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.


14. Many righteous paths.

The sound of a car driving into the car park was the first waking sound i heard. That crunching of gravel under rubber tyres was my morning wake up call. I then heard the three Dutch men leaving the hotel. Their voices were distinct as they walked past, oblivious to my sleeping place up here at the top of that small flight of concrete steps. Car doors opened and closed, followed by further crunching of gravel then silence. No seagulls or the sounds of the sea breaking against the shore. My location was in such a position, it sheltered me from those noises.
As i lay there, i wondered what time it could be. It was light but the lack of further signs of human action told me is was very early. It was a good thirty minutes later that i heard another vehicle arrive. This time after the crunching, i heard a door close and footsteps crossing the stony car park heading in my direction. I thought would remain unseen and that the person would walk on by. I thought it to be a cleaner or just morning staff. The soft sounding footsteps paused at the bottom of the steps for a moment then resumed. Whoever it was, they were coming up the steps to were i lay.

I had quickly raised myself into a less laying  like posture, just in time to see the umbrella being moved out of the way. A smartly dressed man poked his head over the top of the the chairs and appeared to be surprised by my being there. He immediately spoke to me in a polite and inquiring manner. " Are you OK there?"  "Yes!" I answered, adding."I needed somewhere to shelter as i'm walking the coast path without a tent."
He showed no surprised himself, but surprised me with his own response of. "I'll just get you a coffee, don't rush off." And with that he disappeared down the steps and away to the hotel.
I got up, dressed and was packing my things into my bag when he returned with a tray. On it was not only a cup of coffee, but also some morning biscuits. As he handed it over,he asked me once more what exactly i was doing.
I explained that i had been suffering very bad depression which resulted in me walking along the coast. I then explained,that i needed to try and earn everything i needed along the way, like food and drink being the most important things. As i told him this,i offered to work for him for breakfast or lunch. Once again he didn't say much other than, "I'm doing all the work here myself and don't need your help." He paused briefly, then continued. "Stay there and enjoy your coffee. I'll be back in five minutes or so with a few things to help you on your way." And once more he disappeared away to the hotel, leaving me to my drink, biscuits and packing.  

I just love a good dunk, but with unknown biscuit dipping, caution is needed. Many a time has an unstable soggy biscuit snapped off and sank into the hot liquid abyss. These fine morning biscuits looked just the sort to do just that. Their crumbly appearance, plenty of voids where the drink would get sucked up into. I only had two chance to get this right, to loose half a biscuit to the bottom of the cup would be a disaster. (quite clearly i was making an adventure out of every possible situation). I tore open the packet and grabbed victim number one for a test dip. Just teasing it into the coffee a centimetre deep for only a couple seconds. It was wet but not soggy, but Oh my! Did it taste good? I went for a bigger and longer dunk for the next go and still it was fine and yes, so divine.  Crikey, it's like I've never eaten a biscuit before. I was now happy with the dunking time scale and devoured the rest of that biscuit and then the other and washed it all down with the rest of the coffee. No lumps of soggy biscuit to lure from the bottom of the cup, only a few crumbs remained there, which was certainly a pleasant relief for me. I stood and had began replacing the chairs around the smoking area as the man returned carrying a bag which was a mystery surprise. Repeating his gesture of the gift helping me during my walk, he asked were i was aiming to get to. I remembered the map that i picked up and from the hotel reception and from the brief glance i took of it, i recalled a place named Bude looked the next big town I'd get to and judged the distance to be a days walk away. When i told him, he informed me that I'd be entering Cornwall today and leaving North Devon.
He told me he had a busy day ahead and that he could not stop to chat. I thanked him for he's very kind gift and as he walked away i began to analyse just how he said the words. " A few things to help you on your way.."
What did he mean by this? I thought. Was it just a genuinely kind offer to help me out during me journey or was he trying to get me off his property? After all, who would want a scruffy homeless person loitering about, possibly begging from his customers? The way he said it didn't suggest either hostility or sympathy. There was only a neutralness in his demeanor.
Well, whatever the reason i was excited about the gift and emptied the contents over my blanket which wasn't packed yet.
3 packets of rough cut crisps.
A packet of Hula Hoops.
A  packet of Mini cheddars.
2 Nutri-grain bars.
1 Aero chocolate bar.
5 Dairy milk chocolate bars.
A packet of extra strong mints.
And a bottle of natural spring water.
Surprised? Oh yes and really happy. What a kind thing to do, about £10 worth of munchies..That certainly was going to help me on my way.
I arranged the goodies and took a photo of it all then finished packing things and lashing the pack together ready for a days walking. I didn't pack all the goodies in my main pack, deciding instead to keep it all handy and graze on it during the day, so i left it in the carrier bag. The clock on the camera said 7.30am. "Great!" i thought, as it meant another full days adventure.
As i now realised i should be entering Cornwall today, i remembered my promise to the lady back in Appledore. I'd promised to find her pottery and to offer to help out there. She hd told me it was near the border of North Devon and Cornwall just inland a little.
I felt the map in my pocket so removed it to look at where i was heading. The pottery was in a very small village called Welcome and i could see it was only a few miles from Hartland. My first objective would be to follow the coast path, then peel off at the closet point and find the village and it's pottery. Swinging my pack onto my back and grabbing my brolly and bag of goodies i was ready to leave Hartland Quay and it's Hotel of kindness.

Walking with my hands full immediately made taking photo's difficult. The easy solution to this was to hang the bag off the umbrella and to rest it on my shoulder. I walked off looking like i was carrying a bindle, i must of looked a proper hobo.
It was almost 8am and from the start i was primed ready for snapping photograph after photograph. Although the day had started cloudy, i knew it would be another stunning stretch of coastline. That and of course my high spirits from a cooked supper, good night's sleep and morning coffee and goody bag gift.
It wasn't such a sunny start to the day, the sky was full of cloud and the temperature was low enough for me to want to wear my fluffy jumper(other clothing choices were not wrote down in the journal).

