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.


6. A long day

From mountain biking in this area many times I knew what came next, North Hill, instead though of the usual climb straight up from the road to the top, I walked along the bottom of the wooded hill for a while and accessed them via a approach new to me, a few steps led me to a pat which rose quite steeply turned left and climbed further, at a gateway it all became familiar, I’d rejoined my usual path from Minehead towards Exmoor, up the hills into a clearing with views out to sea, then the walk would take me over Selworthy hill and down towards Hurlstone point, easy.
On a bike you cover the ground so much quicker, what I thought would be a short walk, turned out to take much longer, the path winding through the heathland, I saw the figure of a man loaded up with a large pack, he seemed to be cutting across from one track to another, lost or not, he was on a journey of his own.
 The path came to a valley then turned inland slightly dropping to a stream crossing, then climbing the other side and then went back towards the coast. I could see the path on the other side of the valley, to follow the path, more than trebled the distance as the crow flies. I am not a crow!
This seemed to form a pattern now of my Exmoor walk, sights of the path not far away, yet the route much longer because of the steep sided valleys. Many of these lopes had alot of scree, as i looked around me thought of the Exmoor beast entered my mind. The beast was believed to be a big cat and was blamed for the killing of sheep across the moor, sightings were also made on the nearby Brendon hills and on the south side of the Quantock hills. I imagined what i would do if i came across one, two wild apex predators in the same area. I've never been afraid of nature, always thought i could judge it's behavior and respond  in way to not threaten it.. to give it reason to attack. Over here in the UK, the most likely animal to attack a human would be a wild boar defending it's young.
Down on  the edge of a  steep slope a big cat stalked a lamb, when suddenly it caught my gaze and turned it's attention to me,  i set up the camera and waited for it to get upon me, taking as many pics as i could before setting it down nearby on video mode and moved my self into position before being pounced on, it would be pointless trying to out run, out wit a big cat, there's a saying that in the states if a mountain lion chooses to stalk something, it will not give up and it will attack.  So this one got to me and i wrestled with it knowing that if it managed to get it's teeth into my neck i was done for, despite the piercing pain from it's razor sharp claws, i managed to hold it off long enough to mount my own chosen attack method. For whilst it was coming at me a realised the only thing of use i had and could use as a weapon was my multi tool. The blades were only 30mm long and would be ineffective, so i took a more novel approach to immobilising a large predator like this. I had the multi tool opened in the plier setting and my plan was to plunge it into the cats neck and clamp it on it's wind pipe...therefore making it unconscious and i'd have a relatively damage free trophy to present to the media.
Well obviously this all never really happened, but being alone out there with the strange imagination that i have, leads to these bizarre thoughts. I also thought that i'd not wish to present this poor animal to the public, neither would i want to kill it or film it to prove it exists, it's a wild animal and deserves to be free on this land. The army had searched for it, countless other hunter types and yet it has eluded them thus far. So all images, footage, etc, will never get out because of me. Little did i know i was being searched for and being just as elusive as the fabled exmoor beast, neither of us wanted to be found.
Back to reality and an unfamiliar sight of cattle on the high cliffs, moist ground and heaving cattle aren't a great mix and the path turned to a very pitted mess.
Passing evidence of old industry, in the form of a old wheel and axle parts, bedded into the ground, i guessed about fifty to sixty years old, abandoned at the ends of it's purposeful life.
A sign marked 'rugged alternative' with my guide the acorn carved onto the post. Of course i'd take that option, always dong things the hard way, that was me. I'm unsure what made this more rugged then the other route, but it certainly seemed a long route, winding up, down, inland, then back out towards the coast again, traversing the hills in the easiest way possible. I became aware of how challenging this section of the walk would be for the many passionate walkers who pass over this trail, many elderly, retired and not so fit and strong as me. Credit is due to all those that get out there and ramble hills,  fells and the mountains of the world, it's by no means an easy pastime.

