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.


12. Laundry and rest day.

Cold, it's just so cold.

The squawking of the local gulls, didn't need to wake me to tell me it was dawn.
I'd noticed the light grow outside my time worn grotto. I'd been so uncomfortable all night, learning an invaluable lesson.
That was to avoid sleeping on rocks at ground level. As not only does cold air find the lowest point, rocks hold the cold very well.
This little eroded cavern was North facing, therefore receiving very light from the sun to warm it.
I could of course put on an extra layer, to try to warm me.
However, that inner desire to maintain a level of suffering seemed to be controlling the common sense thoughts i'd normally use at times like these.
I'd drift in and out of sleep as i had done all night. Grabbing maybe minutes of rest at a time.
Only once that i could see the sunlight cast a warm glow upon the beach not far from me, and hear the sounds of people over near the harbour walls, did i decide to get up.

Un zipping myself from my sleeping bag the cold air sent a chill across my bare legs and arms.
I quickly pulled on my shorts  and socks then stepped out into the morning sun.
It had risen out from behind the shelter of the eastern hill and was already up to a pleasant temperature. I must get a photo of my evenings dwellings, before i gathered all my things and took them out into the warmth to fully dress and pack up my things.

With no offers made to me, to help anyone here, the local shop would supply me with food for the day,  I still had money left from the kind couple at westward Ho! the night before.

It's was around 9am that i headed back up, 'up-a-long' and to the little local store, which is in fact, the only shop for groceries and and household goods here in the village.
Once again i had to be conservative. Which isn't easy in these isolated village shops, where the prices were naturally higher than the large super markets able to charge less.

A banana, a loaf of bread, butter, cheese and crackers. Some Pate, and a note pad and pen.
Up till now my journal was scattered thoughts, but i was gradually becoming more detailed in my writings, therefore the original pad i was using was filling up fast.

For the next hour or so, i wandered the various lanes peeling off the main street. All the properties were maintained to a high standard and most if not all had window boxes and hanging baskets adorned with flowers. Their colours vibrant against the white washed walled cottages.

Clovelly has been privately owned by the same family since 1738, the present owner is The Hon. John Rous.
Before the present family, only three other families have owned the village. Unlike alot of the privately owned properties across the country and undoubtedly other countries, no expense is spared in keeping Clovelly immaculate.

In all my years in the construction industry, i know only to well how quickly buildings deteriorate over time. Especially old stone build ones like these.

I walked back down the street as i had domestic duties to take care of. I'd not washed myself or my clothes in days.
I wasn't such a priority, but my underwear i felt was. Especially after the blister had popped on my foot.
My feet were now one of the most important tools to me.  Those at least needed to work, if i was to complete this journey without too much suffering.

Yesterday whilst sat on the harbour breakwater, i'd seen a waterfall of reasonable size on the far beach. This would be an ideal laundry and wash area.

It was now late enough in the morning that most of the tourists were up and about. Many of which were down on the pebbled beach with children, exploring the rocks, investigating the cliffs and having photo's taken by the waterfall.
It would be very inappropriate now to shower here. I could of course worn underwear to not expose myself, but logical thought wasn't present, so i made the choice to just hand wash my face, hands and body. Then to cleanse and bathe my feet.

The water was filtering through the pebbles and running out to sea. I needed a free flowing sink of sorts, so proceeded to fashion a basin by removing pebbles and building a dam.
Once i was happy i began to scrub and beat my clothing. I'd knead it against itself, rub it and bash it against the rocks near to wear i sat.
People were watching, a few asked questions.

Once sufficiently beaten and rinsed out, though i had no soap to use. I propped  my umbrella up with a pile of pebbles and used it to rinse my clothes.

One trick, that i learnt whilst in the army cadets as a young teenager, was to wrap the material that needed to be rinsed, around a fixed object and tightly twist it.
At that time is was a tap. Now my brolly served me well.  Forcing most the water out of the clothes i'd washed.

When i draped my clothes about me in the warm sunlight, children pointed and laughed at my undies on show. I asked them if they were wondering why i was doing this here and not using a washing machine.
They nodded whilst still giggling, so i proceeded to explain that i had no such thing, so made use much the same way, as we all had to many years ago.

I told them, that years ago it would of been common to go down to the local stream or river and scrub clothes on a flat rock. Then rinse in the flowing water, then rinse and dry. Much the same as i've just done.
I explained that we hadn't always had electricity and all the things they took for granted in their modern lives, did not exist in the way they do now.
That followed by asking them to think about all the things they have that run with electricity, and how they'd do things without it.