Down on a rocky inaccessible beach was the rusting remains of a car. I'm unsure where i was told the story of how the car got there, but i believe it was in the pub during the night. The car got there when the driver drove 200 metres off the cliff in a third and unsuccessful suicide attempt. This was in September 2009, just over 6 months before i was there. I looked at the car and thought of all the worry and heartache that the driver must of caused his family and friends, he was only 29 years old. I thought of all the upset I'd of caused if i had jumped from the tree and been found. I was glad i took this path and not that one. I still didn't occur to me that people would be missing me to much extent.
For an hour i walked the path, the terrain varied very little, other than it's undulations. Then as i dropped from the gentle slopes of Milford common a challenge lay ahead of me. Quite literally too in a field fenced off from the path was a sight I'd seen and dealt with many times before during my life time. This time however would prove to be a little different to all those others.
In the field not far from me lay a sheep, all the others were up and grazing, this one was away from the others and appeared almost motionless. It was clearly 'Cast' a term meaning upside down sheep. When they get into this position, often when they have a wet fleece or are pregnant. When they get stuck on their backs, they cannot expel gas from a section of the digestive system (rumen) which will eventually crush their lungs and suffocate them.
I needed to act fast and flip it the right side up. I'd done this before and it's easy and quite funny as they usually run off burping and farting a lot.
I run down to a gate into the field and remove my rucksack place everything on the ground and jump the gate. Having someone approach them whilst they are cast can alarm them enough to struggle to their feet. However this one had been there for a little longer and looked weak as i ran to it. A trail of wool showed how it had wiggled down the hill for several metres. The moment i got to it i saw it was beyond help and needed more than just lifting to it feet.
It had been treated as carrion,it's eyes had been pecked and it's face was covered in blood meaning it was suffering in a really bad way. I made an immediate decision to put the ewe out of her misery, i was to kill it.
I ran back to my bag and got out my multi tool, it was the only blade i had on me. Then i scoured the path sides and area for a large rock. I couldn't however find one so returned with plan two in mind.
Stood over the distressed sheep the preferred method to kill it would be to knock it unconscious, then slit it's throat to bleed it out. With no rock to hand i could,with a good blade just slit it's throat right to the spine and let it bleed to death. However my blade was only just over a couple inches long and wasn't very sharp. I worried about causing it further distress by carving at it's neck. After holding it down on it's side and feeling around it's neck, the thickness of it's fleece confirmed that neck slitting was definitely not an option for me.
Plan two was a touch more barbaric if that's even possible. Making it brain dead, my thought was if i damaged it's brain enough, it would stop functioning properly and would rapidly lead to total failure, then death. How I'd go about it with just a short blade was to put it bluntly(no pun intended) Gross. Mash the brain is about the best description i can think of.
I've seen plenty of sheep skulls over the years and from when i collected a few for a Halloween ride prop, i managed to see where the main mass of the brain was. All i need do was to get to it quickly. My multi tool has two blades one straight bladed the other serrated. That was the one i would use. I Placed my knee onto the sheep's neck to steady the head and at a point just between the ears in the centre of it's skull stabbed my blade to it's full length several times. With the final stab i twisted the blade around like i was grinding grain with a pestle. The sheep kicked and let out a bleating groan for a moment then as i back off away from it, the kicking lessened and with several deep intakes of air i watched as it's legs fell limp and the last gasp of air was taken.
It took less than a minute for it to die and a feeling of guilt and remorse passed into my soul. I questioned whether i did the best thing for the sheep, how much suffering did i cause it, was it even dead, i couldn't make sure other than look at it lying there still and breathless.
Of course it was dead, but no i had a new dilemma. Lying here was a heap of good fresh meat. I could easily of taken a rear leg to cook up later on a fire later. I looked at the dead sheep and thought of how the farmer would see it when he finally finds it.
Would he think that his sheep had gone upside down, that the crows had come along in the morning at pecked out it's eyes? And then a walker had come by stabbed it in the head to put it out of it's misery and then cut off one of it's legs for his diner? No of course he wouldn't. He'd think someone killed his sheep, taken a leg and then the birds came along to feed off it's face. I couldn't have word going out that a sheep killer was walking about the place, i needed to find the owner and tell him the truth. I wiped off the blade and folded back into the tool handle and packed it back in my bag. Taking a photograph as evidence i then studied the landscape around me to figure out where the farm maybe. Nothing was obvious, then i remembered a farm track not far up the hill from where i had walked from.
With my pack on my back and bindle slung over my shoulder i began to head inland in search of a farm. Not far along the track i met a young lady, about 20 years old attractive and alone which at first i thought odd. I asked her if she knew of any farms nearby, explaining very briefly what i had just done. She told me of one not far away, the farm owners were also the owners of a hostel, the one she had stayed at for the night with a friend.
They had been walking the coast path together but her friend was finding it hard work and wanted a day to rest. Her friend the girl i was speaking to was walking it alone and heading like me to Bude. As i spoke with her and said i was heading there too, she asked if I'd like to walk there with her. For a moment i thought it would be lovely to spend a day walking with someone, especially someone young and attractive like her. Fortunately my morals were stronger than my weakness in the company of beautiful ladies. I told her i had to find the farmer and tell him what I'd done and also i told her of the pottery in Appledore that i promised to visit and offer to work at.
And that was the end of another brief encounter as i watched her walk away i looked at her flowing hair and noticed her gently swaying hips. "Very nice." I said quietly as i turned away not to look back at her again. I was on a mission..

