South West Coast Path: Once, Twice, Again.

I asked myself, “what next?” And sometimes “what’s the point?” Summer approaches its natural end. The temperature, finally, starts to drop. Darkness closes in. Leaves silently turn from green to brown. I’ve almost run out of time off. I went all in early. My calendar is empty. I’ve spent my money on time. The gamble paid off. I lie awake at night remembering the sunrise in Torres Del Paine. I can still feel the cold of the Arctic Ocean in my bones. The point is, there’s still a little more time. 

I read somewhere that one of the secrets to happiness is having something to look forward to. I can’t truly complain about an empty calendar, I don’t have a free weekend until October. Three of them are booked out with mini-adventures. The biggest of which has me make a return to the South West Coast Path. Before that, it’s back to the Peak District. Afterwards, down to Cornwall. I’ve started to push a little harder. More time outside. Remembering what a comfortable distance feels like. Bathing in the green, dappled sunlight of the beech and hazel woods of the Surrey Hills. Feeling the gentle burn in my calves. The occasional spark in my knees that remind me to take it a little easier. Those 630 miles aren’t going to walk themselves, though hundreds of others will walk them. More than likely, this will be the last time the camping gear gets strapped on and loaded up this year. One last chance to chase summer. Unless it rains, it’s going to rain isn’t it? 

I’ve planned to do 60km in four days. The distance doesn’t phase me. Nor does the rise and fall of the coast. I have already walked further, for longer and survived this year. This is another warm up, another practise run for what comes next, I said confidently. Tent. Check. Sleeping pad. Check. Sleeping bag. Check. Do I need that pillow? Down jacket wrapped in a fleece. Check. The dream is smaller, lighter, better. Whatever the opposite of that Daft Punk song is. I looked for campsites in the hope they won’t be closed at the end of the summer holidays. One of the websites filled me with dread. Two night minimum. I would have to phone someone and check. I put the calls in, booked pitches on campsites. For some reason Britain has developed sites with swimming pools, gymnasiums, restaurants and bars. I’m pleased to have a hot shower, but I don’t really need more than a slice of flat ground and access to clean water. I haven’t decided if it’s an attempt to glamourise living in a tent for a week, or to keep people out of the tents for as long as possible. Either way, I already miss the basic camps of Patagonia and the beaches of Norway. It’s another question I keep asking myself, how much room do you need to live. My tent might be sitting room only, and it would be nice to be sheltered while cooking if it’s raining but i don’t need a spa while I’m on foot. Ok maybe after I’ll take one at the end of the walk. Once the confirmations came through, I realised I had two campsites for one night. Back on the phone, struggle to find my booking, hope that everything is fine. The plans are set in concrete and dumped off the end of a pier. It doesn’t matter if it rains now, I’ll already be wet.

The beginning is easy. Where to start? I have an end of the line. A walked section of the path that comes to a stop. Lyme Regis. Where I began last time. At least I already know how to get there. I’ll be walking along the coast to Teignmouth, where there is a train station. This makes it both convenient to leave immediately as I arrive and to return to the path next time. I’ll be stopping in Beer (I had to really), Ladram Bay, and Cofton, assuming I can figure out how to cross the River Exe. Taking an idea and making it a reality has been a theme of this year. Now I’m ready and looking forward to spending more time outside, time alone. There isn’t much that compares to a few days on your feet, with the weight of your immediate future on your back. All that remains is to pack.

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