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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Shayfer

Shayfer's Fire - 'The Salt Path'

I'm a fairly avid reader. If I could see to read by an open camp blaze, that'd be a very fine thing but the ambience of the fire is not necessarily the best reading light.

'The Salt Path' by Raynor Winn is a true story. It's about a late middle aged couple with grown up kids who, via false friends, poor investments, pitiless bureaucrats and bad luck, lose their beloved Welsh farm. A few days later, her husband Moth, is diagnosed with a terminal brain disease which will affect the rest of his body.

With nothing to lose except their sanity, they decide on a crazy option while Moth still has his bodily strength - they will walk all 630 miles of the south west path and, being chronically short of money, will do wild camping on the way, ie they will pitch their tent wherever they can whatever the weather.

The south west path takes in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset and features some of the most beautiful and scenic countryside in the UK. But walking it with a full kit when well past your prime is fraught with danger to life and limb. On the way they encounter crippling exhaustion, sunburn, desperate hunger, dehydration, drenching, bitter night time cold, reckless dogs, thieving seagulls, threats and insults as well as Moth's initial physical deterioration.

They also encounter stunning scenery, soaking in the sun's rays to amazing views, astounding sunsets, swimming in the ocean, peregrine falcons, badgers and seals, the boundless generosity of strangers and the innate and profound knowledge that this crazy trek is hardening their bodies while softening their outlook on a world which has, in some respects, treated them rather poorly.

I won't add spoilers. I will say that they are a remarkable couple, traditional, quite English, open to anything the world throws at them or gives them, determined and, as a couple, very loving. I found their story and their ability to overcome adversity very inspirational. I'm looking forward to reading her second book , 'Wild Silence'.

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