How the coastal cliffs became our home on The Salt Path

Just days after Raynor Winn learns that her husband of 32 years is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their business. In The Salt Path, she explains how walking the 630 mile long South West Coast Path changed her perception of 'home,' and led to a journey of salvation.


Across the highest cliffs in England, through deep-wooded valleys, along rain-beaten beaches and salt-scoured headlands, the wild strength of the ancient landscape became the reason to go on. As our blisters hardened and our skin turned to leather, the weight of the pain and loss that we carried began to lighten. No longer jagged rocks, more smooth sea-worn stones. It was still there, but a little easier to carry. I had thought, at the start of the journey, that the walk would give me time and space to think things through and come to terms with what had happened. But I’d barely thought at all. Each step was its own reason, and the reason for the next. The journey had become a walking meditation, and as it did my thoughts were released. No longer clinging to the past or despairing over the future, tentatively, shyly, I began to let hope in.

Moth had found the early days of the walk almost unbearably hard. Just getting out of the tent each day and putting his rucksack on would exhaust him. We’d walked over two hundred miles when we reached Portheras Cove, a hidden bay at the back of the ocean where we pitched the tent on the beach and shared the sea with a pod of dolphins. I’d noticed that Moth seemed stronger, more upright, more sure during the last week, but I hadn’t dared to hope. When we picked up our tent, fully erected with the sleeping bags still inside and ran up the beach away from the incoming tide, he was strong in a way we’d been told he would never be again. Safe on dry sand, his determination in that wild shattered landscape allowed that spark of hope to fizz into life.

Living at the edge, between the sea and sky, we were held back from the edge of despair. On Lizard Point, the most southerly rocks of the mainland, as swallows massed in their hundreds ahead of their long journey south, I realized that like them I could instinctively feel where I should be. I had begun the walk believing that home was the stone walls that surrounded me. But now, on a foot wide path, burnt by sun and wind, battered by rain and life, I knew differently. Home is what makes you feel strong and safe. Home is a state of mind. I put my rucksack back on and followed Moth’s footprints in the dust. Home already.


Watch: Raynor Winn talks about the Salt Path


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