle bars of his sons bike in his hand and he had the look of confusion about him. He fiddled with the bars to try and get them to slide back on. So i offered to help.
As i rummaged about in my bag for my bike tool, to which i now found the reason why i needed to bring it. I explained that i was a keen cyclist and  that i knew my way about bicycles well enough.
In little time the handle bars were refitted and at a height more suitable for him. I too adjusted the saddle, as i'd observed it being to low, then i went on the get the gears working better. The brakes were damaged so i advised them to get them fixed.
A thank you was my reward and off i went feeling great about being able to help.

For the next few miles i happily walked the ribbon of grey, reading plaques along the way. They explained the importance and role of the salt marshes that were to my right. As well as providing sea defence and habitat for many types of plant and wild life.
They are still grazed by Soay sheep to maintain the marshes. This has been practiced here for more than a century. Thus keeping it healthily and diverse. This area is classed as a Biosphere.

 A head of me a man and a lady walked, though maybe not obviously together. As i reached the man, he spoke and took an immediate interest in what distance i was walking.
Obviously the pack on my back told him i was out for more than a days jolly.
As i told him my tale. The why's and where fors, about Steffan, depression and family. He shared with his experience with doing a similar thing, years ago when he was younger and fitter.
I'd guess that he was in his sixty's. He carried a slight limp, the lady had a dog, it was slowing her down, from being very interested in the many smells that were along the trail side.
The man called Rob, told me of a time he slept under a boat and another time in the shed of a couples home. They heard him enter and came to investigate, yet let him stay, without hindrance. This gave me hope of the possibilities i could have along the way. He also told me of his various exploits travelling and seemed friendly enough.

I'd learnt a few days ago to just accept generosity like this. In kind, i'd earned it a while back when i fixed the bike.
My faith and belief in karma was growing. If i helped others without direct reward, somewhere along the way, that kindness would be re payed.

We continued along the path, passing a little cob hut, then on approach to Instow the north Devon cricket club stood to our right. I'm not a fan of cricket, a little to slow paced for me to watch.
What caught my eye was the thatched pavilion. The club has been running for around a hundred and ninety years and the ground is beautifully kept. It was also the home ground of the late David Shepard and well respected World class umpire was from the area.

A dispute between Rob and his partner/non partner occurred about whether the route went onto the beach  here or there. Not getting involved i chose to head on a little more in search of my so far good guide, the acorn.
Alas it appeared and myself, followed by a now grumpy Rob followed a path leading onto the beach. Rob stomped out across the beach ahead of me, he was heading towards the sea and not along the shore line.
As his lady friend appeared in the distance, he began whistling at her as if she was a dog, then started shouting.
This all seemed quite unnecessary and a touch arrogant. I decided to not be near this behavior and went to tell Rob i was off and to thank him once more. Suddenly he turned and seeing me approach him, took a step towards me and said, " I think i'd like to continue now, just with her",  he pointed to the lady.
He said this in such away, as if to infer i was following him.
I told him, i'd only followed him, to tell him i was to continue on with my walk and to thank him. He mumbled and shouted at her again..
I managed to catch his eye, thank him and wish him well, then headed back across the beach, to the shore line. The sound of his voice booming across the beach towards his friend quietened.

There were shops up beyond a wall, with many people sat upon it eating and drinking. I decided i should eat now too. I wasn't sure when i would next get a chance and i knew from endurance racing and experience, i should eat before i get hungry.
There was a little pub that looked really busy and shop next door.  I opted for the shop as all i really wanted was a snack. I'd checked the time whilst reviewing photos and it as was now 3pm.
I bought fruit, a large pot of yogurt, a chocolate bar(Steffan ate and shared alot of chocolate with me) and a Cola. Then went outside to sit in the sun.

It was such a stunning day. Still wispy clouds drifting high in the blue sky.
The outlook from here was out across the water where the river mouth of the Taw met the river Torridge.
The Taw enters the sea via Barnstaple and the Torridge at Bideford. They both merge together here then join the Bristol channel by Saunton Burrrows in Bideford/Barnstaple bay.
I sat on the wall and took out my multi tool and self made spoon. Popped open the big pot of yogurt and commenced chopping fruit. I had apple and banana.
As i ate, i looked around at the other people eating burgers, hot dogs and other fast processed foods. I was trying to make sure everything i ate provided as much goodness as i needed. Protein to repair me, carbohydrate and sugars for energy, vitamins to try and maintain a healthy working body and some fats to build up a reserve. Not that in my 38 years had i been able to gain noticeable layers of fat.

I could of sat here for longer as a group of young people had sat next to me. One of them was an attractive girl with her large but lovely Staffordshire bull terrier. It was rummaging in the dried seaweed that was laying next to the wall. I saw fries amongst the weed and pitied the dog for either wanted food, or being used to and familiar to the smell and taste of crisps.
However i wanted to keep going, so i packed my stuff and wrapped my unconventional cargo up into a now some what organised fashion.
I had formed a technique that kept the weight fairly high on the back, which in effect, made it feel lighter. Along the way, my ability to adapt and improvise in dealing with difficulties and challenges was growing. Improvisation in the practical sense was always something i was good at.
Well at least in my own mind, i could get over physical difficulties by way of 'a little making it up along the way'.

I'd began to get a dull ache down the back of my ankle, my Achilles had developed an injury, whether this was from all the walking or the rucksack, i wasn't sure. Whatever the cause, it would need treatment before the end of the day. But not from medication of any sort. I wanted to do this without anything like that.

Beyond Instow i passed another cycle hire centre.
Several more old boat hulls lay rotting and green on the bank of the river Torridge. I wondered whether the owners where still alive.
You couldn't leave a car to rot roadside without it being removed. So why should the rivers be subject to man kinds neglect like this?
Of course now the rotting hulls are homes to wildlife and have become part of the system.

As the  path enclosed from views of anything but hedge and litter, i had to go down some steps under a bridge to join a road. Really so far i'd struggled to use the camera. My eyes were failing to see images worthy of a photograph.
Some of the while, i'd been thinking about the past few days with Steffan. And how i had let myself down by not being stronger and seeking out ways to get self sufficient.
I worked out he must of spent over twenty pounds on me, even more. That made me think. Is it possible do this through actually earning the things i was needing and so far getting. For as yet i hadn't been able to on my own.
I was questioning myself alot, which for me is very much a sign of depression.
However! I was determined to do this. I just needed to have faith in myself and to try alot harder. A heck of a lot harder.
I now had nothing to loose, as deep down i started to believe that i had lost everything, the moment i left.

I passed over a large bridge called the Bideford long bridge leading to Bideford. It's twenty four differing sized arches have supported the bridge since the 13th century.
A thundering sound could be heard approaching from behind me, making me turn to see what is was from. An old Motorbike rumbled by. I'm not sure what make it was, though the sound was powerful.

My Step father introduced me to the combustion engine when he entered the life of my mother and sister when i was about 12 years old.
(As i write this, it reminds me how l little i remember about the times from my father left and my step father arrived and most of childhood)
He was an merchant navy man who when he came into our lives, worked down in the depths of the QE2 and other ocean liners.
He'd spent alot of time taking things apart and putting them back together.
Adrian my step Father(though he never married my mother), first got to know her whilst he came to help repair tractors and other machinery that our neighbour used for his business. The business of  mostly tree felling and the selling of firewood, with the occasional work of fencing and farm work for a few local farmers.
At some stage he moved in and helped bring myself and my sister up.
He would often have old cars to repair in some way, whether mechanically or structurally. I'd stand watch and ask questions, sometimes being  aloud to help, by handing him tools or other little things even a boy couldn't easily mess up.

As the motorbike rider and other road users went about on their journey's so did i.
I turned off the bridge and followed the main street along the riverside.
Shops appeared to be closing, i checked the camera for the time, it was 5:30pm.
I felt ok apart from the heal, so decided on keep moving on, the pavement joined an area of playing fields. Some public toilets gave me a chance to relieve myself, so i stripped off my pack then placed it down outside.
It was good to get the load off, so once i'd used the facilities, i thought i'd grab a moments rest and sit in the sun for a short while.
I had a little food left over from Instow, so ate that and watched families play, and other people pass me by as i lay on the grass for a while.