At long last i got to familiar ground, a path hidden from view beyond a grassy crest, the descent down to Hurlstone. A warmth entered my heart, fond memories of a bike ride down here a couple years ago, too fast, too dangerous, a perfect thrill of a ride.  A more sociable pace let me look at the terrain i passed over at a speed less responsible, it would've most certainly put me in hospital if i made any error that day. Taking risks is all to common when i'm on a bike, preservation of health seemed less important. Is doing this walk risky? Well i guess not knowing where my next meal is, where i will sleep, injuries i may have get, flu or colds and how to deal with them. Yes, it's a risk, maybe my biggest one yet.
The figures of two hand gliders ascending the slope up to the ridge made me feel less alone, it was Easter Monday and i'd seen so few people up on the moor. The sun was dropping it wanted to get to Porlock before dark so a decided not to stop to watch them, so carried on down. At the bottom, i go off route to look at the old coast guard watch tower, as i stand by it's empty and now redundant shell, my thoughts go to it's use and to all the lives that would of been saved, thanks to eyes of the men and women who watched the sea's for people in trouble.  A woodland path takes me to Allerford and past the old pack horse along a lane and finally to Porlock, i'm exhausted, hungry and my feet hurt. This is just the beginning, a pain incomparable to what i will experience over the next few months, a mere feeling of being peckish compared to to feeling of emptiness i've got to come.
Although i had some money in my pocket, i wanted to find a way to earn a meal, if i could just get to speak with people, explain what i' doing, somewhere in this village there's person that could do with a helping hand, my hand..I went into a pub in the village, a roaring fire welcomed me, i spoke nervously to the owner, he had all the staff that he needed, and could not offer me the things i needed, food! He offered me a pint so i sat by the fire and rested by tired limbs and slowly drank, i was weary, i just wanted o sleep, but i needed to eat, every opportunity needs to be sought to gain a meal i can't rest yet, not now. Gathering my things, i went out once more, the streets were empty, a cool evening breeze made me shiver was this fatigue or was it actually cold enough to make me feel that way?
I went to a place i'd eaten before when camping in the area, it was quiet there, i spoke to the bar manager, like the many times that i will  hear whilst on my journey, he'd told me he'd love t help, but cannot as he's not the owner. Excepting that sometimes, there will be nobody that can aid me, i ordered a pint, and sat down to see out the evening in the warm, before venturing outside to find my place to sleep. As i sat writing, and looking through photos, a couple took an interest in what i was doing, so i began my story to them, the gent at first was very sceptical, as i told them more his expression changed and the questions turned from interrogation to intrigue.
The lady offered me a drink whilst we were chatting and i explained that a can't just accept things for nothing, i'd need to earn it somehow. I then remembered what i had in my pocket, a thing that all women loved, so i decided to give it to her in exchange.
I took out the rock i'd found and told her she deserved a sparkling rock. My eyes diverted to the man as i said that someone else would need to provide the ring. I'd noticed neither of them wore a ring.
The rock twinkled in the light and she accepted it.
This mineral rock, formed over thousands, even millions of years, was now providing me with a drink and good kind company. Anything could be a tool to provide me with food or drink, not just in the form of labour or money.
The evening came to a close and we all left, yet again i had no clue to where i would stay tonight, i'd not eaten and i was still tired. I'd walked the quiet streets and found nothing so decided to head on in hope of finding a farm, a barn to take shelter in.
The coast path route went down a lane towards the village weir via a mile of pitch black lane. I flashed the torch around fields and found no buildings. Sleepy and hungry i walked on, somewhere out there in the dark is a place for me to stay, but where?
I watched a rabbit hop along the hedgerow, supper i thought. But how to catch a rabbit...the first and only way that popped into my head was to hit it with a stone, obviously i couldn't just walk up to it and wack it. I'd throw a stone at it, really hard, stun it, than i'd have a few moments to catch it and kill it.
So, i picked up a few carefully selected stones from the verge, ones with a good weight and shape to them. With the torch in one hand, i got my bleary eye in and took aim. Now! if any of you have ever tried to throw anything whilst carrying a large pack on your back, you'll understand how it affects the throw.
I pulled my hand back to above the shoulder and almost behind my right ear, then with a powerful  throwing action launched the stone towards the bunny. The deathly thud as the stone hit the rabbit clean in the head never happened, instead i watched the stone clatter down the road missing the animal by a clear two metres. I only caught a glimpse of this miss because with the momentum carried forward by the rucksack, i was spun around and forward to the point of almost falling through the hedge.
Lesson learnt i shone the torch back down the road and there was bugs sat munching on the grass. The feelings that you get when taunted by your supper are a mixture of rage and hilarity, how dare it, i've caught and killed hundreds of rabbits in my life. OK! not with a stone though.
The next stone was chosen, slightly heavier it felt good in my hand, i knew i was a good shot, i could do this..
I managed to get a little closer to my fearless meal, i took aim and fired.. The stone flew through the darkness and within seconds a thud was heard, followed by a metallic clang, then a sheep dog barked and about several zillion sheep and lambs began bleating loudly. I'd missed the rabbit again!
Behind the hedge of which the stone had flown through was a barn, potentially my bedroom for the night. Waking the dog and sheep had dashed my hopes of a settled night there, as for the rabbit, bugs was still about, his eye glinting yellow in the torch light. It was now by a gateway and my last attempted with a stone pinged of the gate, the sound resonated though the clear dark night. My nemesis bunny ran off, the dog barked once more and the bleating increased. Lovely.
Down the lane i continued, a few houses on the had padlocked out houses, an old car looked promising. I tried the door, it was open. As i opened the door in hope of a lovely dry and comfy seat, i was in fact greeted with a very horrid smell. That of damp and engine oil, the seats were mouldy and old engine part lay strewn about. Not here then, i closed the door quietly and walked on.
A fork in the road and a sign saying 'The Chapel of St Nicholas', years ago chapels and churches were i believe used and sanctuaries, i hoped this would be the case tonight.
I came across the chapel, a structure clad in corrugated tin, 'tin tabernacles' as they've been termed in the past.
I tried the door, 'click!' as the door opened my relief was clear, i shone my torch around to see where would be best to rest, seating there was separate chairs, with small cushions as seat pads. I pushed some chairs apart and laid out the cushions as a mattress. In the torch light my breath was a mist, it was  cold in there. Aware of the day i was concerned that a Easter Monday service would happen in the morning, i'd need to be up early ,get packed and be gone. Without an alarm, i'll need to depend on daylight, i pulled some curtains open, then snuggled into my sleeping bag to finally sleep. It had been a long long day and it felt lovely to finally lay down, the buzz from the De-humidifier did little to keep me from sleeping. My very cold and restless night had began..

