Coast Path

The following poem considers the experience, and personal growth of a lone female, hiking a long-distance coast path for the first time.

It reflects the burden of fear, the brutality of the elements, and the engagement of resilience, resulting in the quiet satisfaction of achievement.

Lone female, sat on a cliff top with sea ahead and a sky beyond. Sun is setting.
The Isle of Portland section of the South West Coast Path

Coast Path

“Alone? Surely not? Not if I were you”.

Their shock and fear lingers and trails with me,

as if attached to my soles by an invisible fuse

ignited at any given opportunity.

They seem perplexed by the possibility.

Aghast at the audacity.

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Those first days.

Tense and cautious.

Tarnished by the fear of others.

Relieved that the enormity of planning has ceased.

Excited and apprehensive at what lies ahead.

The Unknown… the terrain… my ability… the next sleeping spot…

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…oh the sleeping spots!

Such variety that makes my heart sing.

Pitches of perfection: flat with freshly nibbled blades,

decorated with tell-tale dark, dry beans.

Evidence to expect the sounds of early morning munches and snuffles,

brushing around the dewy, radiant wall.

Undulating landscape, with supreme plateaus and overhangs

that stretch out longingly over the ocean.

Dunes and tall grasses

encompassing and protective of all that passes,

or sleeps,

within its boundary.

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Fluid hues of blue, grey, green.

Sparkles dancing like fireflies on a watery stage.

Feet throbbing, yet heart fully inflated.

So much to absorb.

So much to attend to.

Housekeeping.

Regimented.

Everything has its place.

Learning each day.

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Alone?

Yes.

Lonely?

No.

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Breathe in the salt

and the intense marine aroma of seaweed breaking down.

In and out and repeat.

Routine is king, yet arrangements rarely in place.

The Unknown haunts and thrills.

The path will provide.

Crumpled wet rocks, pebbles and glassy grains

shimmer erratically in the sunlight.

Resting on the shore

before their next turbulent journey begins again.

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Alone.

In awe.

Mesmerised.

Focused.

Never alone.

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Violent winds,

tugging deliberately at straps; at body; at pack.

Relentless.

Sheer drops, calling, pulling, spinning.

Toes gripping terra firma,

clinging to survival.

Eyelids lower,

breathe,

resist.

Reaffirm and challenge the offensive.

In headfirst.

Breathe.

Crashing waves,

deafening with the ferocity

of movement against the cliffs,

dropping into a brief moment of tranquillity

as the shingle gently and obediently agitates back into line,

before the next merciless surge breaks the respite.

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It drops.

It recedes.

All is still.

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The night unfolds a cool, damp cloak

around everything permitted to lay under its spell.

The fear of stepping into the blackness has gone,

leaving a crouching figure in the wee hours gazing up in wonder.

The vast sea of stars above reflects gracefully in the sea of moonlit sparkles below.

No longer afraid of The Unknown

and a rising,

billowing consciousness of the fresh new soul inside.

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“Surely not?”, they said.

I surely did.

Zoe Langley-Wathen – September 2018

Female backpacker stands in front of a finger post smiling, having just completed a long-distance trail of 630 miles.
Zoe at the end of the South West Coast Path, Shell Bay, Dorset in 2011

For more information about walking the South West Coast Path, whether sections or the whole 630 miles, please make a point of visiting their website by clickety-clicking here.

… and just in case you want to hear the poem ‘Coast Path’ being read out loud…
HeadRightOut
HeadRightOut

1 Comment

  1. Lynn
    May 11, 2020 / 11:23 pm

    Thank you Zoe . Great reading …….amazing poem …. brave woman. Certainly echos some of my feelings when I first wild camped and went on a long distance walk …. especially that feeling of being in the middle of nowhere alone in a tiny tent on first nights ! As well as that special feeling when you set out in the early morning and experience the landscape and nature unfolding from its sleep and feeling privileged to be there in that moment .

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