Aware of the rough time that the sunsets. I knew i have just an hour or two of daylight left, in which to find food and shelter for the night. I had eaten and had money so there wasn't any excuse for going hungry.
I knew Appledore was the next place i'd come to and that was not far away.
Up to now i was still in fairly familiar area. Beyond that was Westward Ho! and then it becomes a bit of a mystery what comes up next.

Loading up my pack onto my back, off i went, now heading north.
As the crow flies, to use the term again, i'd not really covered much distance from when i began the walk. Now five days ago, or was it six? I wasn't sure.
The nature of the  of the UK's coastline and consequently  the coastal path, meant i was often back tracking as i crossed rivers, steep sided hills and inlets or headlands.

At the end of the playing field area, the acorns pointed through a small estate, then down a muddy walkway. Crossing a small beach for maybe five metres then back up. A  small copse took me away from the river a little and i was glad to be off the tarmac finally today.
I could see a large shipping building ahead of me across a low field. More boats lay to rest along the banks of the river here. Though these were moored further out.
Two were large fishing vessels made of metal, i guessed their owners were no longer catching enough from the sea, to make the job viable. A long thick mooring rope ran from the bow to the shore, green weed hang from below tide line.
 Then there was a much smaller wooden hulled boat with a small cabin. A small charter fishing boat i'd think.
Then there were the old decayed wooden boats. Now partially submersed in the silt beds. Green with weed and algae.
A further metal boat, one lower built than the two other metal ones, was abandoned closer to the river bank. This was such a graveyard for old boats.

As i got to the shipping building, i lost sight of the water and boats as i headed into Appledore.
Down a street it led where i said a cheery good afternoon to a lady who was walking in the opposite direction. I then saw an open door to a workshop, with in a large Hudson car of around the nineteen thirties. He had the side panel up to reveal the side of the large engine. Once again my knowledge of old vehicles and mechanics made me interested, and i offered what knowledge i could in helping him get the car running.
He was to take it and his wife out for a drive the following day, It wasn't firing well and when cold wouldn't run smoothly.
I suggested a few remedies to which he told me he had already tried.
He was down in his holiday cottage, and went on to tell me, he ought to go in for some food as he'd get an ear full for spending all the time in the garage. He was from London but came down to his cottage and classic cars for a week every month or so.
I too needed to eat and get shelter, i didn't even try to find a meal here from this chap, i was happy to just talk about cars for a while and take another break from walking.  As he cleaned his oily hands, i wished him a good evening and that the car would be ready for a nice day out tomorrow.

Down a little village lane passing more fish houses on the right. Then i was back on the river bank, or was this the estuary bank?
I was looking over to the water when i heard someone comment on my rucksack
It was the lady i previously spoke to. She found it an interesting contraption and truly guessed  that i was on a less than planned trip.

The lady it turned out loved the water and owned a boat, though much smaller than she'd had in the past. Sailing was her pastime.
I told her what i was doing and a little of why, she offered me fish and chips and her words of, "the best in the country," made it an offer hard to refuse. Still i explained that i needed to earn it somehow.
"So here's the deal" she said, "I get you some food, because i'd hate for you to go hungry tonight, and you promise to pop by my pottery in 'Welcome' to see me when you get down that way." Welcome was a small village on the border of north Devon and Cornwall, inland about a mile or two.
I agreed as suddenly i had the image of me working away on a potters wheel, which appealed and was suitably random for me.
We sat on a bench looking out over the water and at a gig being taken out for it training row.
The lady went on to tell me about gig's, as although i could see it was a large traditional rowing boat with six rowers and pilot. More mini viking than the sort you'd see in the annual race along the Thames by the teams from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

A gig was traditionally used as a work boat, with one of their jobs to ferry a pilot out to vessels coming in from the Atlantic. There was a big risk of the vessels running a ground on rocks, so it would be the job of a local pilot to guide the vessels safely into shore.
Back then the race was between the many gig crews, to try to be the first to get their pilot on board the vessel, thus winning the job and getting the payment.
During other years the boats were known as the first shore based Lifeboats, used for helping distressed vessels. The earliest rescue is dated back to the late 17th century.
These modern gigs are now just for racing but are strictly based around the 1838 gig 'Treffry'

We watched 'Siren' the Appledore gig get rowed away whilst i talked more about my life and why i got so down, to choose to do such a walk. She did not judge, she just agreed i needed to do things in a way that i knew would help me feel happier.
As hard as the day had been so far, i was now actually happy.
Experiencing the kindness i 've recently felt, was restoring all the faith i'd previously lost in humanity.  There were many good people out there, ones who's genuinely wished to help and through luck or chance, i was meeting them.

The sun had dropped behind the buildings that stood behind us. We were facing northwest and without the sun, the temperature soon lowered and the kind lady was feeling the cold.
I thanked her once more and wished her a good evening. I then promised to find the pottery and see if i could help out there.

Once more i was alone, only now i had the warmth of the food heating me up inside.
Discarding the empty fish and chip wrappings in the bin, i followed the pavement around and into the sun.
My heal was getting more painful now, thankfully i knew a rest was not far away.
Two Jackdaws were collecting hay from a nearby hay pile, no doubt lining a nest in someones chimney with it. They will begin breeding in a couple weeks.
This was a nice reminder that spring was here and that awful long cold winter has passed. I had all those wonderful spring time things to come, the flowers, the trees turning green once more, longer spells of daylight  and the warmth of that sun. The thoughts made me smile to myself.

The sun dropped further as i crossed near a golf course and then was onto the beach at Westward Ho!
 This is familiar beach for me, having been here several times with friends who surf.
The tide was out a fair way with the soft flat sand wet and mirror like.  I took many pictures as i walked casually across the beach.
The sky was turning orange as the sun dipped beyond the watery horizon.
I watched a young lad cycle his bike out across the beach, leaving a tyre mark out to the sea. The impression made for a good photo opportunity, the line streaking through the wet sand and into the reflected sky.
I reached the end of the beach as the sunset, i was ready to rest for the evening. It was now 7:56pm.

I walked through the town looking for an inn or somewhere to rest. I didn't need feeding, but still wanted to offer to help somewhere. Also i needed to look for a place to stay whilst it was still a little light.
I past a small building site so i found a way over a wall to survey the suitability of a roofed building there.
The building appeared to be a toilet or shower block and would provide a good place to stay if a better offer didn't materialise during the rest of the evening.

Leaving the building i saw an Inn up the road.
The village inn as it was named seemed a welcoming place, so i entered and approached the staff.
It as fairly quite inside, just a few locals. My relaxed offer to help out, was well received but not needed. I'd eaten and just wanted to rest now. Do some writing and look at the few photos i'd taken.
So i just ordered a pint as i had some money left from Rob and sat down. I found a power point to charge my camera batteries, which i'd been doing in other bars when possible. It was important to me to not miss out on a photo.
Sitting writing my journal, a couple took an interest in me and spoke.
Once again i began my story, and was being more open about the situation to why i'd left in such a way.

It was not boring me to go over it over and over again with everyone i met. In fact it was helping me to share my thoughts and feelings.
The more i'd tell people, the more i began to understand what was wrong in my life and when it all went wrong, but not yet why.
I was invited to join this couple and they even offered to buy me a meal. It wasn't needed after the fish and chips earlier so settled for the drink that was also on offer.
As i stood to join them, i was reminded of the pain in my heal. So went to the bar and asked for a glass of ice. Wrapping the ice in my 'buff' which is a tube of material i used as a hat. I sat down, then took off my boot and sock and held the icy buff against the Achilles tendon.
I shared with them more of my journey so far, showed them photo's and talked more about what made me do this crazy thing.
They were impressed and inspired. I was laughing and joking with them. My mood nice and high after the mellow days with Steffan.
He bought me another drink and we all talked some more, almost like i'd known him and his girlfriend or wife for years. Eventually they needed to leave and he gave me £15 to help me along the way. He told me i was inspiring and brave, that it was a pleasure to help me this way.