The long straight track came to a road and as instructed by the girl i turn right. I passed a building with the red triangle emblem telling me it was the hostel, just up from there after a staggered crossroads was a  large farm house. I heard the sound of somebody in the farm yard opposite the main house so entered the yard to speak to the person in there. The farm worker approached me in his dirty green overalls and wellington boots. I asked him if the farm owner was about, he pointed to the farm, and said in a strong West country accent. "He b thur, oeer there in the big ouse."

Across the road was the farmhouse, a lovely and tidy property with a garden already adorned in early spring flowers. The temperature had risen a lot since the morning, i needed to lose a layer.
I took off my pack then furry jumper and tatty trousers. Packing them in my pack before opening the door.
On the outside of the building was a sign saying B&B, i looked for a door bell or knocker and being unable to find one i opened the door and called. “Hello.”
A lady came to greet me, she was very well presented and immediately came across very businesslike.
“Good morning, may i speak with the farmer please?” i asked her. She replied. “He’s busy can i help you?” I explained about the sheep i found and asked her whether the sheep in that field belonged to their farm. The moment i told her what i had done and why i had come to find who owned it, she asked me if i had eaten breakfast. I had told her about sleeping at Hartland Quay and what i was doing, so she must of guessed I'd not eaten yet that morning. She hastily ushered me through into the large farmhouse kitchen and pulled out a chair for me. Boxes of cereal were already out as was a big jug of milk. She gave me a bowl and spoon and told me to help myself to some cereal. “Would you like some scrambled egg and toast.” She asked me. A very grateful, “Yes please, if it’s no bother.” Was my reply as i poured milk over a couple bales of shredded wheat. A mug of tea appeared as the farmer came in the room, he asked me what happened. I explained that i found the sheep injured and in distress on it’s back, so thought the most humane thing to do was dispatch it and end it’s suffering. I didn’t explain how. He thanked me and said he will go and collect it and check the rest of the flock.

As i ate and drank my treats, the beating of egg and smell of burning bread made me smile and feel better about the killing of the sheep. I hadn’t a clue what my honesty would do for me and how i my or not gain reward for it. My only thought was to do it to win points and make another deposit in the karma bank.
Another man came into the kitchen dinning area and sat down near me at the big table, as he poured a tea from the pot and served himself some cereal, the lady who’d been so generous to me already, brought me a plate of steaming eggs, scrambled and poured out over two slices of hand cut fresh bread. She was rushing around now even more, fetching me salt, pepper and tomato ketchup whilst trying to explain to the other man, who i was. Pushing the empty bowl to one side, i began my next course as the younger man spoke to me and asked me to explain further.
I told him about finding and killing the sheep, i showed him the photograph i took and then went on about my walk and how i was trying to find odd jobs as i went to earn my meals.
He seemed very interested and was asking me lots of questions, like how far I'd come, where i was going, how easy was it to get peoples trust. But he;s questions were cut short by the now very flustered lady. She asked me non to politely, to hurry up as she needed to be out by 10am. I say non to politely, though it was just a little abrupt rather than rude. I rushed my food down whilst trying to answer the man who i guessed was the son. It felt rude of me to eat and drink so quickly, it would of however been far worse to of made the lady late.

Once finished i stood and returned the seat to under the table as is good manners to do so and shook the younger mans hands. He thanked me for telling them of the sheep and wished me a good journey. I turned to thank the lady finding her approaching me hold a clear plastic bag, i could see clearly it contained more food, i couldn’t however see what exactly it was.
She apologised for rushing me, handing me the bag as she spoke. “That should keep you going a little further.” She softly said whilst opening the door back out to the hallway and to the front of the house.
I thanked her once again shaking her hand, it felt the wrong thing to do to a lady of her standard. But a hug and a kiss on the cheek would of perhaps been too familiar. Wishing them a great summer, the door closed on yet another piece of good and very random fortune for me.
I opened my Bindle and place the bag of goodies in there with all those other snacks, loaded up my back with my ever growing load to set of and find the path again.

I stood at the farm gateway and hesitated to which way i was going to rejoin the path. Suddenly a bit of self doubt entered my mind and for some reason i thought that maybe i didn’t kill the sheep and that it was in fact still alive, only now suffering even more. I was afraid to go back past the sheep, afraid that the farmer would be there to collect the carcass and then not be happy at me for leaving it in such a state. This was a stupid thought really as i watched the sheep pass away, it’s breathing ceased, it heart stop beating, it was most definitely dead.
Still the thought was there in my mind, so instead of walking left out of the door and past the youth hostel that the farmers owned and down the farm track where i met the pretty young lady. I walked down the road going left at the staggered crossroads, this was heading to the coast so i figured it would rejoin the path not far from the place I’d left it.
As i walked along the lane i could see a tractor with it’s front loader raised, it was driving across the field from the direction i found the sheep. Again i wondered and hoped that it really was dead when they got to it. I reassured myself all was good and proceeded along the road till i got to a sharp left turn. Through a gateway in the corner i could see the fence line of the coast path. Climbing the gate, i crossed the field towards the fence, it was the same field that i had slaughtered the ewe in just over an hour ago, i looked over to the spot it happened and smiled. Not for what i did, but for how my honesty got me my breakfast. Now to find the pottery and to fulfill another duty.

My journey to Welcombe hugged the cliff top edge for most of the route providing me with continued glorious views all around me. The sky had cleared of most it’s clouds warming the air nicely, as well as making the sea nice and blue. Down on the shore all was less bright, the sun was not yet casting it’s beam upon it, it’s dramatic form was for a while kept from my sight but not from my imagination, i could make out enough to know how it looked under the blanket of shadow. I was approaching Welcombe mouth to where i believed the Cornish border was, i guessed the line of the little stream called Strawberry water was where the border lay.
Descending the path to the stream and the bottom of the valley Bladder Campion were on display. Five deeply notched white petals spread out above it’s pink and white over inflated calyx(the bit covering the ovary). I picked one and ate it, it looked a little primrose like. I thought now would be a good time to see if they were edible, rather than later when i may depend on flower like them to provide me nutrition. I took photo’s of the flowers and walked through an opening cut into an old wall. The ends of the wall were built back up like  rounded bookends. That brought me out by the little waterfall dropping Strawberry water a short distance to rocks then crashing onto the shore below.