With the children musing on what the old days must of been like, their parents who had been listening in, proceeded to tell them the stories that their parents and grandparents had shared with them, when they were

As they shared tales and got the children thinking more, i took out my blanket and wrapped it around my waist. Then i began to wash myself.
No sponges or flannels for me, not even soap. Just good old fresh water, filtered through the earth and rock.
I scooped up hand fulls of water and poured it over my head, face then arms.
With bare hands i rubbed the water into my skin trying to cleanse as much of me as i could.
Massaging my feet and letting them sit in the cold running water.  I got more hand fulls of water and once more washed myself down. The excess water ran onto the blanket saving me from sitting around in wet clothes for the day.

As i washed, i drank the water too. It was as fresh as it could be. Complete with germs perhaps, giving something for my antibodies to do.

My skin felt refreshed and alive again, It tingled in the warm sun whilst my feet tingled in the cold water.
I basked there, soaking my feet for some while, with my skin and clothes drying.

Eventually as more people appeared by the waterfall, i was in the way of their moment with a camera. So i got up, gathered my things and moved away from their shot.

I put on a T-shirt, dried my feet with the blanket and packed my bag again leaving fresh socks out.
Once packed, i wedged my damp clothes and blanket, behind the strapping on my bag. I filled my water bottles with water from the fall, then put on the socks and boots and headed yet again onto the breakwater.

A found an area void of too many people, quite close to the lobster pots. There i draped my wet things over them to dry and air.
Taking off my boots and socks once more to let the air get to the wounds, it was now time to eat, i was certainly peckish by now.

I last ate when i first came to the village twenty four hours ago. My stomach was shrinking and i wasn't getting hungry so quickly, either that or i was being able to block out the hunger pains easier.

Today was all about recovery and relaxation.
With domestic duties taken care of. I was now free to please myself and laze the day away. Eating, writing, watching and perhaps even sleeping. Something i was unable to achieve much of, during the night.

Hmm! what to eat? I thought, there's so much choice.
Bread and pate to start with i think.

Using the little serrated knife on my multi tool, i carved off several slices. A 60mm bread knife doesn't quite cut through the thickness.
I found the best way, was to cut to the depth of the blade and work around the loaf.  Then peal back the slice and cut through the remaining  piece of bread in the middle.
Using the same blade, i spread soft butter across the bread, applying a layer of liver pate to finish with.
Doing this to all three slices then sitting back to eat and enjoy.
My appetite and taste buds came alive so i cut more bread and buttered them, this time i cut cheese and ate that with the bread.
Unlike yesterday when i ate slowly, today i ate quickly and soon the whole loaf and tub of pate was used up.

As i was eating, i was able to watch the village come alive even more as people came out from the various properties and hidden corridors spurring off from 'up-a-long' 'down-a-long'.

Couples old and young walked hand in hand smiling, kissing, sharing and experiencing thing together.
They excitedly pointed at the many wonderful sights around the harbour. I watched with envious eyes, as i'd not done anything like that with anyone in what felt like ages.

Over the past four or five years i'd spent so much time riding and becoming obsessed with cycling, i'd become uninteresting to most people, certainly those of the opposite sex.

Also whilst suffering from the various symptoms of depression, i'd turned into quite a bore as well as a loner. Although on the outside people saw me as a happy sociable person, deep down i was losing confidence, forgetting how to be me, the joker.

I had various chances of relationships after my marriage breakup, but it was always my lack of self esteem that would get in the way and effect the potential for me to be happy once more, in being with someone.

Believing i had been cheated on several times whilst being married, also played apart in my failings with love. Trust became a hard thing to do.
I saw myself with so many faults, that i believed if i got close to anyone, they would soon want to be with another. Someone better looking, more successful and with a home.

I'd found love a couple of years ago. However i expressed it to soon and scared her away.
She was everything i dreamt of in a woman, only bad timing and me not being the right man for her, got in the way.
When she told me it wouldn't work out, i was mortified and felt i'd lost everything i needed.

I then just drifted back into the old me, one of gaining confidence by using and being used by women. If i had one thing that women liked in a man, then it was energy and experience.
Riding bikes a lot with the occasional 24hr race meant i had a good engine and a healthy body.
It was fun at first, but unlike when i was in my twenties, i now had morals and emotions. Now it was wrong and not boosting my confidence.
I didn't need the confidence to approach ladies, they'd approach me, that falsely made me confident. Though that's the way it's always been, well once i lost my late teen acne and women suddenly noticed me that is.