The ice melted in my buff, the heal was cold as was my hand. Though it mattered not. It had turned out to be a wonderful day. A day of not so pretty walking but very beautiful people. And in so many ways.
More people chatted with me through the evening and the night went fast, finally it was soon time to close and for me to go into the night to sleep.
The several drinks i had, the company and the walking had tired me. I wished to sleep and knew i would be safe and dry tonight, my shelter was decided upon.

I left with a thanks and walked down to the building site, hopped over the wall and picked a wind free corner in which to set up bed.
The usual bed was laid out, then i stripped off and crawled into the sleeping bag.
I made a mental note i was on a building site so i needed to be gone at first light, to not be caught there.
I was happy and content.
Tomorrows walk remained a mystery to me. All i knew was that i'd be keeping the sea to my right and to follow the acorns. The rest would be just one big surprise.
Placing the head torch onto my head, i read a few more pages of the book and quickly my eye lids grew heavy, i dropped the book and fell asleep. Waking once to turn off and remove the torch.
And all was dark and quiet again.

9. Thoughts and farewells

I woke from a good sleep, i could tell by the sound of traffic and school children it was sometime after 8am, i got up and dressed.  When i removed my sleeping bag from it's water proof cover, it revealed a moist end to my bag. Condensation had formed on the inside of rubbish bag. Lesson learnt i thought and took note to make sure the bag got dried out sometime during the day if possible.

Once packed, i walked back down to the Church gateway, unfamiliar noises alerted me to life in the bushes nearby. I looked over and the distinctive yellow flashes on the wings of birds grabbed my attention, enough for a better look. The birds had red on their faces. I immediately recognised them as Goldfinches, a type of bird i'd never seen before.
It's only when you see things for the first time, you realise that you'd never actually seen it or them before. Quite an obvious statement i know, but when you expose yourself to so much, your thoughts and senses open up to reveal a set of senses and feelings, often hidden away. Restricted by  distractions of life and limited time.

I feels odd that, i've laid in fields and watched young barn owls playing,  practicing swooping for their prey. I've had a family of badgers pass me by, within two metres of me, Mum, Dad and four cubs.. They didn't flinch, i was no threat.. High on the Quantock hills just before the Rut kicks off. I sat and watched the bond between stags break down. Fighting, stamping and antler polishing by thrashing the dead bracken. I've even seen the courtship of newts...
Yet despite all that i've seen in the wilds of the UK, i've yet to see a relatively common bird, The Goldfinch..There was loads of them, fluttering in and out of the branches, i can't recall what bush they were on, neither did i stop to take photo's. I said i'd meet Steffan and  according to the date stamp on the camera, it was time to do so.

Whilst walking, i could hear the raised voice of a man, as i neared, i saw him facing a bus timetable shouting at it. I worked out from his loud outbursts, he wasn't approving of the time of the next bus, or the lateness of the one he wanted.
I passed the angry man and went to a cafe, the money i got last night will get me a drink and a bit of breakfast, i'm unsure how much though.
I ordered what i could afford, some poached eggs on toast and a mug of tea and turned to sit at a table. Steffan was there and had eaten his already. I'd not arranged to see him so it was a pleasant surprise. He had it appeared a less than perfect night's sleep. Not only did he camp  at a windy location, it also happened to be near an area that the local youths like to hang out near. Although they did not bother him in his tent, their noise kept him awake. I shared with him my night as i ate.

Once i'd eaten and drank, i asked the staff to refill my water bottles then we left. A short piece of off road around Capstone point brought us back onto a road , but thankfully only briefly.
We were now back on the Tarka trail, which we joined on the previous day. It gets it's name from the the book of the same name, the trail follows the route that 'Tarka the Otter' took, it's a figure of eight around North Devon, with much of it coastal.

To our right was the sea and the rugged coastline of North Devon. The weather was good after yesterday afternoons rain and it looked to be getting brighter as we walked.
There was many an occasion where Steffan had walked ahead of me, i was doing battle with the camera and landscapes. The rocky shore line, was very photographic, it's greyness against the green of the clifftops. Then where the sea met the land, it was white as the waves crashed against the land.
I noticed how less murky the sea was here, compared to that east of here along the Bristol channel shore line. Further east the sea is almost brown from the constant and powerful tide and the silt it disturbs.
Also the rock that formed the shoreline, is made up of layers of slate, now near vertical due to the forces on nature. These rocks have been 370 million years in the making. This reminded me of my time investigating a fairly unknown cave on the Quantocks.

A few years ago whilst looking over a detailed map of the area, i saw there was a cave on the hills. Me being me and after a few weeks of wondering and wandering in the area, i found the entrance. It was via an old Quarry where i believe copper was once dug for. I was trespassing on  farmland, not that ever bothered me to much. The cave entrance was about 3 metres below ground level and dropped more once i went i there. I'd taken a video camera in there and filmed it the best i could with night vision. The thing of interest aside from the bats and the adventure was it's history.
Around 200 years ago a local  amateur Scientist named Andrew Crosse. He came to this cave  to collect water for his  electro-crystallization experiments. On the ceiling of the cave where the Ilfracombe slate bed meets the sandstone bed, from here mineral rich water ran and where it ran down the ceiling a layer of crystals formed, a rare crystal called aragonite . Crosse
He tried to recreate this in his home made lab on the Quantocks in 1836, then on the 26th day of the experiment, he saw what he described as a perfect insect, created from a rock and passing electricity through it. A friend of a friend of Crosses was a certain Mary Shelley, creator of the character, 'Frankenstein'. Whether or not Andrew Crosse influenced this, from his fascination which electricity remains unknown.
Memories like that made me feel good, thought's of my lone exploration of that cave and then with friends, one a claustrophobic, were good times, it's important to look back at the good times when nothing seems good anymore.
I'm in my element when facing the unknown, when things are an adventure, dangerous, risky and perhaps a little naughty. And with these good feelings i was able to loosen the mind a little.

However! When my mind is free to wander it can stray into realms of being a little weird. On this day, weirdness entered my mind, triggered by a natural function of the body. Whether it was a poor diet, something in the water or another thing i needed the loo, desperately. I shuffled down an embankment onto a semi-secluded beach to squat. I'd foolishly taken my pack off, to ease the tricky descent to the chosen toilet and i had no man made loo paper. Many handfuls of grass later and i hoped to have sufficiently wiped clean. I pulled on my clothes and climbed back up to my bag. I reloaded and continued walking. Having done what i had just done, my mind wandered back to similar scenarios like that over the years. One of which i'll share with you.

Now i'm sorry if you're reading this with a frown or other look of disgust, if you are, then erm, to bad. This is the raw tellings of a man in the wilds and when the needs a must, you'll go to all the lengths necessary. And this i mean to tell in all the glory or gory detail, such as it occurred.

Having just experienced usage of natures supplier my mind drifted to that of wiping in the wilds. Since an early age,  i've wandered and wiped using a variety of materials, all with differing effects.
As a boy, i'd often be caught short whilst out playing and would go home without underwear. This would end with much questioning from my mother once my stocks had ran out. My pants must of been hanging up in so many bushes or trees back then. As i grew older, i began making use of the greenery around me, leaves, grass, rocks and my personal favourite and one of Eskimos during the mild months, Moss.
On one occasions though things didn't turn out so well. It was just prior to a big mountain bike ride on Dartmoor in the south west, it was winter cold and damp, so i was dressed up inconveniently for outdoors bowel relief. The chance of making it to a public toilet wasn't an option, so i headed into the nearby woods, making sure i was away from all paths. Through the dense undergrowth i rushed, then without to much warning, the urgency to poop increased. I had no more time, against the next tree i stood and began peeling off the layers of winter clothing i had on. In normal situations this would be to simply undo a belt, a button and fly. But not for me today. You see my winter riding kit consists of a pair of bib tights. The best way to describe these,  to those not familiar with cycling attire is thus.
Picture some skin tight dungarees worn next to the skin, so under everything else you wear. The only way out of these is to undo the torso lengthed zip on the front and the remove the two shoulder straps.
So struggling to do this in close to freezing conditions, with a straining sphincter wasn't the finest moments of woodland pooping.
Still i managed to hold on to it, i leant my back against the tree and relaxed...aaaaaahhh! Now for the clean up operation. Now without the need to rush things  like now, i'd of carefully selected my location. On this day as i looked about the ground for something suitable,  a potentially painful realisation entered my mind, and very nearly entered elsewhere.
Of all the places you could chose to go to the loo, under a holly tree isn't the best place, dried holly leaf loo paper is a highly impracticable wiping material. Bare bummed and still crouching i looked for moss, a smooth stick anything suitable, but nothing caught my eye. This meant that i needed to move locations. If anyone has been caught out on a normal toilet and for instance the loo paper had ran out. You'd sort of shuffle to the next cubicle or to the loo roll stores.
This shuffle has a half stooping posture, leg wear is usually half way down your legs restricting movement.
So there i was half naked in a wood consisting mostly of holly trees, almost crouched looking around for a way to get clean. In the end a stick gets used to great effect and i'm able to rejoin the others and go for a ride.
Whilst remembering such experiences, i walk the path with a slight smile, and the odd snigger to myself. Away from the lonely, depressed times, i've done some crazy things in my life, little did i know at this stage, was the craziest yet.