Standing by the stream i captured a 360 degree photograph of where i stood, still believing this to be my last step on North Devon soil. Ahead of me the many lines of sea washed rock streaked out into the Atlantic like m\any lines of blue grey hair. To my right and east was the steep valley side i just came down, the little coast path could be seen in the far northern corner cutting across the face of the hill. To the south, the view down the valley and of the winding gently flowing stream. And finally to the west and up over yet another hill towards many more unknowns.
Over the Strawberry water meant using built stepping stones. An interesting style of walkway was there. Imagine several circular columns, built of stone rising out of the stream bed, only 14inch or there abouts wide. They were level with the banks either side of the stream just a foot or so tall. The water wasn’t deep that day, i imagine after heavy rain it fills and runs faster than it was. Part of the reason the water ran so slow was because it didn’t run straight off the rocks, instead it pooled up a little before pouring out weir like into a natural rock gutter, the outlet of which sent the water gushing out as a waterfall.

I had waved goodbye to North Devon and stepped into Cornwall, it felt great to think i had got this far without turning back and running for help and possibly back to those dark places i’d been just two weeks ago. I was full of energy from the breakfast from the farm,  and as i stomped up the steep valley side to find welcombe i munched on same cake and chocolate from within my Bindle bag to give me the strength needed for a big day still ahead of me.
At the top of the hill a finger signpost pointed inland over a style, it said To Mead or was it Darracott? I don’t remember, it certainly wasn’t Welcombe though so i passed it and some black goats that calmly grazed next to the path. Soon i came to a hut high up on the cliff top overlooking Marsland Mouth.

The hut was unusual in the way it appeared fairly modern or at least rebuilt recently. It turned out it had been restored by the family of Ronald Duncan, a writer, poet and playwright. The Hut was well build and would provide perfect shelter from bad weather for walkers of the coast path. In it was a table and bench seat, fresh drinking water that was freshly filled daily and a vast array of literature including that of the poet himself. Also on a wall was lots of information about the man himself. I read a few poems of his as well as a bit about him and looked out over the sea and surrounding landscape. He used to come up here to write and i can see how the location would inspire his creativity.

Steps led down from the hut, as i descended them i stopped to photograph some beautiful blue flowers that were growing from the base of the wooden step supports. They were wild Violets, blue in colour, their five petalled flowers spread out in a distinctive manner, two petals together pointing at 10 and two o’clock, with the lower three at 7, 6 and 5 o’clock. That’s about the best way i can explain how the petal spacings appear to me. The petals rose out from the blushing pink and white calyx that protects the ovule.
As i bent to take the photo’s i felt the folded map in my pocket reminding me to keep an eye out for a way to Welcombe from the coast path. The map clearly showed the path i needed to take was located prior to the poets hut. This meant back up from where i’d come from and down the footpath sign posted Darracott or Mead, whichever one it was. So retracing my steps i came to the footpath and climbed the stile into a field to walk inland on yet another journey to the unknown. Across and couple fields i came to a track linking Aller park to a road. The verges of the track were coated in the stems, leaves and flowers of Daffodils and what appeared to be white bluebells but weren’t, being similar to Lily of the valleys but more bluebell like they were neither snow drops or Ransoms. Whatever they were, the camera was used once more as ever to document my journey in pictures. The map told me to go left at the road and right at some buildings.  Following those instructions, i went through a gateway to a holiday cottage complex, passing an odd statue set in the corner of one of the properties. I stopped to try and make sense it. A piece of art i guess but what did it mean? Standing at about seven feet tall it had a somewhat humanoid appearance about it. Two chunky legs rose from a flat plinth to a large pronounced bottom and prominent genitals. It’s proportionally narrow waist supported his chest that jutted out like that of a strutting bird. The arms bent, elbows back and hands cupped and pointing skywards suggested, well i don’t know what. Finally it’s head, with the chin forward he was gazing skywards and all i could make out was his flat nose and ears, which appeared more like cartoon frog eyes upon his shoulders. It was all coated in a cracked grey glaze.

Lightly humoured by it’s appearance i pressed on in search of footpath to Welcombe, which i found at the end of a gravel path my some fenced off fields containing sheep. They followed me from behind the fence right to the end of one field and bleated loudly at me as if to ask for food, they soon went quiet as i went to the next fields via a stile and transversed a hill through a couple more fields reaching a stony lane that joined a tarmac lane. “I must be nearer now.” I thought to myself. From the lane i could see a pub not far away. The pub ‘The old Smithy’ was next to the pottery, recalling the conversation with the lady back in Appledore. And as i passed the pub i saw a pottery sign on the wall of some buildings on the right of me. Just as i reached them, a person appeared from behind some wooden doors at the far end of the buildings, it was the lady herself.

