There is something about books involving long walks and getting away from everything which appeal to me. Who hasn’t wished they could pack a bag, walk out the door and just keep walking. A little like Harold in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. But that is a short lived fantasy only relevant when the kids are creating havoc and the dog has been sick on the living room carpet. For Raynor and her husband Moth it felt as if this walk was the only choice they had left. They have lost everything; their home and financial security, and Moth has been diagnosed with a rare degenerative condition. Rather than spend nights sleeping on friends’ floors and days desperately trying to get a council house, they decided to walk and camp the coastal path in the far South West of the UK – all 630 miles of it.
I read this nearly 6 weeks ago and given that I can still remember chunks of it, it definitely had an effect on me, even though it is yet another story about finding yourself and discovering what is important in your life i.e. not material possessions. I enjoyed it, maybe because we were heading to Cornwall for a summer holiday or maybe because writers and walking grabs my attention, but I do have issues with it.
Winn keeps reminding us that they have lost everything and she is going to lose her husband. We know. We read the first couple of chapters. I sympathise with her but it becomes repetitive and self-indulgent. I also feel that more details and history of the places they walk through would make a book with more substance. Think of Olivia Laing’s To the River, W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, Robert MacFarlane’s The Wild Places or Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. In fact, when we were in Cornwall we walked a little along the coastal path, it is beautiful and passes through so many interesting places full of folklore, wildlife and wonderful scenery. I don’t want to do Winn a disservice as she did show us this, I just wanted more.
Overall, I would recommend it as a light read but if I wasn’t going on holiday to Cornwall and hadn’t just finished a relevant university module, I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed it quite as much as I did.