Compared to the previous days walking, the path was easy going today so far, quite flat and fairly straight, just a few dips and steps, nothing too severe. Despite this, Steffan was developing blisters and was beginning to struggle, the next place possible, he needed to get some treatment and new insoles.

As we rounded a rough and rocky headland of Morte Point , we stopped and admired the views. From here North, west and south was sea, east and south east was coastline. As the sea broke up against the ragged shoreline, the rhythmic crashing sound was both soothing to the ear and eyes,almost hypnotic. I could stop here to watch and listen to it all day.
Also the rocks were an interesting thing to look at. The tilted layers of broken limestone, stood up out of the ground. Some like plates stacked for drying, others like teeth. As the sun peaked out through the clouds, the silvery grey slabs of smooth faced rock lit up, whilst their jagged edges  gave a dramatic shadow on the ground hidden from the sun.
We were now walking south and after a while the rocks gave way to a gentle grassy slope. Behind us to the north the skies had cleared and made way for a beautiful blue sky. To the south west, moody dark clouds hoovered low and threatening over the distant Woolacombe. Fortunately for us the wind was in our favour and the clouds were blowing away from us.
With all the stunning scenery, i was preoccupied in taking it all in rather than let my mind wander away with bad thoughts. Of course though me being me,  occasionally i would grow thoughtful and i'd become a little less happy.

Steffan was struggling and it made me realise that i would suffer from blisters too at some stage. Also i knew my backpack would be causing issues with my back. I was often still having to adjust it on my back. It would twist and lie awkwardly and if i'd not packed it well, i'd have my battery charger sticking in my back. These i needed to just cope with and deal with as they occurred. All part of Manning myself up a bit. If  could work through pain, hunger, lack of shelter, loneliness, i could handle the cruelness of society better.

I'd told myself on the very first day to not look back. This however was almost unavoidable as when asked questions about why i was doing this, i'd be honest about it. The further i got from where i'd left, the easier it got to be open about things. I have three children and need to be alive for them, even if i can't be with them, it's better than them hearing ive been found in a tree and they no longer have a father. I was doing this as much for them as myself. Little did i know about the repercussions that my walking away without telling anyone would have on the rest of my life.
So far on the walk, when people asked if i'd told anyone where  i was. I said, "yes!"  A lie i know, at this stage i didn't want anyone to know where  was from or my full name. Should a search ever be done for me, i'd be known as just a mystery walker.

A large sandy beach was now in view, this is a popular surfing spot, but at this time of year, it's just the locals who enjoy the waves. Today though wasn't ideal surfing conditions, not that ever stops them sitting out on their boards just waiting for that one good wave.
We head into town, which is quite busy and we find a Pharmacy, Steffan purchases a blister pack and some new insoles to try. We go outside and sit on the pavement while Steffan cuts and fits his insoles and deals with his blister. We eat more Rye bread, some cheese and an apple each. Then we get under way again.

Along the warren  to Baggy point another headland and more stunning rocky features then down to Croyde  bay.  Here we walk along the beach, which with a heavy pack on, isn't so easy. A river runs out to sea half way along the beach and it's to deep for my non waterproof boots. So i remove them and continue the beach walk bare foot. It's a great feeling walking on soft sand and i must make sure i do as much as possible. It's good i think for the feet.
At the end of the beach a ramp takes us back up onto the cliff so i need to get my boots on again. I sit and wipe them dry with my blanket, making sure i dust of all of the sand. I really don't want that rubbing inside the boots.
Climbing up from the beach,  it's a short walk to Saunton sands. There's about 4 miles of sand dunes to walk around to Braunton and Steffan doesn't see the point of walking a featureless path of grassy dunes and water. And because i'd become dependant on him i followed him, regrettably missing out part of the path.
We walked along the road and eventually reached the small town of Braunton where i told Steffan i NEEDED to do my thing. That i felt terrible that he was feeding me and had been for the last few days. I was to go for a wander and try to find a way to earn my meal, perhaps even somewhere to stay. We arranged to meet up again after an hour, even if only to say goodbye.
I only tried a few inns, but my confidence had dropped as well as my energy levels. My whole sales pitch was lacking the happiness it needed. My speech was stuttered, sentences were broken so lacking the flow. This all meant that people weren't willing to listen to what i was offering and either didn't understand me, or didn't trust me. I wandered streets hoping to see someone in their garden. I wanted people to ask me first what i was up to. If they were friendly enough to make conversation with me, perhaps they'd they'd have the time and patience to listen to me and maybe even be able to help me. But nobody did. I walked the streets alone for an hour, then headed back to the centre to see if Steffan was there.
We arrived at the same time and having told him of my efforts, i sensed he did not believe me. Still being the kind hearted man he was, he offered me some fruit and yogurt. I peeled/chopped some Kiwi fruits, plums, apple and orange and mixed them into the yogurt and savoured the wonderful flavours as i ate.
We talked very little and felt this was to be the last moments of our journey together. He told me he'd be heading back to a camp site that we passed earlier, on the road so he could shower and do some laundry. He said we could meet in the morning  and continue on together, but his body language told me different and i knew i could see how he really felt. The air temperature was dropping, so it urged us to put on coats and repack. A few kind words from Steffan confirmed for me this was a farewell, though he never said goodbye, the manly hugs, firm handshake and look in his eyes, said enough. I told him i appreciated all his help and support over the last few days, everything he did for me, the food and the company. We then left and went our separate ways.

Mentally this was rejection, though i knew it's something we both needed to do for our separate journeys. Steffan needed to up the miles to reach as far along the coast path as he could. Where as i needed to work on helping people and finding ways to earn the food i ate. Not just to rely on kindness alone. I was alone again, however it was very necessary and all just a negative situation to turn around..
I had to pick myself up and be positive, find away to be happier and somewhere out there, find that person who needed my help or just wanted to help me on my way.

I had no idea where to go next, i felt i'd looked down every avenue, tried every place. In truth i'd barely tried at all. I just walked off in any direction and followed my heart a little. I came across a large pub/restaurant called the 'Agricultural' nick named 'the Aggi". There appeared to be quite a few people in there dining and looked cosy. I calmed myself and entered.

A man immediately greeted me and asked me if i'd like a table for the night. Politely i requested to speak with the owner to which the man told me he was the owner. I offered him my hand to shake and told him my name, we shook hands and he told me his name, "Tony" he responded. I explained to him what i was doing and why, then offered to collect glasses for a cup of coffee. Without hesitation he showed me to a table and asked if a burger and chips would be ok. He wanted nothing in return, saying he was happy to help me.
He went of to make the order and then came back with a cup of coffee for me, with some biscuits. This turn of luck cheered me up immensely and i couldn't thank him enough when ever i saw him as i he hurried about his business. He served me up  sumptuous homemade burger, fries with side salad, to which i enjoyed alot. Returning to collect the empty plate, he wished to know more about my walk and a little more about why i was doing it. It turned out he was a member of 'the rotary' a volunteer organisation set up to help underprivileged communities, victims of disasters,etc, around the world. This explained his understanding of my situation and his willingness to help me. I was invited to rest there for the evening, to which i was further grateful for. I sat and wrote my journal, went through the day photos, then got out the spoon to work on. I'd been slowly whittling away at it whilst walking over the last two days and i was happy with it's shape. So now it just needed sanding down.