She looked down the road as i approached and as she recognised me also, she gave the look of surprise, a happy one. We spoke for a short while, mostly about how i was doing, seeming now to be a little more concerned and interested in how i was mentally than how she was when i first met her. I told her things as they were and explained more about why i decided to do things this this way.
Reassuring me that i was doing the best thing for me, she went on to say her ex-partner wasn’t there, so unfortunately i couldn’t help out in the pottery. Then she went on to ask if there was anything i wouldn’t be prepared to do. Explaining that there wasn’t anything i would not do to get a meal or place to stay she told me about a little boat she was meaning to tidy up ready for the summer. I said to her. “I’m here as promised to help in any way i can, to return the kindness you showed me.It would be my pleasure to help you get your boat ready for the water.” I was then asked whether i wanted paying in cash or a meal in the pub.
As i had lots of food on me already, i chose cash for the journey ahead and she offered me ten pounds for the work. I agreed enthusiastically thanking her and was issued with a cup of tea, some overalls and the things i needed to work on the boat, yacht varnish, a brush and rags then i was showed the little sailing boat and the work she wanted doing to it. Across the road behind a row of old cottages was a car park including that of the pub, the boat was on a trailer there next to a big old American camper. She pointed to the gunnels and seats that would need coating with varnish. I recommended sanding all the woodwork down first to prepare it all properly, she agreed and hurried off to find some sand paper for me.

Once i had some sand paper i started at the front of the boat the ‘Bow’ and worked my way down the left ‘port side reaching the rear ‘stern’ and return up the ‘starboard’ side the right. (That’s you educated! if you didn’t already know). The sun was out and for the first time that year i took off my top to feel it’s heat on my bare skin. It was around Midday when i arrived at the pottery to offer my services and it the heat of the day i worked away sanding back the wood, then varnishing it all. The lady often came over to make sure i was ok and we talked about sailing as much as we talked about my journey so far. She had suggested i contacted my mother at some stage when i was ready to, just to let her know where i was. At that time, it didn’t enter my mind that she knew who i was from news paper reports and had contacted my mother and the police after she met me at Appledore. I didn’t know of the efforts that had been put in to locate me as i obliviously walked my lonely path along the coast. I didn’t know she’d spoken with my mother and had felt guilty for helping me, neither did i know that she had worked hard on explaining to my mother that i was doing the best thing for me, the right thing.  
I worked away on her boat because i wanted to show thanks for the fish and chip supper she so kindly bought me, i came here to find the pottery in hope that i could maybe spin some slippery clay and perhaps gain a little new experience making something with my hands. Just a little adventure within an adventure. I was pleased to of found the lady there and be able to help get her boat ready to launch.

I was feeling great, this was my first task since i started the walk and i felt i was actually earning my food, even if i’d eaten it many days ago. People would come and go to and from the car park, stopping for meals in the pub. At one stage a car full of teenagers turned up all excited, full of life and laughter. They disappeared for a while into one of the cottages then returned with towels, surf boards, other beach playthings and picnic bags. I watched as they playfully loaded up the little old Volkswagon with all the gear they had and once it was all in, they couldn’t fit all the passengers in the car. This however didn’t stop them, a young lady of about 17 years old, jumped on the bonnet and told the driver to drive carefully. She was laughing and holding onto the windscreen wipers as they slowly left the car park and drove off down the road. Only in Cornwall, i thought as the lady returned carrying a tin of blue paint. She told me that i inspired her to get on with the boat and to make the most of the fine weather, so she began painting the boat above the waterline in a pale blue colour using a small sponge roller. Rushing off to answer the phone and check her kiln i took over as i’d finished my varnishing.
I’d been working on the boat for about 3 hours in total and had finished the blue before she came back over. At the same time a man walked over and remarked to the lady about her doing her boat up, i was clearing up now as all was finished. He was the owner of ‘the old Smithy’ the local pub and he spoke about him and his wife selling the pub to go travelling in the big American motor home next to where i had been working.
The motor home was a late 1980’s Airstream, at almost 35ft long and powered by an enormous 7.2litre petrol engine, not only would it appear to have very poor fuel economy, it would also be a horrible thing to drive through the tight twisty lanes in this country. Despite of the impracticalities driving an eight ton bus around England it certainly looked well equipped and more than suitable for a life on the road. I looked at my rucksack laying in the shadows on the floor nearby and shook my head as if to say to myself i must be crazy. All that i needed was in that bag and i’m travelling by foot for an unknown length of time..that’s that confirmed, Yes i am crazy.

I was given my wages once the man had left, the lady then invited me into the pottery to see what she does. The little converted barn had several display tables and racks on the walls containing an array of pottery. The man there was creator of the pots, plates and mugs, the lady who had been so good to me made animals, her favourite were puffins, complete with the classic fish in the beak look. They had a special crackled glaze to them which gave them a unique and appealing selling point. She then took me to a side barn, the one she appeared from when i first found the pottery. In there was a small kiln which was firing one of her pieces. She explained a little of the process of firing clay ware and how she gets the cracked effects during the glazing process. I vaguely remember it’s a very precise method which entails the item being removed at a very specific temperature, then as it’s cooled, it’s placed bag in for a further firing at a different temperature. It was impressive to hear it explained to me and said a lot about the dedication put into making such things with a personal touch like she did.
We talked a little more, which was basically the lady once more reassuring me that i was doing the right thing and reminding me to contact someone. I had loosely told her i had done, but looking back at the conversations i had with her and the way she responded to my comments, i now know she knew the truth, i hadn’t told anyone where i was.
Slinging the pack and bindle on and the camera’s strap around my neck i thanked her and shook her hand. She pulled me near a gave me a hug whilst telling me to take care and stay positive. As we both left the shop door an old van pulled up and the driver spoke with the lady, i left them to their conversation and just had time to see just how wrecked the old van was. It had a rear light dangling by it’s wires and had most rust than paint, even the windows were green with algae with moss growing from the window rubbers and roof guttering. Only in Cornwall! I mused again.