I cannot remember ever chatting up a lady. When i was younger and apparently arrogant it would just happen. I'd end up with a girl at the end of the night. It was like i was the latest must have toy.

Once i had put myself into a situation to settle down, i stopped going out so much, therefore stopped interacting with ladies.
After the years of marriage i'd felt i just suffered. All those years of  being belittled, i was now a shadow of my former self.

It wasn't just my low self esteem that affected me after i split with the wife.
Gone too was the physic that aided the confidence.

Depression meant i'd stop working so hard and with all the cycling, although i had developed a stronger heart and lungs. I was reducing the bulk of muscle i had. Therefore the Physic i believed ladies like me with.

A bad diet meant i'd been devouring myself.
I'd barely eat and certainly not the right things for what i was putting my body through.
I was burning more calories than i was eating. That meant the body searched within itself. I had little or no body fat, so that meant muscle would be used.

I was tearing ligaments, breaking bones and damaging the skin from the way i searched for maximum excitement, during an otherwise boring existence.
The body needed to mend broken and worn out parts, whilst also providing the energy to continue that flow of the only drug i've ever wanted.
And that's Adrenaline, sourced from extreme activity and risk taking.

Skinny, most likely smelly and scruffy, here i sat watching people together and happy. I felt i'd never ever experience that feeling again.
The feeling that i will always be without the love of another. All i had left was the children i'd left behind and my friends. All of which i felt i'd let down and  now will have lost.

All the children playing on the beach, their screaming for more ice cream, being hungry, their chantings of, "MUM..." Or "DAD...."
Within their voices, i heard the voices of my own children, Josh, Cody and Anna.

For a while my thoughts wandered and i became saddened by them. Then i remembered what i told myself on the first day of this walk."Do NOT look back!"

With that i knew i needed to distract myself. Give myself something else to think about and look at.
I saw a few gulls stalking around looking for scraps of food left by people. I began taking photo's of them. Firstly they were just stood there squawking, almost as if they were asking for food, perhaps even demanding it.

I fancied seeing them fighting for food, squabbling like gulls do. It would provide me with a challenge to take action photo's of them, flying, splashing and pecking out at each other.
They'd need some bait to lure them near and to get active, that would mean me feeding them my precious food.
Taking out my crackers, cheese and butter, i proceeded to cut the cheese and make a bit more food for me. There was no way i should go without for the birds.
As much as i like all animals, i was still my priority.
Feeding them however, was a form of entertainment and distraction for me.
I could spare a little, just for that.
Would my sacrificing a little of my food be such a bad swap for a moment of amusement and of challenge making?

Biting into the crackers and cheese, i'd throw a corner into the sea and wait for the gulls to take an interest and begin diving for a snack.

Gulls are scavengers and for many are seen as pests,.
However! All they are ultimately doing is surviving on the waste of man, who make it easy for them to feed. For them as a species, they aren't doing anything more different than they've done for hundreds of years.
The only change now, is that people waste so much food product.
In area's where people are sparse, gulls feed as they always have done by foraging along the shore line for food morsels dead or alive.
As fishing became popular on a larger scale, the gulls realised that there was scraps of food, which were thrown from boats, either that of small fish, or the guts, as the fish got processed on board prior to chilling.

They associated people with food, hence now living amongst us.
Unfortunately they are seen as pests and have lost the appeal they deserve.

They are stunning birds when you take the time to look at them. Maybe that's just my love of wildlife. Animals seem to able to adapt to humans just fine, it's a shame the same can't be said for the supposed master race.

It doesn't take long for a dozen or so herring gulls to appear with an interest for my offerings.

The challenge is on and i spent the next hour playing with the settings on my camera. Trying different ones to see what effect they have on the shot.

Herring gulls are very noisy and distinctive birds, often seen in towns inland as well as the obvious coastal habitat.
Adults are the rowdy, predominately grey and white birds. They have yellow slightly hooked beak, which has a red dot. The hatchlings will tap at this red spot when they want feeding. This prompts the adult to regurgitate partially digested food and feed it to their young.
Also the black wing tips seen on adults, which appear as  black tail feathers whilst the wings are closed. Are in fact, only seen during their summer plumage.
The younger herring gulls are a mottled colour and only gain their white and grey plumage after the third winter.

