Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coasting Along On My Birthday

I spent my seventy-second birthday doing one of the things I love best, which is walking on the SouthWest Peninsula Coast Path. This, as you may know, is the longest long-distance trail in England, stretching 631 miles around the south-west peninsula, from Minehead (Somerset) in the north, right around Devon and Cornwall to Poole (Dorset) on the south coast.

It passes along clifftops, down into valleys, along beaches, up hills, around harbours, through villages, over fields, between walls, around river estuaries, in and out of woods, over bridges and stiles, through gates, past waterfalls … and every inch of it is interesting. Mind you, I have only walked a fraction of it to date, though I do hope to have covered the entire path before I die.

One of the things about walking the path that I love the most – especially in some of the wilder stretches – is being out on my own, miles from anywhere, with just the sea and the breeze and the birds for company. I can talk to myself out loud, sing if I feel like it, and stop and rest when I am tired.

Another thing I love about it is being surrounded by beauty in all directions. So much beauty, at times, that I almost explode with sheer joy at being there. There is something totally wonderful about being able to see things that can only be seen by those who are prepared to walk for miles along the path. It feels like being one of only a handful of privileged people at a special, private banquet.

And something else I love about walking the path is the discovery of unexpected treasures. Funny-shaped houses for example, built for some ancient purpose long forgotten. Like this one:

And this one, which was once a mill of some kind.

Or a tunnel, suddenly appearing in the middle of a wood.

Or a holy well. I’ve visited a number of holy wells over the years – in fact there is one just down the road from where we live. But the more visited they are, the more they seem sapped of whatever energy it was that first made them sacred places. As though the hundreds of people who visit them all take away something but leave nothing in return, until the vitality of the place is somehow drained.

But this one is different. It is hidden deep in a wood and very few people pass that way. Legend has it that Jesus came with Joseph of Arimathea to visit England and when they came by here on their way to Glastonbury they stopped to drink at this well. It’s a lovely legend and though I am not a Christian, standing next to the well I could almost believe it to be true. In fact there is such a lovely feeling there, it brought tears to my eyes.

All that – and the sunshine, the purple heather, the smell of the sea … there is no better way I could possibly have found to celebrate my birthday. It is the second time I have spent my birthday on the Coast Path and I think it is what I shall do every year from now on – at least as long as I can still place one foot in front of the other.


Ted Marshall said...

The heartiest of happy birthdays to you Marian, and what a great way to spend it.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Marian, thank you for taking me on this walking trip with you.
How truly beautiful it is from the images. I can sense experiencing this in person was breathtaking.
I felt a tiny bit of your joy as I read your sharing.
Happy Birthday to you and special blessings are sent your way for the coming year.
I am so new to your world. Only months but you and your sharing have become very special to me.

clown princess said...

A beautiful post and such beautiful places. A wonder filled way to spend your birthday...a happy one to you. Thank you for sharing!

willow said...

That sounds a perfect way to spend a birthday. Lovely photographs, was that section the Somerset coast?

Elderwoman said...

Thanks for these nice comments.

Willow, the section I walked on my birthday was actually North Devon -between Lynton/Lynmouth and Combe Martin. The top picture was taken a few miles from Combe Martin. The others were taken on the previous section between Porlock (Somerset) and Lynmouth (Devon) and I can't remember precisely which side of the border they were. But yes, I think it was the Somerset side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the journey, Marian. Your walk was a fitting celebration of a special day. Belated happy birthday...and wishing you many more to come.
Cop Car

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday to a fellow Cancerian...as such I so understood and loved your birthday walk in the countryside. The pictures were gorgeous.

Leanne said...

Ive just found your blog Marian, and its a feast of words and pictures! I just wanted to say hello, and I'll be back to read more :-)

belated happy birthday to yuo!

Bright blessings

Leanne x

Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Birthday to you Marian. Sharing your walks brings back so many memories. I lived in Lyme Regis for a short time when I was 10 years old ( 66 years ago) and I loved the beautiful countryside.

joared said...

Your narrative and the pictures are most enjoyable. Good you've kept yourself in shape for long hikes such as this. A very belated happy birthday wish to you.

Beverly said...

Happy Belated Birthday...I have not been visiting many blogs and found myself missing you, wondering what you were doing. So, you were having an awe inspiring walk for your birthday. I so enjoyed the pictures, since I will probably never get out of Tennessee in my life

Anonymous said...


I found your bloglink on the Feministe site and have enjoyed reading your writing. I hope you don't mind that I included your link in one of my posts.

Happy Belated Birthday.

Anonymous said...

Marian - what a joy to stumble into your corner of the world this morning. I love that you are going first and leaving cairns for us who will follow. I can imagine myself doing something spectacular on my 72nd birthday and you are living proof that I am not crazy :)

Anonymous said...

Well done and Happy belated Birthday
If you visit again we are near Combe Martin and Ilfracombe
Our cottages at Watermouth Cove are just 200 yards from the SW Coastal path and sea at watermouth Cove..Log burners..4 posters and pets welcome