It was just short of 4pm when i left the pottery and walked back to the coast path, i chose no to go back the way i came, instead i walked down a lane at the back of the pottery turning right at a junction to rejoin the track by Aller Park, and past the mystery white flowers and daffodils then to the goats up from the poets hut back on the path, in sight and sound of the sea. This time i didn’t stop by the hut or the violets, instead i kept going with an urgency to get back into my stride, i was buzzing from my day so far and had a spring in my step. At the bottom of a set of steps as the ground levelled out something caught my eye in the trail ahead, a short slender shape lay in the middle of the path. About a foot long the metallic buff coloured reptile lay basking in the sun, it’s the dark lines running down it’s length to it tail. This one was fully grown and a fine immaculate specimen. Often they have evidence of being attacked, usually by a bird or cat, at such times, they freeze and then Autotomise. This means they shed their tail, it falls off. Whilst the main body of the slow worm stays still, the shed tail wriggles for up to 15 minutes this draws the bird or other predator to the tail, when it runs or flies off with it the slow worm slivers off to safety and grows the tail back, only stunted.
As i take photograph’s of it i become aware of people approaching from down the hill, as i stand to let them pass i tell them to be careful to not step on the slow worm. One by one they step over it a pass without taking an interest in it, other than a remark from one lady expressing her hatred for snakes. Apart from it not being a snake, as it has eyelids, i couldn’t understand why people just rush through the countryside and not enjoy it in all it’s glorious beauty, it’s so much more than scenery. I would struggle to make any progress at times during my days walking, i get easy distracted by the slightest sign of life in it’s many forms, luckily for me that was for my benefit and the lack of appreciation from others was their loss.
Leaving the lizard to it’s own fate a proceeded down to the bottom of the valley to marsland mouth where i got a big surprise. On the other side of a little bridge crossing the stream that led from from old mill leat was a sign. Not a sign with an acorn or telling me of escaped cattle. This was a sign, weather worn and fixed to two thick square posts, a nail though the sign and into the posts secured it all in place, the stains of oxide running down the wood and and dripping onto the roots of ivy which climbed the posts.
On this sign engraved in big capitals letters, it read. ‘CORNWALL’ and below that ‘KERNOW’ which is the Cornish way of writing it. By the side of that was the emblem for Kernow, A sheild containing 15 dots arranged like snooker balls in a triangle but inverted.  The origin of this emblem is said to represent the ransom paid for Richard, Duke of Cornwall, when he was captured by Saracens. Each one of the dots represents a Bezant, a medieval term for a roman gold coin. The ransom was 15 Bezants.

I crossed the bridge and entered Kernow, this time for real how silly of me to believe that i’d been in Cornwall since crossing the strawberry water over the hill from here. I gave a slight smile as i crossed the bridge and mentally patted my own back for getting this far. The path climbed steeply up through a nature reserve onto Marsland cliff, looking back towards the east, the views were breathtaking, clear blue skies, the sea a lovely marine blue. The sun had come round far enough to light up the pebbled beech’s, rising cliff faces and contrasting green fields with their splashes of yellow gorse. I was in camera heaven making a change of battery necessary to continue capturing this most amazing coast. From my high vantage point, Gull rock stretched it’s vertically layered mass out into the Atlantic separating the mouths of Marsland and Litter with it’s protecting arm. The sun was high in the west by now casting it’s glaring beam into my eyes. They struggled to focus on the landscape before me and few photo’s were taken in that direction, but if i’m honest i think i walked backwards for most of afternoon such was the draw of the view to the east. Climbing out of one of the many valleys, i found a sign marking Hawkers hut. The hut was situated away from the coast path down on the edge of the cliff side, it was built into the grassy bank, a totally wooden built building with a flag floor under it’s three sided bench protecting the insides from the weather, a two piece stable door swung on rusting T hinges and was held secure with wooden drop latches and the roof was turfed. Robert Stephen Hawker a local Parson, built the original hut some time during the first half of the 1800’s out of driftwood. He’d go there to write poetry and to smoke opium and rumour has it scan the sea’s for wrecks so he could get first pickings of the lost bounties they carried. The hut has been maintained in all it’s time and still retains some of it’s original features, it s one of the smallest properties belonging to the National trust. Inside much like the Angel winged shelter, many names were engraved into the seats and walls inside the hut. One in particular caught my eye reading Derek loves Doris 1942 where in more modern times in 1998 a smiley face was cut into the seat.

From outside the hut i sensed the sun dropping every so slightly, i had to keep going. I’d eaten all the sausage rolls, cake and crisps during the day as well as some of the chocolate. So hadn’t been hungry all day or even tired, considering i’d been on the go since before 8am i was going well. What i didn’t know was how much further i had to go till Bude or the next settlement.
Reaching Higher Sharpnose point  hurriedly walked out to the far end and gazed out to an empty sea, the glaring sun bouncing off it making me squint. The views down either coastal flank were as ever sensational and if i had the day light i could of stood there for longer, i had little day light left, perhaps an hour more, so i back tracked to an old ruined coastguard lookout building and kept on route heading further along the Cornwall coast.Out towards the distant masts and disc’s of another radio station i marched on as the sun dropped closer to the horizon. I passed some sheep grazing, one of the lambs raised it’s head to look at me, it’s little face posing for my camera. I captured an image of it in mid Baa! The lamb had black around it’s eyes, black ears and muzzle but was otherwise white. It looked like the old puppet character from my youth, Sue from the sooty and sweep show, who was a puppet panda.
For the next 4km i charged along the coast path as the sun dropped out of sight an urgency to get to Bude was there, i was wanting to continue my day of luck and fortune, believing i would find work and food there tonight.