5: Fossils and landslips.

Day light woke the sea gulls and I was woken by their squawking, the sun had not risen yet, it was about 6:40am and I was to get up. I packed and left my nights’ accommodation then walked up the hill to a vantage point to see the sunrise. A partially cloudy morning hid the sun and as I began back down the hill to town it broke and the sun cast a warm glow over the sea.
I walked the quiet streets as slowly people stirred from the comfort of their homes and warm, wind free beds. Ropes clanged against tall masts in the marina. I sat opposite the large bronze statue of the ‘ancient mariner’ it was near here that Samuel Coleridge was inspired to write the poem ‘the rhyme of the Ancient mariner’ Coleridge lived on the Quantocks and it was a walk in his name that gave me a taste of walking long distance walks.
The dark statue stood proud against the morning sky, the slain Albatross draped around his neck. Nearby was another statue of ‘Yankee Jack’ research this I sat here for a while, listening, watching and waiting for  Watchet to wake up.
During this time, I again heard the sound of a distant helicopter, my thoughts briefly returned to the wonder of who was missing and should I be helping look for them, or was it me they were looking for? Surely not yet.....
I had money in my pocket and a day of  ahead of me,  I knew   that I’d be walking along the coast to Minehead, so finding out the tide times as important as I didn’t want to be trapped and drown, I wanted breakfast and I wished to go back to the pub and once more offer to help out with lunch time, that one would have to wait though.
The first place that appeared to open was the marina shop, so I went in, just to look around, a drinks machine was there so I got a cuppa as that has always been the way to start a day. I found out the tide would go out at midday, so a couple more hours would need to be lost. I had a small breakfast in a cafe then inquired in the pub about lunch time help. The owner hadn’t had enough bookings to give me things to do, so offered my five pounds, thanking me for the offer, my spirits were lifted once more after the night of little sleep, and I was keen to get moving on and reaching the official start/finish of the South West Coast Path.
At 11:30 I knew the tide would soon be turning it was time to get on it. I picked up from the point I’d slept near, down the slipway and onto the beach. Cliff walls and their layers split off by time and weather, the ravages of sea eroding the lands natural defence. Chunks of cliff that had fell to the beach, stood upright like giant pillars, the layers now vertical, pink lines streaking up to the clear blue skies. Such a contrast to the horizontal hail I’d been in 24hrs ago.
In the distance I see a land slip, as I near it I know it’s a great opportunity to look for fossils, the rock here is soft, rain and the sea doesn’t wait for anyone and the signs of life from 65million years ago, turn to sand or silt.
I find parts of ammonites in their matrix of stone, a section of sea bed with many bivalves, gastropods, layer upon on layer as they got covered by the tides and slowly compressed. I look at these and know I’m the first human to have set eyes on them, I then touch them and try to feel the age, I close my eyes and imagined back to when they made their last living movement, I then saw the waves, the sand slowly covering them and as time passed by, layer upon layer which compressed together, fused and formed into rock, then hidden for so long, just waiting. Waiting for time, then time came then it. I too found a small rock, it glittered in the sun, like metallic diamonds, as I tilted it, the sun reflected on the many different sections, I thought of all those years of its creation, the chemical reaction, the process, the patience of time to create perfection. Why do we live in such an inpatient time? We want things now and expect them to be perfect. Yet only nature knows how, it is the master.
I carried these pieces of ancient history and wondered just why I had chosen to. The answer immediately entered my head; I was to give them away, an act of kindness to a stranger. Out there somewhere is someone who deserves it, a child, a luck less fossil hunter, somebody...
At the end of this piece of land slip, I heard from the policeman it was over an acre of farm land, stood a tree. It had slid down of the top of the cliff and somehow stayed upright, even more remarkably, it had soil around its root ball and had nestled into a place and appeared to have taken root again. I looked at it in wonder and couldn’t work out if it really had landed that way or someone had assisted it.