Here in front of me were a mixture of adults and young. The adults usually win the arguments for food though, i see that before me.

Soon my crackers and cheese are all used up.
The gulls left to find food elsewhere. In doing so, they left the water vacant and ready to receive the next visitors.
This time the visitors to the water weren't there for food. Though like the gulls they were flying into the water and certainly making a splash.

The squawks of gulls were replaced by the laughter and screaming of a group of teenagers, who came to the breakwater wall to jump into the sea.
This craze is called tomb stoning, as i mentioned the day before.

For anyone wondering the origins of the name. It is quite possible, it got it's name when the risky undertaking of jumping into the sea from a height was reported in an newspaper article.

This article was about people jumping off a rock in South Devon. This rock is called 'Tombstone Rock'.

I watched and laughed at their antics. As they jumped in and egged each other to jump off the various differing heights of wall. This didn't continue for long, the cold spring water too much for most of them.

I'd been sitting around and lazing for a good part of the day. I thought it a good idea to go and see if i could help out in the hotel on the harbour side.

Although i'd munched on cheese crackers and bread all day, it would make sense and be a good idea to try and get a cooked meal tonight.

Socks and boots were put back on, i gathered and packed my dry clothes. Assembled my pack and went to
the hotel to inquire to help for the night.

Once again i was confronted with a confused look and a shake of the head.
It must of been my mannerism, or was it my image? Perhaps even the approach i was using.

I was in doors now and as it was getting late in the afternoon, i knew people would be soon coming in to drink and eat.

Maybe some locals would come in. Maybe i'd meet my opportunity here if i just stay for a while.

Like i had found out on other nights so far. People would quite often come to me.
With my silly head wear, growing beard and unusual rucksack. I did stand out a touch from the usual crowd. One look at me either led to thoughts of me being a homeless, jobless person.. Which i was.
Or it intrigued the minds of people, who were leading comparatively normal lives.

On this evening however, nobody did come to me.
I ordered an ale  then situated myself in the corner. Here i must of merged into the darkness.
Out of sight and out of mind.

Families and couple's sat seemingly oblivious to this water cleansed, but scruffy man, slowly sipping away at a pint.

I lost i think a couple of hours, with a combination of writing, looking through photographs and people watching.
I also was listening to the loud mutterings of locals. One man enthralled the others with his tales.
I couldn't however catch what he was saying. Due to the back ground noise, of plate scraping and glass chinking.
Also there was people talking over each other and the sound of soft music, playing  through the wall mounted speakers.

One couple caught my eye as they turned up carrying small rucksacks.
I recalled seeing them in the village sometime during the day, though i'm not sure where exactly.
They appeared close. They sat on opposite sides of a small table and took momentary glances up at each other, whilst looking over the menu they'd been given.
With each glance one would speak. The other would reply and smile back.
For a moment i got caught up in watching them.
Once again i was dreaming.
Dreaming of the day that i'd be sat opposite a wonderful lady. One i could share moments together with. To laugh with, to cry with and most of all, to be with.

I shook my head as if to wake myself from a sleep.
Such thoughts were madness. It would never happen, so i must not even think about it.

I tried to immerse myself into my journal, staring at the paper, willing the pen to write.
The music, the couple, the men chatting loudly. It was all to much of a distraction. I'd not be able to write here tonight.

On the wall was old paintings and photos. A chance perhaps to delve a little further into the Clovelly of old.

As i stood, i glanced over to noticed the couple that i'd been watching with envious eyes, had now been served their meals and were eating. Scampi and fries, it looked delightful and i caught a whiff of lemon as was often served with such a dish.

Quickly looking away i scanned the photographs on the nearby wall. They were black and white and mostly  of fishermen with their catch of fish, or of them mending nets and pots.

I like looking at the old photographs of the places i visit. I gives me something to compare the image i have of the place, with  how it really was.

I'd often sit by ruined buildings, close my eyes and imagine what it once was like.
Who lived there, what they may of done, how they dressed.

Maybe deep down, i'm living in the wrong time.

Looking away from the photo's and other things hung about the place, i glanced to look at the couple again. They were gone and so were the men chatting loudly at the bar.

I returned to my seat and managed to write a few comments in my journal.
I wondered where everyone had gone to.
The New Inn hotel, further up the village was the only other place i could think, they could of gone. I'd go there and see if there was life anywhere else in this now sleepy. Cobbled place.