Finally reaching the town at 8pm all seemed quiet, i scanned the streets for various places in which i could sleep and picked out bus shelters as a last resort, still i had faith that all would come good for me. I was now weary from a busy day of walking and working, the distance between Hartland Quay and Bude was 15.5 miles,  i’d also walked inland and back a couple of times so i was now on about 20 miles and counting.  Few people  were about and lots of premises were closed or empty, those that i did manage to speak with staff weren’t interested in listening or helping me. But still i persisted in my stubborn way which was in fact an unnecessary quest, after all i had food on me, all i needed was somewhere comfortable to rest and eat it. I did not rest though, i carried on walking down that street fighting doubt holding onto the faith i had inside. At a slight corner in the road i had the urge to stop and turn round, i felt as if the town stopped right there and that nothing around the corner was there for me, only more walking and more rejection. I did as my heart advised and turned about returning back up the road past all the places i'd already failed in, my pace was slowing and a limp had began from a pain on my feet. Bad socks equals sweaty therefore wet feet. That means soft skin and the likely hood of friction blisters.  A couple spoke to me in passing and asked if i was lost. " No." i said. " I'm hoping to find a little work in exchange for a meal tonight." I added, then proceeded in telling them more of my journey and aims. They kindly offered to buy me a portion of chips, maybe foolishly i declined the offer insisting that i needed, for me, to earn it. I thanked them and watching them walk to a takeaway made me question my own sanity. Why was i refusing food and not eating the food i had on me? Why was i walking still whilst in so much pain? I was increasingly tired, yawning uncontrollably, why didn't i just stop?
Street after street i scoured the buildings for pubs or restaurants, it was beginning to look like a ghost town, nothing appeared open and the pavements were empty other than this homeless and broken soul, a shadow of the happy sprightly one that confidently killed a sheep and went to tell the farmer, then painted a boat for a few hours for a tenner, still i hobbled onwards. Leaving the main town and heading to some streetlights out of town i gained some hope from buildings that looked like a brightly lit pub/restaurant,the sort you get near modern housing developments. With renewed energy, i forced myself back in to a faster rhythm of walking but in doing so and whilst entering an exposed piece of land the evening chill blew through my hot daytime clothing making me stop and slip on my jumper. Much to my disappointment, there was no pub, it was just a show home for the new houses that had been built here. My heart sunk from the thought of not finding a sanctuary to rest, as by now all i wanted, was to stop and sit down in the warm, with a tea or coffee. I had to keep going shelter would not find me so with tired legs guiding me i wandered down a lane and eventually came to a cul-de-sac, a dead end.  Cold, tired and now in the dark, i put on my scruffy trousers and a buff, my head torch and hand torch were dug out from their respective hiding places and placed in location, one on my head and the other in hand.  Hoisting a backpack on that had seemed to have doubled in weight,  the straps dug deep into my already sore shoulders. In less than three hours i  had gone from fit and strong, to wasted and weak. If such a term as hitting the wall could be experienced, it was close to then as the pains shooting up through my feet and across my back became so severe, that the pain i suffered on the way to Clovelly when the blister popped, was now insignificant, this was now the worse pain I've endured, the neck spasms being the worse ones.  Somewhere from the cul-de-sac, i knew i'd left it and returned to another street, i found a dark wooded path leading up into, well! Who knows? I had a rough idea i was now heading back towards the coast, i was not so messed up as to not be able to find my bearings and get myself back near the coast path and maybe to shelter.
The dark woodland path led to a farm yard, a large barn was there and i went into sleep mode dreaming of finding a straw bed to collapse onto, i was near exhaustion and would of collapsed if i gave into the weakness that was trying to beat me down. In the farm yard a man swept out a stable and worked away doing his chores, i immediately knew i shouldn't stay there, he'll be more than aware of me shuffling about in secret in his barn, never did it enter my mind to ask him for help and if i could sleep in a shed somewhere. I was beyond help to anybody by now and without a further thought i limped on up the path into a seemingly darker nothingness ahead.
Luckily in a small way the darkness was just a corner, beyond that the light's of a street shone illuminated the end of the footpath i was one. Right or left was the choice at the end and my gut told me to go right, right was the way back to the coast path, that's the way i need to go, it was also down hill which i hoped would make things easier for me.
Every step seemed to become increasingly more painful, i was adjusting where i put weight on my feet to try and find less pain. Every several minutes, if felt more spasms of pain would shoot across my shoulder from somewhere deep in my neck as if a long red hot needle was being slowly pushed deep into my skin and up through my body, thankfully lasting only about 5 seconds, though i knew it would come again soon, no amount of adjusting the back pack seemed to prevent it happening. Pushing my thumbs up under the straps to take the weight didn’t work either as the whole of my body was now to weak to offer any relief, it was all just a matter of enduring it till i found somewhere to rest.
My focus now was just that,to rest. The cool wind was whipping up the road, i had to get out of it where ever my chosen resting place would be.
Along the pavement i was walking down, various bus stops only provided basic protection, a narrow bench seat, not wide enough to lay on and a gap underneath that would allow the cold breeze in. Down, down, down the road i hobbled, I was an such a physical state and related it to television programme i once watched. The one in which the famous British comedian, Eddie Izzard was attempting to do 43 marathons back to back with little or no training. I remembered watching a clip of him barely being able to walk such was the state of his feet and subsequently agony he was putting himself through. Like him, i didn’t need to put myself through it, i just chose to. The option to cross the road and wait for a bus to come was there, i had a little money, so could of got a lift back into town and at least known where i was.  Whether it was stubbornness or stupidity, (I’ll let you decide that one) i persisted in my painful lonely trek down the road to somewhere,hopefully back on the coast path. A junction near an industrial estate reassured me that i was on route back to town, a sign post reading a heart lifting. ‘Town centre.’ Following it’s arrowed guidance i passed a leisure centre and high school, both of which were inappropriate places to bed down for the night, especially a school.
I finally got near the bottom of a hill, the streets seemed brighter ahead of me, they illuminated the area across the road which was familiar to me, i was almost at the point in the town where i’d stopped and turned back over an hour ago perhaps even two. Approaching a corner that i believed to be that last corner i got to. i set myself ready for crossing the road to find the coast path signs and leave this most unhelpful of places behind me.
Suddenly something ahead of me caught my eye, swinging in the cold night wind was a sign outside the Bencoolen Inn, i’d found it somewhere to rest a while and to have a drink and take off my burning boots.
I entered through a front door, as i painfully removed my back pack, my eyes squinting and face screwed up from the agony even doing that gave me, a few of the customers turned to me as i unloaded my things onto a chair then watched me hobble over to the bar. “A pint of your finest.” I asked the barman. He began pouring the drink as dug out some coins that were in my pockets. I asked with little optimism if he had anything i could do to earn a little food or drink, explaining briefly what i was doing. Again i was offered nothing Whilst he asked how far i’d walked that day i counted out the money on the bar and told him from Hartland Quay, via a farm and Welcombe where i painted a boat.
20p short of the price of the pint!  I went to get out the note, the wages for the work i had done but the barman told me not to worry, i’d had a busy day and had earned it. He told me to go and sit down and enjoy the drink, seeing just how uncomfortable i was. Finally seated i swigged a mouthful or two of beer and took off my boots and socks. It was such a relief, i sat back and began scanning  through photo’s whilst drinking and massaging my feet on the soft carpet.