The ruck sack that had made up the carrier for my larger bag was is i've said my mountain biking bag. In one of pockets i had left a bike tool and a puncture repair kit. In that kit was a small piece of sand paper used for roughing up bike tubes prior to applying a patch. Now it was my spoon sander and i sat working away at making my spoon smoother.
When i saw empty glasses at tables i got up to collect them, i just had to do something i return for what i had received. So for my help, i was given constant top ups of coffee. Guess i couldn't win.
On one such return with glasses, i spotted a book high on a shelf a thriller written by Michael Crichton, it was called 'Prey'. The barman said i could have it, along with an umbrella if i'd like to choose one from the many left out in the entrance hall.
I took the book and sat down to yet another coffee. I'd began people watching and during one of my glances behind me, Tony caught my attention and asked me if i'd like to take some apple pie away with me. "Would i like some Apple Pie?  It took no thinking about and a keen, "yes please" got me a slice wrapped up in foil. Breakfast!  I thought.

It was now getting late and  i was becoming weary from the days walking. I Packed all my things and said a final thank you to Tony and his staff. Tony inquired where i may sleep the night and offered me a tent to borrow. I declined telling him i wanted to make, find of earn shelter. To have a tent would to me feel like an easy option so i left with my pie and book, just to now pick up an umbrella. A green Britvic branded one, seemed to me a good sturdy option. Green is my favourite colour, and if i was to end up sleeping in random places, i should at least blend in a bit.

I retraced my steps back to the centre and near a car park was a library. It had a good sized over hanging roof so i found an area away from the wind to settle for the night. A car pulled up in the car park, stopping nearby, with the engine running and lights on. A group of men walked passed having left a pub, they chatted loudly. The street lights shone bright too. It was all to much and i decided to go in search of somewhere darker and quieter. I'd not unpacked and laid of my bed for the night, so only needed to stand up, throw on the bag and walk. The Tarka line/coast path continued down a dark footpath, so i used my little torch to light the way. I went over a style and walked down the side of a river. I figured i needed to keep near the coast line, which the river would lead me to. Large rotten boats lay abandoned on the river side, i wondered if i should sleep in one of those. Some were listing over and very  decayed. Others just looked neglected. I shone the torch at each of the boats, to look for a suitable one. Then a light flashed back as the owner made his presence known to me. Not in a threatening manner, more i guess suspecting i was up to no good in the area. I continued down the path where it turned to a road and the mouth of the river widened. I was now on the wrong side of a very deep wide river and going in the wrong direction.

Getting more and more tired i had to keep going. I couldn't rest till a good place was found. Passing the same old boats, attracting the attention of the person with the torch again, i made my way to the end and found the bridge crossing the river sign posted for the Tarka trail again. I was now heading past the Marine Barracks at RAF Chivenor where i'd once done some construction work. A brief reminisce back to those several weeks of long hours, meals in the NAAFI and the one instance of using a unauthorised nail gun on site. The tool used a small charge, which when fired, shot a fixing through steel or into concrete. This one particular time, we were fixing into steel hanger supports. When fired the loud bang would echo and resonate through the building and someone must of heard it and notified their superiors. First we knew of it was when a group of about twenty armed soldiers, surrounded the building, then entered it. The Sergent asked where the gun was, and who was in charge. It took alot of head scratching to finally work out what caused the alarm. After a demonstration of the tool in action, they were at ease and let us commence with our work.
From here at Chivenor, the RAF search and rescue helicopter flies out. I've always admired the service they and the other rescue services provide. It's ironic that as i walked past this place and their search Helicopter. I'm oblivious to the previous search efforts made possibly by that very craft or ones like it, for me, just a couple days ago!
Once past the Barracks, i search for a shed or barn, just any form of shelter. I'm so tired now. I cross a road and rejoin the old railway line of which alot of the Tarka trail is on. A bridge offers  little shelter either. So i keep going, it must be way past midnight now. I'm flagging heavily, with the pace getting so slow.
Ahead of me another bridge can be seen, I'm pretty much ready to settle for it. I saw a path leading up onto the bridge so took a look. On top of the bridge a path led to a circular fence protecting a hole about a metre across and Three deep. A walkway around the perimeter of the fence and a wall around that. I worked out it was a type of kiln, so when down to find the main building.

Back down the bottom I looked around in the dark and notice a small clearing to the side of of the bridge, looking out to the Estuary. The sea is quietly lapping the shore line  and i shine my torch around me. Off to the right a stone structure is seen, it has a shallow archway on the side, I take a closer look. The Archway is only about four feet high and  curves downwards at the back forming an alcove, at the base of the curve at ground level is a small opening, big enough for a shovel. there's two further of these features on the two other sides of the building. The one facing the sea is the deepest and tallest. On the floor of this one, is some ply board and cardboard, telling me someone else has stayed here. I settle for this as it's dry and fairly protected. I unpack my stuff and lay out the bedding in the order it had been used before. Using the board to create a flat bed, i then proceeded to lay, bin bags, blanket then sleeping bag out upon it. Then i opened the umbrella and used it as a wind breaker. It almost filled the entrance to me lair, which was great. Then i lay down and tried to sleep, but now couldn't, despite being so exhausted. I decided to put on my head torch and take a look at the book, so began reading it. Reading books had a great effect on me whilst trying to sleep and it wasn't long before the close attention on words, sentences and paragraphs forced me to close my eyes. I managed to turn off the light and snuggle down for the remainder of the night. Asleep at last.

8. A cold shower.

I woke at first light, the sun had risen behind distant hill and lit the sky in a glorious glow. I grabbed my camera and began to frame some shots, trying a few variations of white balance to create more drama and differing coloured sky.

According to the date stamp on my camera it was 06.37am. The air wasn't too cold and i lay in for a bit looking at the sky, listening to the sea and the waking birds, i remembered the sound of a nearby tawny owl as i drifted into the deep calm sleep, it was good to be so close and exposed to nature, it made me feel normal again. Below me in the town there was no sound of man, just the squawk of gulls.

I lay back and found myself falling asleep again, awaking after just an hour. I half expected the tent to be down and Stefan to be gone,  because i sensed he would be keen to get an early start and didn't wish for me, my photo taking and lack of food to slow him down. It was evident that i still felt that i'd let people down, hold them back and to begin to rely on them.

The tent of course was still there, he was a good honest man and it wasn't in his nature to be so impolite.
I decided now to get up and get packed ready for whatever lay ahead for me. We had agreed to walk together today, but during the night, Stefan may of changed his mind and would prefer to charge along at his slightly faster and required pace.

Not so long after i'd got packed, he emerged from his tent and instantly offered me a little breakfast and a hot drink, telling me we'd get moving as soon as he'd packed up his tent and i'd eaten.

I needed a spoon, so i quickly set to work, whittling one  from a piece of dry hardwood. The cut timber i'd used to form the wind break for the night, was now finding a new use.  My multi tool had a small saw, so i cut off a piece about the length of a tea spoon. Then popping out the knife, i pared away at it to make a paddle shape. That would do or now, it'll serve the purpose this morning and i'd have plenty of time to work on it on the coming days and nights.

A part of me was relieved to have the company , another part was telling me to wait back abit, go back to town to earn breakfast, or at least offer to help someone.

The weak part of me won so after eating, cleaning the dishes  we set off up the hill, we passed the cliff railway, linking Lynmouth and Lynton, followed a road for a distance, with grand views down to the sea and harbour. From up here i could see the mouth of the river Lyn, which reminded me of a local tragedy.
On 15 and 16 August 1952, a storm broke over south-west England, depositing 229 millimetres (9.0 in) of rain within a 24hr period, the all ready soaked Exmoor.
Debris-laden flood waters cascaded down the northern escarpment of the moor, converging upon the village; in particular, in the upper West Lyn valley, a dam was formed by fallen trees, etc., which in due course gave way, sending a huge wave of water and debris down that river.
The River Lyn through the town had been culverted to gain land for business premises; this culvert soon choked with flood debris, and the river flowed through the town. Much of the debris was boulders and trees.
Overnight, over 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 28 of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34 people died, with a further 420 made homeless.
Just six years ago, a similar thing happened to a village down in Cornwall, i'd pass through this village in a week or so time, once again the power of nature wind over mankind.

