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.

No comments:

Post a Comment