For the best part of the afternoon i’d been alone, hearing people chat over in the bar and in a bay window where a couple sat, occasionally looking over to me, i was keen to talk with people or at least hear their voices.However i felt i’d ran out of luck that day and i should just sit, rest and review my day with a beer, my reward for an good day on the path.
My luck though wasn’t over yet, a man at the bar came over to me and asked if i was after a little work, i said that i was but just enough to help feed me and keep me going on my journey i wasn’t after employment as such. He also offered to buy me another pint. so accepting it i joined him at the bar where he insisted i sat on a stool, I’d hobbled over and was stood there stretching out my back and yawning, i must of looked a pathetic mess.
He introduced himself as Peter, we shook hands and he offered me to come to his fish and chip shop to cut and prepare chips for a few hours during the next day. He’d feed me and give me a little wage for my time. This was just brilliant i thought and of course i excitedly accepted the offer and arranged a time and place to meet him. Our conversation continued and as usual lots of questions were asked about where i was from and why i was doing the walk in such a silly way, then it changed to talking about sport and other random topics, this was not just between myself and Peter, but some other locals who were there. At some stage he took me over to meet the couple who were sat in the bay window away from the bar area. He introduced me by saying. “You two should really meet this guy, he’ walking the whole coast trying to find work as he goes and he hasn’t even got a tent!” They were immediately intrigued and once again i was having to go through what seemed like a life story, not that it was a bad thing because their expressions and reaction made me feel good about myself. I was asked to join them at the table and yet another drink was bought for me along with some peanuts and crisps.
Like old friends the three of us sat there talking and laughing about all sorts. Phil and Sharon were a couple of retired teachers, down in Bude staying at a home they had inherited from a deceased relative of Phills.
Suddenly and pretty much out of blue i was invited to stay with them in the house for the night, they were very relaxed about the idea and almost insisted on it as i’d explained i’d not seen anywhere particularly habitable, even by my simple standards, so they were concerned about my comfort and health. I was clearly in need of some proper rest and recovery, a bus stop or park bench would not serve as a great provider of comfort, also i needed a good nights sleep as i had work the next day at 11am sharp.
The three of us drank up and after putting my socks and shoes on, i said a good night and a thank you to Peter, telling him i’ll see him the next day also that i was saying in a house for the night and not one of the random places him and his friends were suggesting i should use.

For the last time that day the straps of my back pack dug deep into my sore shoulders and the feet once more screamed in pain, though it was all insignificant now. i knew i’d be safe and warm that night. Arriving at a door to a terrace house i recognised the road it was on, as i had passed it by earlier on during my moment of wandering Bude in search of food and shelter.
The house had that smell that only old people can give a home. I can’t find the words to explain it, but the smell lurked under the attempted disguise of cleaning products and paint. Most of the decor was dated, unchanged since the 1970’s, even the kitchen was still in it’s retro state having pastel coloured Formica work tops, chairs and cabinet doors. The well worn lino floor covering was also of the same era.
Sharon showed me to my room to put my bag up there whilst Phil boiled the kettle for a hot drink. The bedroom was also stuck in a Seventies time warp, the bouncy single bed was laid out in the less than modern way, of sheets and blankets, covered on top with a floral quilt. Nice!
I returned back down stairs where in the lounge i was presented with a selection of cheeses and crackers, then an evening pot of tea, in china cups. Almost everything about the house and it’s furnishings were 1960-1970’s, only the modern radio and ninties TV sat it their respective places looking out of place. We sat in the high back chairs drinking tea from our quaint little flower decorated cups, the food was all for me, including olives and flavoured tortilla chips. I munched causally even eating some green olives which i’ve never been a fan of.
At around midnight, Phil went to bed as he had to be up really early to go fishing, i thanked him for his kindness and expressed to him how much of a pleasure it was to meet him, wishing him luck and bidding him good night. I stayed up for a little longer talking with Sharon about life both mine and hers then finally had to give in to my tiredness and retire to my bed. I helped clear the things away and gave Sharon a thanking hug then went up the stairs and into the little bedroom. Yes a bedroom, in the first proper bed in over two weeks.
I managed to remember to put my flat camera batteries on charge, then stripped off and slid under the covers of the bed. No laying out of clothes and blankets, no cold sleeping bag, wind to block out hard surface to try and get comfortable, my tired aching body sunk into the soft sprung mattress and in an instant my eyes closed, sending me into a deep, comfortable, sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I keep looking back on here in case you have written anymore. Your story fills me with inspiration and hope that one day you will continue this, however I know that you need to be in the right place to be able to carry on. But when you're ready to write, we're ready to read