The path took us around the cliff edge and to valley of the rocks, an area i used to go to when i was a late teen to clamber over the rocks and fool around with girls. In later years i had taken my children there to do the same, the once easy path was now well eroded and only the local wild goats made easy work of it. Still, ever the risk taker, i got them down and we walked out to the rocks to sit and watch the sea, the goats had been playing on the rocks, but we'd scared them off. Well that was a while ago and a good memory from all the sadness i had felt. Now i was just passing by, with a chap i barely knew, walking away from the children i love so much.  I was still in an area i'd spent time with them and there was many things to remind me of them and the good times i'd shared with them. Although right now, i had Stefan to distract me from  inner thoughts, they were there in hiding and deep down i excepted they come out to test me soon.

Past castle rock and the entrance to my old play ground was Lee Abbey, this old building is now a christian retreat and holiday centre.
It's grand character is now mixed with modern and less than in keeping material and design. Britain slowly losing it charisma to commercialism.

The road went on, down through toll gates past a small settlement, then to climb very steeply, i felt fit and well and wanted to maintain a pace that my walking buddy would appreciate
Photo's weren't being taken, i had little time to stop and stare.
We did talk though, about my past, his past, relationships, family, jobs, in fact quite a bit, so walking and talking we headed unknowingly to a very first experience for me.

Basic hygiene is very important on wild trips like these, cleaning teeth, bathing or at least a damp wipe down, then of course laundry is necessary. Before we left camp, we agreed to bathe in the first suitable place, this could of been a river, stream, it may of been in the centre of a village under a fountain, we didn't know, but as a challenge, we'd do it and do it totally naked.

Ok, so i'm not really embarrassed about my body, i'm not over weight, in fact from the opinion of others i'm athletically fit so there's no real reason to be ashamed. I've performed on stage with strippers, and been arrested for exposing myself in public. Nothing too bad, i just needed a pee and happened to choose a slightly packed high street, at 2 o'clock in the morning. Then i was under the influence of drinks, now i had morals and a lack of confidence.

Well it would turn out our washing facilities would not be in a town or village, neither was it a secluded piece of running water in a quiet field.
It was in fact under a waterfall right on the south west coast path, just after leaving the aptly named west woodybay wood, the path became a little more exposed and it was along here on a slight u bend in the trail.
Falling from about twenty feet the cool April rain fall, fell onto the slippery algae covered rocks below, it was decided and without hesitation Stefan stripped off his clothes, got out some shower gel and walked into the cold natural shower.
Immediately i could see how uncomfortable it was, not only was the ground awkward to stand on, the pressure from the descending water and the coldness made for a very rushed wash, it wasn't long before i had six foot plus of wet naked German walking towards me and i was my turn next!
I asked him to get my camera and to take a pic of me, turns out it was over exposed it seems in more ways than one, a little photo-shop will sort that.

On the 6th of April 2010, at 10:31am and suffering from depression, i stood naked on the coast path and waited my turn. He handed me his gel and i wobbled over to wash. It's at this point i should inform you that i have very sensitive feet,  walking bare foot on anything but flat, smooth, soft and even ground is like walking on broken glass.
Waddling along, almost on all fours i reached the fall and knew what i needed to do and that was commit. It's like walking slowly into a cold ocean, slow torture. So not caring about what  i was standing on, i walked straight into the water fall. There's no room here for any expletives, imagine standing naked in a 60mph vertical gale, with hail stones, not only are you naked but you are also bald, the hail stones pelting you right on the head and shoulders, not to mention any other bit of flesh sticking out in front of you. Yes, even in the extreme cold there was no protection by way of extreme shrinkage.

Now that i'm  sufficiently wet, i can now apply the gel, steeping out from the pain for a moment to one side,i vigorously lathered myself up. For anyone who passed us by that morning i can only apologise, at this moment i was blind, with a good covering of soap and working it in really well, i really was a touch preoccupied to consider other users of the path.

It was now time for a rinse, i was aware of the fact, i had soap everywhere and that i'd need to rinse all of it off, this may take a while i thought.  Once again i stepped into the water and began rubbing myself all over. Usually i'd spend plenty of time in shower just standing there, hot water running over me body and enjoying the sensation it gives.
Today i was certainly getting a sensation, and to use the word enjoy would feel a little inappropriate. After what felt like too long, i was well and truly rinsed, quite possibly exfoliated too, i stepped out one last time.
Waddling once more across the slippery uncomfortable river bed, i made my way back to dry off, this is when i learnt how bad a fleece blanket is at absorbing water.
Whilst doing the best job i could with what i had, Stefan washed some clothes in the running water. I had got dressed just as two walkers came by and having shared good mornings, they passed and we loaded up.
By now Stefan had taken on an appearance akin to a clothes airer, with socks and shirts and a towel hanging off his pack, it provided a brief bit of humour for the pair of us, then i was back to the path.

I was feeling fresh and alive, my eyes were alert to the scenery and things living amongst it. It would appear to be the mating season for beetles, literally hundreds of bloody nosed beetles were either copulating or looking for a mate. These are flightless leaf eating beetles, their slow movements meant a easy subject for close up photos.

There would be much better views of the coast today, compared to the previous one, however the sea was far away at the foot of very steep cliffs. Our path then turned in land and we descended a fairly steep path down into the very steep sided Heddons mouth cleave. What goes down then goes up, then back towards sea again. The route we just took from the other side of the cleave, had meant a climb down of 180m and a return to the same height on this side. This was over a distance of about 2 kilometres, as we could both see the path from the other side it was a bit frustrating to walk so far, were as the distance as the crow flies, to coin a phrase meaning in a straight line, was only about 300m.
It levelled out after Peter rock and east cleave, also the path followed the high cliff top heading south west for a good distance which took away the previous frustration of Heddons cleave. Next up was a similar beast, Sherrycombe, with a slightly steeper drop down, i stopped to photograph a few local ponies then crossed a small bridge before the long climb to great hangman cairn, which by all accounts is the highest point on the whole south west coast path.

We rested by the cairn and drank some more water. So far during my journey, all the water i was drinking was from streams, complete with contamination for all knew. Any illnesses i picked up along the way, would need to be dealt with by the immune system, something few people barely have left nowadays. You can get a remedy for most things, so  just let pills, creams or liquids do battle with the nasties inside us. I'd rather build up my own defences, maybe it was my way of making myself suffer more for walking away from everything..
After the break, it was a good down hill pretty much all the way to little hangman. The weather today had been pretty mild, it was certainly a nice day for a walk.

On reaching the north Devon seaside resort called Combe Martin, Stefan wished to buy more provisions and water, i filled up my bottles from a tap in a wash room, then we found a local shop.
Whilst he was inside, i placed my camera on the top of a shopping trolley and sorted out my rucksack contraption. I wish now, i'd taken a picture of it in all it's lashed together glory. The nature of it's design or lack of, meant it would quite often be unbalanced, therefore uneven on my back. This meant i was often trying to fix it to make it more comfortable. It was after all just waterproof bag, strapped to a small empty rucksack.

Stefan came out of the shop and we headed of in search of a cafe. Suddenly i realised something was missing from my person, my camera, it was still outside the shop up the road. I turned and went back, it was only a minute or so away, but a couple seconds is all it takes for someone to take something. To my relief, the camera was still there where i left it. "pheww!"
Having re-joined Stefan(the spelling maybe wrong, if he ever reads this then i'm sorry) we found a cafe and he kindly once again bought me a hot drink and i had some apple pie and cream, one of my favourites.
More walking ahead of us i was becoming increasingly aware, i'd not been achieving the things i wanted to. Stefan was providing everything food wise for me. I felt bad about this and rather than say anything, i just let it happen.

The rest of the days walk faded into just walking, whittling my spoon, the conversation had stopped flowing and i wasn't taking pictures or taking in the scenery, the weather also changed, it got cooler and dark clouds loomed over head. All i wanted now was to stop walking and rest for the night, maybe even eat a cooked meal.

