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Memoir set along the South West Coastal Path – UK (the hiking homeless)

5th June 2019

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, memoir set along the South West Coast Path (620 miles from Somerset to Dorsett, via Devon and Cornwall)

Shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award and The Wainwright Prize and recent winner of the Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize.

Memoir set along the South West Coastal Path

The book opens as Raynor and her husband Moth are in court. A couple of years ago they invested heavily in a financial project at the behest of old childhood friend Cooper, but when the investment failed, they were deemed in part responsible for reparations. The court ruled they must leave their family home in Wales, which they had restored from a ruin. It is where their children grew up…. and there are fond memories of very happy times.

Amidst the loss of the house, Moth has been diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease, corticobasal degeneration (CBD). And thus their world fell utterly apart. And quite how anyone can deal with such a terrible combination of events, I really don’t know. You survive or you go under… and Raynor and Moth chose the latter path even thought the Sword of Damocles was hanging over them.

Inspired by the book Five Hundred Mile Walkies (rebranded in 2006 as Travels With Boogie: 500 Mile Walkies and Boogie Up the River), they had nothing left apart from themselves and a determination to achieve something momentous… and to overcome their situation and diagnosis. So, two brave people with a zest for life and adventure, in their 50s, set of on The South West Coastal Path.

Photo Google showing the 320 mile route

And thus a protracted period of wild camping ensued. In essence they became the hiking homeless. They predictably had to endure all kinds of terrain and weather systems, from searing heat to abysmal cold, wind and rain. They met all kinds of people, mostly kind and generous but how salutary that this couple, with just a pence to call their own, encountered people who would charge them for a drop of water. I hope things would be different today!

A swarm of ladybirds, angels, surfers with a herbal remedy and Simon Armitage pop up in various guises… the memoir is written with an overlay of sanguinity and humour, but there are soul searching and fearful moments too.

If you know the area or are thinking of attempting the 620 miles then this book is an absolute must. The author has an easy writing style and a talent for observation.

At the end of the book there is an acknowledgement that in 2018 the author is still living with Moth, although one must imagine that his condition has deteriorated considerably since their hike. She continues to write and still takes long walks.

A heartening story and a reminder to appreciate the good things in life and not to take for granted one’s lifestyle and accommodation; this book demonstrates just how easily things can be snatched away!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Catch Raynor on Twitter and you can also follow The South West Coastal Path on Facebook and Twitter

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