Blue anchor was my next sight, a place close to my heart, as a child I’d come here with my father to fish, he had a small boat moored up here on the pebbled beach ULA was its name, a simple craft, open with a token mast, a seagull engine would propel it out to sea. I have fond memories of those days, the lost days.
I headed out to the groins where the dark sand provided easier walking, a steam train passed by again, its tracks running alongside the beach. Nearing Dunster a small bridge was crossed and for a moment I stopped and looked down into the river, rocks still in my hand. A couple nearby asked if I’d walked far. So my tale was told, the look on their inspired faces made me happy and then saw i had rocks.  The lady looked at them in amazement as I told her what they were, how they were formed and how she was only the second person to have ever seen them. She wouldn’t accept it as a gift, however she did give me £2 for the rock, “a drink”, she said. The conversation continued for a while, I was in no hurry, with no real agenda; I wasn’t going to dash off from the company of good people. It dawned on me just how much we miss out on whilst rushing through our lives. The couple however did have somewhere else to be so we said our goodbyes, I a further thank you and we went our separate ways. I passed a row of beach chalets at Dunster then to Minehead the start of the SWCP. 
The wind blew sand from the beach and it gently stung me face, I joined the pavement, made my way through the Bank Holiday visitors to the large metal structure marking the start. A pair of large hands held open a partially unfolded map, the key box up in the left hand corner, the sea, coast line and lines showing the northing’s and easting’s, I waited not and looked for the first of the acorn signs. These would be my guides for the next few months, they maybe etched out of wooden posts, carved into rock, some would be metal and some will be missing, if in doubt keep the wet stuff to my right and I can’t go wrong...

4: Buffet, beer and a night on a rock.

I walked around the town, nervously I approached a pub entrance, i now realised I had no idea on what sort of approached I’d use, not wanting to beg, but needing to be genuine, polite and open to do anything...I crossed the road to compose myself and think of possible speeches...
The policeman appeared again, this time not alone, were they onto me? I walked behind the museum building which was essentially the old life boat house, there in the shadows and rain I decided on my approach and gathered myself, stand tall, be proud, confidant and most of all prepared for rejection. I crossed the road, the police had gone and without hesitation entered the Inn. It was 7:55 in the evening on a bank holiday weekend, few people had braved the wet and windy evening, and I asked to speak to the owner. A man came from near the bar and with a friendly smile he asked how he could help me. Here goes I thought!
I put out my hand to offer a hand shake, this is always a good start, I told him my name, “Hello, my name’s David”, now of course that’s not my real name, but being so close to the area I’ve run away from, I felt I was being looked for, should I give up my real identity it would end here, tonight.
I then went forward with the offer, “I’m walking the coast path without money or a tent and would like to earn a meal this evening, is there any way I can help tonight so I can eat?” The owner with little thought, told me the kitchen was closed due to a function that night, I could try again tomorrow, suggesting Sunday lunch, I thanked him and began to leave when he offered me a cup of coffee, although I really needed to eat I could not refuse a drink, so accepted and took off my rucksack and coat. The barmaid, served me a coffee and with it a Kit Kat, the warmth of kindness flowed into me warming me as much as the drink itself, I felt good about things, for the first time in days I felt myself smile and a glint return to my eyes, at that point a little faith in humanity returned and I knew there was hope for me.
Thanking the staff I left to find food, to work for it. Watchet is a quiet town and given the time of year, few people were about, I found another bar that seemed to have a few customers, if I again ask the owner or landlord, perhaps if they cannot help then someone may over hear and be able too.
The response was a simple no, during these quiet times everything is taken care of, the few staff can cope and the winter season had meant maintenance done, I left into the dark wet evening and wandered the streets looking for premises or people to approach, a third pub/restaurant gave me a polite, “no we can’t help”, and with thanks I set about heading off to find shelter.
As I passed the pub from which I had the coffee, a man outside spoke. He overheard me earlier inside and asked if I had any joy in getting fed. Telling him I’d not, he asked why I was doing this. With this complete stranger I told him the full story, without my true name and from where I was really from. Whilst chatting, I learnt that depression happens because of many different reasons and is dealt in many different ways, my actions were understood and I believe I was doing the right thing. He then offered me a drink, a pint, I wanted to somehow earn it so suggested I......he was on holiday with his wife and children, there was no way I could help in, at least not physically. I now learn another thing, when a stranger offers someone a drink, it’s because he wishes to, not for reward, and the pleasure of giving is reward enough. If it should please him to buy me a drink, then I should accept one, so I did and joined him back at the bar, next came another shock, he bought the drink, including ones for his family and then gave me the change, a ten pound note, I could not accept all this kindness, but rejection can be a negative and his insistence told me, he really wanted to help.
The place was now very busy, a fiftieth birthday party was in full flow and soon I had invites to help myself to the buffet, conversations and smiles shared with many and a pretty blonde girl company for a while, I was getting fed watered and entertained, such a contrast to the nights of loneliness in my car on the hills.
As people left the party, I knew I’d soon be out in the cold, alone, I’d not seen suitable places to sleep and at this stage, it wasn’t on my radar to spot for such places. With very few places left I loaded myself up, got on my head torch and thanked the owner once more, I was invited to load up a paper plate with left over buffet food, so chicken legs, sandwich’s, nuts, crisps, the unknown were piled onto a plate and take away to be covered. I left with my package and stood in the wind wondering where to look for a shelter. After a while wandering I dropped down onto the dark pebbled beach via a ramp, up to my right was a sea break, boulders piled high, and onto them I saw a piece of garden decking, supported on wooden posts, I scaled a wall and climbed some rocks to see how suitable it could be, a yawn told me I’m tired and a look to the star lit skies gave me hope for dry night, this would be my place for the night.
A few things got damp during the walk over the hills so I hang them up and laid out my boots to air. I’d chosen a flat piece of concrete to lay on, so unpacked some clothes, a blanket and sleeping bag from my dry sack and formed as soft as possible a bed as I could. Although the rain had stopped the wind was blowing from the north west and cutting right into me, that night I learnt that i needed not only to get from the rain, I also needed to get out of the wind.
In the cold fresh air, with waves crashing near the shore somewhere in the night and the wind howling through the air, whistling through the rocks, the trees and through the decking I was under, tonight I’d not sleep well. Eating all the food I’d taken from the party, i lay wondering of a way to distract myself, I thought of counting sheep, has anyone, really ever counted sheep to help them sleep? Across the bay in front of me is Wales, though too far away and obviously too dark for me to see the Welsh sheep, however there was a distraction, I light house I think at Port Talbot, the flashing light had a sequence so I counted, “one elephant, two elephant, three elephant, four elephant, five, elephant, six elephant, seven elephant, eight elephant, nine elephant, ten elephant” FLASH! “One elephant, two elephant, three elephant”. FLASH! Then after ten more elephants another flash and so it went on. Oh, why elephants you may ask? When I was young it was suggested to me that to say the word elephant takes about a second, so to count  I’d use this method. I smile as I write this, its funny how old habits picked up as a child, are continued through adulthood.
I count the flashing light for what feels like ages and remember at one point even picturing sheep leaping a gate as my eyes grew heavy and finally I drifted off into a very broken sleep.  As well as the knee injury I had a shoulder that I tore ligaments too several years back, the ligaments grew back longer as my shoulder had dropped from its normal position. When a laid on this side it would ache, and it seemed, that night I favoured that side to face away from the wind.