Coats were put on and we followed the path down to Ilfracombe, just as we got to the edge of town, the acorn signs sent us up around fort Hillsbourough, the short diversion, felt much longer and as the rain began to fall, my mood and energy levels dropped further.

Once we reached town, Stefan spotted a German supermarket, so in the rain we headed there. We wen inside where he bought egg waffles, Rye bread and Greek yogurt with some fruit, enough for me too.
Having eaten outside he then offered me a pint, to which i foolishly agreed, my constantly taking from him, was affecting our friendship, i knew soon, i'd have to fend for myself once again, despite of the fact i knew this was happening, i did nothing to prevent it. I'd told Stefan of my intentions along the path and had shown him no evidence of it being put into action. We went to a bar and whilst i sat by a fire writing, he sat at the bar taking to locals and eating cake. I drank slowly and felt very alone, tired and sad.

He eventually told me he was off to set up his tent, we'd spotted a suitable location earlier on as we came into town. I told him if he'd like to, i'd meet him at a cafe in the morning, to either say goodbye or walk another day with him. I didn't think he'd be there, my confidence was once again in tatters.
I sat, wrote and went through the days photo's whilst sipping beer, i felt like a smelly tramp, ignored and unwelcome in the corner. I was about to leave, i'd already packed to do so, went to the bar to return the empty glass, i said thanks to the barman and turned to get my bag. Behind me was a young lady, Zoe was one of a group that was sat nearby, she instantly offered to get me a drink, to share a short with her and her friends.
Excepting it, i told her a little bit of what i was doing and why, she wrote her number on a piece of newspaper and asked me to call her should i ever visit Manchester.

Bizarre and as brief as this meeting was, it was enough to lift my spirits, if only slightly. I then turn to get my bag and leave for the second time, this time i was interrupted by a man sat with his partner. He'd over heard a little on what i was doing and wished to know more, so i sat down with them.
It wasn't long before he bought me a pint and was listening intently to my tale, occasionally he or his partner would ask questions. I was feeling much better, not just from sharing my adventure, but also because they admired me and saw what i was doing as inspirational. It's very uplifting to hear words of support from complete strangers, it was always people i knew who'd offer their opinions on things i did, rarely were they supportive though.
There was one last act of kindness from this couple and it lined my pocket with some money for breakfast. With sincere thanks i left into the cold, dark and wet night to search for a sleeping place.

 I walked for maybe half an hour looking for somewhere dry and away from the wind, options were poor in fact it felt non existent. A large church stood in the centre of town, i knew it to be unlikely that i would find an open door here, churches often had other places to shelter so i went through the gates to take a look.
As predicted the main doors were locked, to keep out the homeless no doubt..I went round the side, my head torch lighting the way and there i found a small archway leading to an iron gate which appeared to lead down some steps to i guess a vault. It was here i decided to stay, at the entrance to the vaults of the church of Philip and st James.

From the moment i set eyes on my room for the night, i knew full well it wasn't big enough, at only about five feet deep it would mean my legs would protrude outside in the rain. Precautions then were needed, which would come in the shape of rubbish bin bags.
The head of my bed was in fact the first step, so i needed to build that up with clothes and bags. I laid out the usual bedding, bin bags to keep out the damp from the ground, my fleece blanket with was now dry, then on that my sleeping bag, to which i slipped the bottom of the bag in a black plastic bag, to try and keep out the rain. I undressed and used my clothes as a pillow, got into my sleeping bag, ticked off another day and several more miles. Then after much thinking and guilt for using Stefan as i felt i was doing so, i drifted off into a calm and relaxed sleep, essentially in a grave yard.

7. Chance encounters

The air was cold, outside of my sleeping bag, as my hot breath met the chilled air, it formed into a micro cloud and slowly drifted away from me.

I heard voices outside, it was morning and i'm late up! Why didn't i wake up earlier? it should be lighter than it is now, i looked up to the window that i'd pulled the curtains too and saw ivy, thick dense ivy, very little light..

I quickly packed and got ready for the door to open, it was Easter Monday, i was sure there would be a service today. However, the voices outside had gone, i'd not have to explain myself to anyone just yet.

By the door was a donation box, i felt it right to give a donation, for they had provided me with shelter for the night. I dropped in a one pound coin and opened the door to a bright but overcast day. Closing the door behind, i thanked the church and walked down the steps to rejoin the road, then made my way to the weir and to find the coast path again.

As i stood by the sea i looked at the old sea worn groynes and a settled WW2 pill box, the one at Porlock weir, back in Bossington and again at Dunster beaches where cast concrete, then clad in pebbles to camouflage them.  My imagination pictures a time all those years ago, images of the home guard constructing and manning it, watching out for attempted invasion via this coast.

Back to the day ahead and the pending journey, i'd use the money i now had to purchase a little breakfast and a hot drink. A pasty and a cup of tea would fuel me today. The thought of offering to earn it in anyway didn't cross my mind, i wished to get moving, i sensed a long hard day in front of me.
I ate and drank as i walked, up a narrow pathway into the woodlands.

To my left was a small field containing sheep, their lambs in little plastic coats suckling and bouncing playfully. These coats i guessed were to keep the rain off, clear polythene, they looked purpose made, designed to pass over their heads and with a small band under their belly's. Many of these coats had worn off and lay blown up against the fence, like litter...Next to the creation and birth of new life lay a reminder of a pet hate of mine, litter.
Mans disrespect for the land we live in, the world around our busy destructive existence is littered with signs of human laziness. Here in my hands are a paper cup and plastic food wrappings. Why is i can simply fold them up and place them in my pocket for disposal in a bin later, yet others seem incapable of such basic things?  Bottles, foil crisp bags, tissues, sweet wrappers, etc... I'm sure we've all seen it in places, where people sit in their cars eating plastic like burgers containing processed meat and drinking sugary or fatty drinks. The effort required to get up out of their seats and walk up to the provided bins, to dispose of the containers seem to much, the floor is closer, of course someone will clear it up.

Leaving the lambs behind i traverse a hill over looking some small fields to the sea, then come out by a wonderful curved building, Worthy Toll house with it's thatched roof and arched gateway. I turn off here down a path which leads to Yearnor woods, it zigs zags up wards, passing through and past old tunnels and follies, which once led to an old building in Ashley combe.

The area has suffered landslips over the years and diversions are in place to aid walkers like to me continue on through to Culborne and it's little Church which  is said to be the smallest parish church in England.
Here i'm not alone, it's Easter Monday and this seems a popular place to visit, i offer to look after the dog of a couple so they can look inside the church and experience it together, but they seem to be content in looking at it alone.

After taking a few pictures i moved on again, so placed my bag on my shoulders once more and went through the little gate to return to the path.
Suddenly as i looked up to where i was heading, familiar people were approaching walking their dog. I feared the would see me and question what i was doing, i couldn't run or turn away, my mind froze to react in any other way than to lower my head and walk on by.

These people had known me for years, Sue was the daughter of my mothers neighbour and her and Kevin her husband would of recognised me in an instance should they of not been looking at the church.
My mother was still living in the house i spent all but the first year of my life growing up in. Sues mother and father were like family, i'd spent so much of my teenage years with her dad, working as a woodsman and if i knew then what i know now, they would of been so relived to ave found me there.
As it was they didn't and i was able to continue on oblivious to to fact i was a missing person and massive amounts of resources were now being spent on searching for me, not to mention the efforts of people like Sue, Kevin, other members of family and friends.

If they ever get to read this i guess they'll be upset that they didn't see me, even though i pretty much brushed shoulders with them as i passed by.
I thought about this encounter alot as i walked on, would they catch me up and finally see me, I tried to blank it all out and to not feel bad about not speaking to them.

I'd been walking at a good pace for a while now and the distractions of nature had relaxed my guilty thoughts.
Birds, water and the trees all triggered my senses.  The feel of the soft moist ground, spring plants breaking the surface, the song of the robin, squirrels in the tree tops, trickling water and cascading waterfalls.
Any bad thoughts went away and i was once more so glad to be here in this experience, i always liked being in nature and my alertness to things around me reminded me just why it's an important part of who i am, and how much good therapy this was going to be.