Placing my empty glass on the bar and bidding the barman good night, i left.
The main street up through the village was quiet.
Not a soul but me walked it's dimly lit pebbled path. Not even the cat i'd seen yesterday, whilst collecting my bag from the tea room.

There was little on my mind but rest and conversation and to waste the little money i had left on a drink.

I was past trying, to get anything else from the village. All the good will was given by one, the lady at the tea shop.

I entered the Inn and there she was, sat at the bar, all giggles and flirting with the few others sat at the bar.

She acknowledged me with a smile but said nothing to me. The others said nothing either.

I ordered an ale and sat at a table by the window, got out my book and tried once more to write in it. The laughter and general bar room noises, distracted me too much, just like it did in the Red Lion.
Placing the book back on the table, i remembered the need to recharge my batteries.
The camera batteries not my own.
I'd had a lazy day as it was and should be fairly recharged. Enough so, to get moving along again and get back on the coast path walk.

The bar lady kindly let me plug my charger into a socket, near the end of the bar. I put a fresh set in the camera and began reviewing all the photo's i'd taken since beginning the walk.

I'd been deleting any photographs i didn't like from the memory card every evening, so as to not fill it up to quickly.
Some of the photo's i liked for how they looked, others because they would remind me of certain things i had seen, during my journey.
I like to think i see things differently to how some people do.
I see faces in the bark of trees, rocks that look like animals, even patterns in the sky.

Whilst reviewing the photographs  i had already saved again.
If any were out of focus, to dark, light or just didn't look right, i deleted them.

I'm not really much of a point and shoot person. Often i will take several shots of the same thing, adjusting settings, altering composure, aspiring to take the perfect shot.

I've always been a perfectionist. This i'm quite sure hasn't helped me with avoiding depression.
Anything less than perfect by me, meant failure.
Being very self critical, has meant, i had felt i'd failed at everything i tried to do.
A life time of thinking that way, does little for ones confidence.

A few locals in the inn chatted to me. None seemed to be to bothered to find out what i was doing there. I was probably just another tourist to them.
Having told them i had spent the night in the cave on the beach. They suggested that i should sleep up at the top of the village. In a shelter set in the memorial gardens, over looking the sea.
There was apparently a good level of protection from the weather up there, as well as being a lovely place to wake up at.

Even though i had done next to nothing all day, i was weary and despite feeling like i needed some company. I started to feel that i in fact didn't want any at all.

As the men, i'd briefly spoken to left. I found quiet corner away from the noisy bar.

A large comfortable leather sofa looked inviting to me. And it wasn't long after slipping myself into it, that the soft chair and low light soothed my thoughts.
I dozed off.

A little after 11pm i woke to a voice saying. "Can you drink up please, we're about to close."

I'd been asleep for an hour and was a touch embarrassed.
I finished off the ale i had left and returned the glass to the bar.

The bar lady reminded me to not forget my charger and batteries. She then asked how long i was staying in the area for.
I told her i'd not been able to find any means to earn a meal here, so i would be moving on tomorrow.

The lady from the tea shop, must of told them who i was and what i was doing in the village, as i'd not openly shared with anyone that night my full story. I had only said i'd slept in the cave.

Nothing more was said.
I had hoped that perhaps an offer was coming my way. However one didn't.

Slightly disappointed, i said a thank you and goodnight.

I left into the night to walk one last time on, up-a-long, down-a-long. The sweet cobbled street running through the village. Around the corner where the donkey stood and to the top.

On the right was the memorial garden, i entered and found the shelter.
It was as described.
A seat wide enough to lay on, the roof with sufficient coverage to keep off all but the worse of driving rain and walls to the ends to keep out the wind.
Tonight i would sleep like a king.

I'd previously slept in a cave, a building site, half in a church doorway, a goat shed(which was a luxury goat shed) a cold metal chapel and under some body's garden.

Now i had a lovely garden to wake to and views out to the east to see the sunrise. What more could i wish for? I thought to myself

The routine laying out of bedding and crawling into my sleeping bag was all that was left to do today.

It's now been seven days since i walked away.
I was tired and laying on a bench looking north east at the stars above the Bristol channel.
I wasn't sad, afraid of being alone or scared of the next day.

And then, just like the stars had been turned off, my eye lids had closed. Another day was over and i slept. I slept beautifully.

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