3: Heading to the coast in a hail storm.

On any normal day up on the hills, I would see Deer, but not that day, I passed places where I’d guarantee I’d see them, it’s like they felt my pain and knew I was leaving a place that was close to my heart.
I dropped down to the combe floor, (here in the south west of England a combe is a short valley) and then began the short ascent back up to a ridge. Walkers passed by below and I hoped I wasn’t seen.
At this point I knew I’d be missed, the few who cared, would know to look on the hills for me. I’d spoken to a great friend of mine several days ago, I told her of ‘the tree’ and anyone else who knew me, would certainly think that if I was to go missing, it would be somewhere amongst ninety square miles of fields, mines, caves, woods, forest and heath.
If I wasn’t seen nobody would know where to begin looking, I’d not thought of the obvious, my abandoned car.

As I reached the ridge I descended down the other side and it began to rain, then hail. This was it, come rain or wind, I’d walk, I’d do those 630 miles and beat every negative situation along the way. I had the little light weight rain coat which was fine for a light shower, but this was heavy, what should I do? What could I do? Find shelter asap, in the winter with most trees bare of leaves, only deciduous trees can offer slight protection from the rain. I knew these hills so well, that just down from the ridge were big old holly trees, their leaves are dense and would keep the worst of the rain off. I took shelter and watched the hail lash down around me, sheep too wanted to take shelter, this tree was taken, and they walked quickly on to one nearby and stood staring at me.
The shower passed letting me carry on, down the combe edge where a small family walked, I didn’t hide, change my route, they may just pass and not pay any attention to me, eye contact was made and I politely made conversation, something about me heading off to watch deer. A poor diversion as deep down I knew a search would sometime begin, by that time I’d be long gone, well into North Devon.
Across the next stream and up Willoughby’s cleave, there’s lots of holly trees there which I could seek shelter under, when the next shower came through. It did but just a short one. Three or more days like this had made the ground very wet and I knew it would be important to try and keep me feet dry.
Up top I looked North East to the Holford and Kilve memorial trees, beyond that Hinkley Point power station and the Bristol channel, I then glanced to the right of it, towards the caravan I was renting, my possessions within. I thought about what would happen to them, the children few toys, clothes, the odd book, my computer with 6 years worth of photographs, for all I cared they could be destroyed, I could only look forwards and will have no looking back.
I dropped down to what was the edge of the main hill and walked East following and fence line separating heath from fields it then began to rain heavy, I tried to shelter under coppiced hazel trees, after a short time the rain soaked branches dripped on me, I just had to get on.
The shower did pass and my little coat kept out the worst of the wet. A sign sent me North off the hill and soon I was down on a road, I crossed and entered a field, trusting I’d find a way onto the beach.
 I turned to watch a helicopter pass over the hills above where I’d just walked off, a moment’s thought suggested they’d be looking for me, however in my mind I’d only just left so believed that I’d not be missed, yet, if at all.
With my boots getting gradually heavier as clay stuck to them I searched for a way through, of the cliff, down onto the coast line.  I scanned the hedge line looking for a way through to the next field, but there was nothing. So then came my first experience of the trip, of following my nose, taking the random option, just because it feels right. A thick hedge had an opening, which exposed a steep muddy slope down 40 feet into what I could only guess as being a stream, I way to the sea.. The mud had run off the field after the heavy rains and cleared a way to the bottom.
My boots sank into the soft sticky mud and it offered no support to me, I tried to control my slide into the potential way out (or not) by grabbing trees where I could, with reasonable success I reached the bottom.
I should at this point state that I have an injured knee. One day whilst riding my bike, I crashed and went over the handle bars, landing straight legged at speed on a steep uneven slope. The knee ligaments in my right knee gave way and tore, this has made it unstable and venerable when on uneven unstable ground. So doing things like embarking on a 600 or so mile off road walk, with an unsuitably designed bag strapped to my back, is quite possibly putting it at risk of injury.
Surveying the area I realised two things, one it was extremely overgrown down here and two, following your gut instincts can, perhaps not always rewards you. Call this luck if you like, whatever it is you’re less likely to appreciate it if you experience by following rules, clear directions or normal habits.