I spent time trying different settings whilst taking pictures, from close up shots with a blurred but obvious feature as the background, to long exposure shots of running water, i wanted to learn about the camera and what it was capable of. As i knelt on the ground, i became more aware of the little things in nature there, tiny insects and small plants. The world is made up from so much and few people realise this whilst going about their rushed lives.
I am in no rush, i have no big agenda or place to be. I am free to see things in wonder and amazement of all that is around me. I am happy.
Time seems irrelevant too, i don't know what time it is or how far i have till the next village or chance for food and right now i couldn't care.

Ignoring a diversion round a land slip, i decided to go through the barrier and take a risk, most of the route had been re-instated, with large boulders protecting the path from further slips, one tree lay still across the path and my 5 minute battle to get through it provided a little entertainment for me. The branches of the tree got entangled in my rucksack, i struggled to go forwards or back wards, patience and persistence however helped me overcome this obstacle.

Laying on the path was the skull of a red deer, it reminded me of the deer i held so close to my heart back on the Quantocks. As well as being beautiful beasts, they are also an important reminder to my past and the loss of a baby of mine.
Several years ago, one of our babies was lost during a premature birth, she was cremated and the day we let her ashes free to blow across the hills, a young stag leaped out from the dead bracken and ran past us, from that moment the red deer of the Quantocks became the guardians of Lois.

I had another photo session at 'sister's fountain',  a natural spring, the small moss covered stone structure with a cross on top blended in with the dark damp green foliage all around me.
I met a man not far from there, he told me a short story of when German U-boat men came to nearby beaches to collect fresh water, the steep cliffs protected the beaches below, he said an English farmer saw them and led them to the spring. And a few years ago, the Boat captain came back to the area for a reunion and to re-tell the stories. All i can find out now, is of stories that the Germans rolled up their overalls and used them as a footballs, they played games the beaches for exercise and to enjoy the fresh air, away for the messy crapped conditions within the u-boats.

Back to my adventure now. I passed through to large pillars, on top of them each was a grotesque boars head, on the verge daffodil leaves swayed in the breeze, spring was here and soon flowers will be abundant for me to feast me eyes on.

 On Countisbury, i joined a road briefly and spotted in a field a new born lamb, it was still covered in mucus and very unstable on it's feet.
I sat on the verge side and took photos, then filmed all that was happening.  As the ewe licked her lamb and bleated out, the smell and sound of the mother would provide that bond they both needed.
The lambs instinct to feed was there, but finding the milk source wasn't so easy, it nuzzled the sheep's leg, wobbled some more and then gave the rear of he sheep a sniff, almost wanting to go back in.
I stayed there and filmed, this beautiful event for some time. The mother was aware of my presence and despite the fence i was behind, she was keen to lead her lamb away from me to safety. The lamb staggered behind her and often just lay down, to yawn and lick it's own face, only to be prompted to stand and follow mum.

I heard foot steps up the road from where i'd came from, i was about to meet my German walking companion, six foot two, carrying a giant pack, a man of good build and a handsome face, (i had not at this stage started fancying men, or later for that matter) at least i could see features that would be attractive to ladies. His name was Steffan.
We spoke briefly and his good English made communication easy, though with differing senses of humour, i needed to consider how i spoke with him, we were heading the same way so agreed to walk together for the rest of the day.

A short walk on a road, turned off onto a path and the obvious acorn signs continued to guide me on the right route. The coast was not visible at this point as it had not been for most of the days walking, but as we made our way to the light house at Foreland point, which was in fact off route of the coast path. We'd been so busy discussing our own reasons for doing the walk general conversation, we lost our way and found ourselves on the grounds of the light house.
We saw a ladder over a wall and before i knew it, we'd dropped over the two metre wall onto the cliff edge and what appeared to be a goat track, leading along the steep cliff top. We agreed to follow this path and head back up with the line of the vaguely obvious path. The wind was blowing luckily off the coast, so we we're being blown into land, which we were both thankful off, a lost footing would of been very fatal. With a sheer drop to the sea a hundred or so metres below, it became a risky but exciting detour.
The path wound along, well i call it a path, most of it was covered in heather, it hugged the contours of the cliff edge, when it reached a scree slope, we had no other option than to follow the path, directly up.
This had now turned even more of a challenge, such a slope would of normally warranted using a safety rope, instead we were relying on the grip of the heathers roots, the terrain was steep enough that we could hold onto heather, grass without leaning forward, thankfully this was only necessary for fifty or so metres, then we were back on a more suitable track, which turned out to be the official path.
The rest of the path was now either traversing the cliff top or a gently descending gradient taking us down to the small town of Lynmouth.

Steffan offered me a coffee and cake, to which i accepted and having found a little cafe, we sat down to relax a while.
He was on a mission to walk as much of the path as he could in twelve days and he hoped to get to St Ives in that time, to achieve that, he'd need to cover around twenty four miles a day, today's total was a mear twelve miles, to double that daily and find food, possibly earn it and take my time taking photos at that pace would be too much for me to undertake, so at this stage we'd not spend anymore time walking together. He needed to find somewhere to put his tent up, somewhere secluded enough to not be disturbed, but close enough to the path for an early start.

I walked with him and suggested we try up in the terraced woodlands between here and the town above the gorge we were in, a place called Lynton.
Part way up the hill and just off the path a level clearing provided a suitable place to pitch a tent. I helped clear the area for the tent and whilst he was putting it up, i went for a wander looking for animal tracks, i'd seen goat tracks and wondered if deer were in these woods.

The level clearing on which we'd decided to set up his camp had a fallen tree across it, it seemed a wide enough clearing to in fact be an old access road, to where i wished to know. So i went back to Steffan to see if he was ok. Whilst he sat, he noticed an old rotten tree leaning over the tent and he was a little concerned about it falling over night. However he had settled to the idea of staying there and when i told him i needed to go down into the town to find a meal, he offered me some of his.
So we sat there on the edge of this gorge over looking the Bristol channel, eating cheese, crackers, fruit and yogurt, the two of us talked and got to know a little more about each other.

As the temperature dropped i decided to have one last look around the area, so leaving my friend to sort out his stuff, i climbed up the embankment and around the fallen tree to investigate the other end of this old roadway.
Not much further up the track, to my surprise i found an old stable,a pile of wood, built up like a fire, but it was old, rotten and damp. Inside the stable or old barn, was a big old wooden bench, lots of goats droppings, despite of this it was dry sheltered,i'd found my room for the night and couldn't wait to show Steffan, there was room for his tent too, away from falling trees.
Alongside this track, was a wall, i dropped down the side of it and went back to where the tent was, excitedly i told Steffan to follow me, with no explanation, i ushered him to where i'd come from. He joined me and on seeing my findings he agrees we  should move there, and get a fire going.

After gathering our stuff and transferring it all to the other site, i gathered wood for a fire, whilst Steffan put up his tent. I found my room, with a newly replaced roof, had another guest, a small bat hang from the felt, it's head twitching in response to my being there, i left it alone to rest before it needed to go hunting the night for moths and other delights.

With a shortage of tinder i made some feather stick, which is basically a piece of dead wood, finely peeled with a knife, so that many fine strands of wood, would be able to catch fire and generate enough heat to establish a fire, once that worked,  we had a lighter so luckily no rubbing of sticks was needed. The downside to burning damp wood was the smoke and the wind seemed to be in favour of filling up my accommodation, at least though i'd be comfortable and hopefully warmer then my previous night in the old tin chapel.

Fire seems to have an hypnotic affect so after a nice peaceful time staring into the flames, we both were ready to sleep, so we said goodnight and Steffan went to his tent, me i went to my bench. I'd laid some spare clothes and the blanket onto the base and then my sleeping bag, however the wind had turned and was blowing straight into the barn, it had no doors just two large openings, separated by a central pillar. I moved the big heavy bench to behind the pillar, the bench had a solid back which acted as a wind stopper, also in the barn was a few lengths of wood, i used these and fashioned to uprights and a rail, to which i would hang my coat, jumper and other items over, forming a perfect wind break, lastly before i crawled into bed, put my boots under the bench to keep them from the goats that i guessed would visit during the night. I then undressed, got inside my sleeping bag and quite quickly, to the sound of the sea below, i drifted off to sleep, the best sleep i'd had in days, tired, but warm comfortable and safe.