The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Review published on May 18, 2018.

The bad news came fast, Raynor Winn’s husband had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, they had just lost a court case even though they had the evidence that they were not liable for debts and now the bailiffs were hammering on the door to take their farm and livelihood away. Their only income would be £48 per week. It is at times like these that some people would have a breakdown or consider a more permanent end to the problems; they didn’t. Inspired by the book 500 Mile Walkies by Mark Wallington they decided that as they were homeless anyway they may as well walk the south coast path.

With the precious little money they have, they buy a new lightweight tent, a couple of sleeping bags and new rucksacks and drive the van to Minehead in Somerset as that is where all the guidebooks begin. Moth’s condition of corticobasal degeneration or CBD, meant that the doctor had advised him to take it easy and not to overdo it; probably not attempt a 630-mile walk around the spectacular coastline of the south-west. The first part of the footpath is probably the toughest section with the high cliffs and steep paths and it is a struggle for both, but Moth for in particular. They have no money for official campsites, so wild camping was the way to go, necessitating that they found a place out of sight and were packed up before they could be discovered in the morning.

They met all sorts of people on the walk, but telling those that they met that they were homeless would a lot of the time cause a lot of prejudice and they would be shunned, called tramps or worse. Sitting eating a shared pack of budget noodles when others are stuffing-in pasties and ice creams is quite soul destroying. However, there were others who would be prepared to help, providing hot drinks, paying for food, and even a millionaire wine importer who wined and dined them for an evening. One man they met on a cliff path told them about salted blackberries, picked right at the very end of the season just before they turned when the flavour was most intense and dusted with the salt from the sea they gorged on them whenever they could find them. They had completed a fair chunk of the route, before stopping and staying with a friend, earning a little money and starting to plan a future once again. Rather than head back to where they had stopped, they came to Poole and started from the other end walking through the Jurassic Coast back to the place that they had stopped a few months previously.

This is a heartwarming and inspiring story of a couples fight against a life-changing legal decision that left them totally penniless. Winn writes with an honesty that is quite moving, she is open with her feelings and her thoughts about the people she meets on their walk and the events that led to them walking. There are some moments in here that may make you cry as well as some amusing anecdotes that will have you chuckling. What does come across throughout the book is the inner strength of Raynor and Moth, to overcome a financial situation that most could not recover from, the way that Moth manages to use the walk to improve his health and that being in the right place at the right time can offer an opportunity that can be life-changing. If there is one thing that can be taken from this, it is that there is nothing human optimism can’t overcome.

Paul Cheney 4/4

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
Michael Joseph 9780241349649 hbk Mar 2018

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