It would appear this big ditch was used for shooting, I guessed that Pheasants were flushed out from within and shot by rich city men, thirsty for a kill, I hear they pay thousands to be able to shoot at reared birds and I’m not even sure they eat them or serve any other function other than as a living target. I don’t condone the killing of animals, I’ve done it. As a teenager I had I shotgun, I’d use it nightly to kill rabbits, hares, pigeon, pheasants, foxes.. Not badgers and I’d never intentionally kill a bird of prey though, on the one occasion I did and i was mortified, it wasn’t long after that event I stopped all that killing, at least during that time in my life.
 All I shot was eaten, if not by me, by neighbours, friends, strangers, it was the country way, nature provided. Now I’d only do it out of compassion or necessity and with that I mean to provide me with food.
In the bottom of the ditch i stood amongst empty shotgun cartridges and surveyed the area, a path appeared to head forwards and up out again, however I wanted to be on the beach and sought a way down. A bramble grew all over the steam bed and no way of bashing them down would make it easy or passable, up and out was my best option. Crudely cut steps and a rickety old hand rail, rotten and loose took me up onto another field and I could see in an opening on the other side, I sensed, I’d soon be off the grass and may continue on the coast proper. I was right and through one field into the next, a gateway to a slipway took me onto the pebbled beach of St Audries bay.
Sea weed and beach litter was washed up on the shore, this stretch of sea has the second highest tide in the world, the water is murky from the constant changes in direction, with silt being disturbed as the sea crashed against the shore.
I looked for washed up fishing tackle as I hoped to be able if i had too, catch some fish. I found tangled fishing line and rusty hooks, nylon cord, etc. I looked for electrical wire too as I could strip it back to the copper cord and use as a snare to trap rabbits. This all gave me focus and drive to acquire things I may need and need to survive. It kept me from thinking back, back to all those thought of failure. I was going to do it and knew what; I’d have to do to succeed.
Water crashed off a high cliff top eroding the bedrock below. I stopped to touch the rock, smoothed by time and water, my fingers ran over the surface of the rock, I freed my mind with closed eyes and felt the texture the shapes, my fingers became the water and for a moments peace I was at one with nature, the essence of all that is. I often took time to do this, bare feet in the sand, running water across the skin, feeling the bark of a tree, at times I even felt the pain inflicted by mankind upon them, like from the scars from tree tattoos, the sort where knives carve names and/or images into the bark. When a fence was nailed to tree, over time the tree would grow and grow around the fence, its rusting leaking poison into the heart of the tree, this happened in from nature too. Bracket fungus grow as parasites on the trunks of trees, Gall wasps lay their eggs in leaves, living wood, fruit and even animals, so their young will have fresh food and shelter when they hatch.  The ox tongue fungus or beef steak as it’s also known, they are blood red and this redness bleeds right through to the centre rings, these trees, often Oaks are then cut down by furniture makers as the stained wood is sought after. Industry and greed has led to nature being exploited and destroyed in so many ways and I feel its suffering, it saddens me, I’m embarrassed to be a part of this so called civilisation, though I see a way out...

I leave the rocks to the erosion of time and continue onwards, rocky shores make for an obstacle course, slippery sea weed popping under my weight. With the tide ebbing out to my right, crashing against rocky outcrops and the to my right my senses are stimulated by sights and sounds, my mind clearing and focused, and I will not look back, only for the views.
Whilst watching my footing I looked at the rocks forming this land, layers of gypsum, pink bands breaking up the reds and greys or the sand stone/lime stone cliff, such variation makes this a geologists favourite.
In the distance I could make out the harbour light of Watchet, it would be here I’d make my first attempt of earning a meal, I needed to eat.
A steam train chuffed past as I came into town, and then I once again came into contact with people, I became aware that I may be noticed and that questions would be asked, my identity found out and if in a few weeks someone should care that I’ve gone missing, my whereabouts would be found out. If this happened, I feared I’d be captured and locked away for my own protection; this was something I needed to deal with. As I walked along the esplanade a PCSO (community police officer) appeared, for a moment I thought to turn to avoid him, I didn’t as that would draw his attention to me. As I drew alongside him, he stopped remarked of my appearance, as indeed I looked like I was going for a long walk. Without needing to mention my name I told him I was walking the SWCP and doing so without a tent or money, I seem to remember him asking where I’d walked from, to which I recall telling him from Taunton train station, travelling down from the midlands. I felt everyone with authority was against me, that if he had any reason to suspect me, he’d be on my case and my efforts would become yet another failure of my life. I wished him a good evening and set about finding the courage to approach people for help.

2: Leaving everything behind.

It’s Saturday the 3th of April 2010, I’d been sleeping rough in car for I think 3 days, just sleeping and lying there thinking ill thoughts. All of those days I had this routine, I’d lazed drifting in and out of sleep till gone midday, I’d dwell on things, then walk out into the hills for several hours, always ending up at the same place, only by way of a different route, standing or sitting there I can’t remember. I’d look upwards through the branches of an old tree and stare at the rope swinging there. Through glazed eyes I could only see the rope I was waiting for me, again...For days the weather had been wet ,with hail storms, and heavy showers, the tree I do remember was slippery, but I always could climb well. I’d done this several times now and knew where to place my feet and hands. Last year I’d chose this place, this tree this way and put the rope up there to use, then I couldn’t, I had better strength, reasons to live and had talked myself out of placing the rope around my neck, now was different I had no reason to live as I had failed and let everyone in my life down, I had a pointless existence and everything would be better off without me. Clearly however I did have strength, I had failed in jumping on three occasions and this day I knew I couldn’t go back, I may slip and break something, I may jump and not die, I wanting to live, I had to live but how?
I had to get away, away from this place, that tree and worse of all I had to get away from all the reasons I had to live for, I couldn’t have them see my suffering anymore, they couldn’t help, nobody could, if I stay I’ll go mad, be sectioned, who’s would want to see that, see their, friend, son, father like that?
I’d do it my way, seek therapy in the things that never stressed me. With nature, close to it, being it.
I’d wanted to walk the South West coast path in its entirety before, 630 miles of varied coastline, every bit different, a diversity of plants and wildlife and quite a challenge too.
I knew it would take a long time, but did I have a time limit, did I need to be somewhere else at a certain time? Well technically I did, but if I did turn up there I feared for the consequences.
I have three beautiful children and had been having them every other weekend since the separation. I couldn’t legally drive, I had no money to buy them food, no gas to keep them warm, a home where mice would wander around eating the crumbs and mess from my neglect and I was a mess, muddied, dirty clothes, underwear stained in stale urine. What sort of father am I, what sort of influence could I be, nothing good would result of me being there, their mother for all her faults at least provides them with what they need, they’d be better off with her...
So it was decided, i would leave and go without telling anyone. I heard the words so many times, “it’ll be alright”, “you’re just having a rough time at the moment, it happens to everyone.” You can get help.”
I’d heard these and more so many times, but I needed to do this my way, for me. I’d do this the hard way, to get me stronger and to challenge myself. If I’d spoken to someone, I feared they would convince me to stay and I’d be back in the loop of self hatred and misery or go back once more to the tree...
Scattered in my car was a varied selection of gear mostly cycling kit.
In my head I knew what I NEED and what I wanted to take:
A Berghaus wind stopper coat.                                                                                 Small fold up coat.                                                                                                    Socks.                                                                                                                            Underwear I only had 3 pairs.                                                                                              Shorts.                                                                                                                               T-shirts.                                                                                                                        Base layer.                                                                                                                                               Thick jumper.                                                                                                                Buff.                                                                                                                                        Sleeping bag.                                                                                                                                         Blanket.                                                                                                                                    Gerber multitool.                                                                                                                Toothbrush.                                                                                                                  Headtorch and torch.                                                                                                             And of course, my camera, spare batteries and charger. I was going on an adventure, I’d see beautiful things and I know photography always make me happy, it would be part of my therapy.
So, I loaded everything into the big yellow bag and rolled up the top to seal it and then strapped that to a small rucksack. Another hail storm had just passed over, I was set, no reason to hesitate, no looking back, I needed to get to the coast by the most direct route, I was in the middle of a range of hills about eleven miles end to end and the coast about a further mile on.
At I think close to 2pm I got out of my car put the rucksack on my back and locked the car, the mobile phone I owned was turned off, then placed in a pocket to dispose of later. The coast was northwards, so cutting out well known paths as I didn’t want to be seen I cut across a pathless piece of land, crossed a road into deep cover and dropped down towards an area known as Ladies fountain, and followed dear tracks, hidden in the hills. I knew the rangers as I did the many other users of the hills, I’d been riding push bikes up there a lot over the last six years and was fairly well known. I didn’t really want to be seen I just needed to be gone.

1: Lowest point ever. Changing views.

For  the previous few days, I’m not sure really, I’d walked up to that tree, climbed maybe thirty feet of slippery, wet, green branches and slid the rope over my neck.
Today though seemed different, today I felt stronger, there wasn’t any tears, from the previous failings to jump I now knew I had to leave, get away from the tree, away from everything that got me down and weirdly, wrong or not, everything I held dear, all I should stay for, get better for.
I’d been sleeping in my car in a car park on the Quantock hills, I was a mess, unkept, broke, I’d not eaten properly for I’m not sure how long,  most of what I’d drank was alcohol, I was in self destruct mode, I just stopped caring.
Then one day I grabbed some things from the car and walked away, with no tent, no money, ID or phone.
I joined the south west coast path and decided to walk all 630 of its miles, finding ways to get fed and sheltered, to overcome barriers, pain, hunger, fatigue.
I’d take photos and write a journal, but most of all, I would live and I WOULD NOT FAIL!
Dragging myself down.
Depression has many effects, for me, I was unmotivated and that meant in every way.
 I couldn’t turn up to work on time, and when/if I did I wasn’t productive,  this was partly because I’d also lost confidence in my ability to perform tasks I’d normally be able to do easily and confidently. I felt worthless the more I worthless I felt the lower the motivation got, now this lead to me feeling like I was letting people down, I was unreliable, undependable, untrustworthy...this all strengthened my low opinion of myself, which just snow balled everything I felt and in the end at the lowest point I snapped, one night alone and desperate I went out for a drink, just to be with people, I was scared of myself, scared what the loneliness would make me do.  Now the thing about alcohol is it’s a downer, so the more I drank, the more I felt crap about myself, I can’t remember what I spoke about that night, or who I even spoke too but I left and got into my car, I wasn’t going home, not back to the caravan were I had no food, maybe no gas, were I slept on the sofa as I couldn’t be bothered to sleep in the bed, I was heading for the hills, a place had be chosen up in the Quantock hills, chosen by me to rest my  tortured mind, to end the sadness, stop letting others down, to end it all, to end my own life..
For  many years I’d thought about suicide, some days more deeper than others, some not at all, but the thoughts were always there, and for the 4 or so years since my marriage failed it was becoming more common to think bad things, to see how rubbish I was a living, the only time I felt truly happy, was when I was riding my bike  or alone with nature, particularly the red deer that roam the Quantocks, my passion for them and all that lived on the hills and in fact everywhere kept me calm, photographing all I saw, wanting to learn more about them, striving for knowledge, needing to know why, how, what.
So It was amongst this wonderful place I chose to die, so I could be part of it forever....
As I left the pub and got into the car I turned left, I wasn’t drunk, I’d not had much, too much to legally drive but I didn’t care, I stopped caring a long time ago, I saw the police car lurking as I pulled out from the car park, it was not my time to go, not tonight, I was in a village, late at night and just left a pub. I know how they work, I knew I’d see the lights...that were enough to stop me, halt my intentions.  A glimmer of guilt sparked normal thought and I realised I needed to face up to my actions that night, so I pulled over and got out of the car.
At the station routine begin, they take my details, possessions, and they take my soul, heart and all hope, for now I knew life would be incredibly difficult for me, I’d be even more depressed.
The duty officer went about his erm, duty and asked if I had any medical conditions that they need know about, I said, “Does that include mental issues?”  Raised eyes and concern was expressed in their faces as I proceeded to tell tem my thought, feelings and intentions....they said all the necessary things and showed me to a cell. As I lay there, many thoughts entered my mind, how this would affect my life, how I could overcome the situation, was this my wakeup call? And suddenly it dawned on me that I needed help. During the early hours of the morning a doctor visited me in a cell, the officers had called him due to their concerns, he talked, I listened and said little, I seem to remember asking to be sectioned, clearly you can’t self diagnose yourself....He left and I slept for a few hours I think, not sure what time it was, but I was given the all clear to go, told a date to appear at the magistrates and asked if I felt ok and wasn’t going to do anything silly......Of course not, I’d spent years hiding my true thoughts, feelings, emotions, so I left, two officers drove me back to my car and so began the process of deep depression, deeper worthlessness and a chain of events that led me to leave.
My doctor had requested I see him, so as asked I turned up, spoke little, gave bloods, did a several point test to determine my level of depression and given drugs, one a day for I think six weeks, he told me, I may or may not feel a slow change in moods, it takes time, if not we’d try something else. I had thought that perhaps I could be Bi-Polar, as I would often go from being extremely low, to hyper, really excited,  having great plans, ideas, inventions, etc. Well the doctor felt different, of course I’d gone in when having a low, he just saw a depressed man and diagnosed thus. I managed to request to see a psychiatrist so had a little hope I could be helped.
I left feeling ignored, not helped and then a week later, a letter came, an appointment to see and shrink in 6 god, I didn’t have that long, I felt I’d not be able to make it that far and I quickly descended into the deepest darkest place of my mind and self hatred devoured all hope of a normal life, I wanted to be DEAD!