Completing my walk around Cornwall in Gorran Haven on 12 September last year, I quickly realised it was too soon to hang up my hiking shoes. While it had been both physically and emotionally challenging, it also brought me closer to Kat. It really did feel like she was with me every step of the way. I noticed all the pretty flowers and mushrooms she would have pointed out, there was a helping hand on my back up the tiring ascents, and when it hurt, I was inspired to keep going, just had she had always done.
The south Devon coast turned out to be surprisingly different from Cornwall, but equally as beautiful. It was more remote than I imagined it would be, despite starting in the historic ocean city of Plymouth (you know the place, from where the Pilgrims set sail in 1620), and there were plenty of river crossings. On Day 1 from Cremyll (the south east corner of Cornwall) to Stoke Point, there were 3 ferries. Day 2 brought me to the River Erme. There was no bridge and no ferry, yet the green diamonds of a National Trail on the OS Map went straight across the river. There was a sign: ‘Crossing the Erme Estuary’ which explained that: ‘The River Erme can usually be waded for 1 hour either side of low tide…’ Unfortunately when I arrived at the cross point, the tide was too high so I did a 12km detour to cross further upstream. I did another long detour at the next river along, the Avon, but this time it was because the seasonal ferry was not running between Cockleridge and Bantham.
Thinking about all the wading Kat had done on the PCT, I kept wondering what the Erme River crossing would be like. And with the Avon River ferry running again for the 2021 season, I returned in May 2021. First redoing the Ringmore to Hope Cove stage, the 21.9km became an easy 11.6km walk, which took less than half the time – there’s a photo of the Bantham ferry across the Avon River below.
Next was the Erme River crossing, but in this case I didn’t redo the whole stage. Approaching the river from the Mothecombe side, despite the advice from a local that it was too deep, I cautiously made my way across, trousers rolled up to above the knee. The water was fast-flowing but my trousers stayed mostly dry. Taking a slightly different route back, the water was deeper, so it’s definitely worth picking a good line.
There were four other ferries on the trail (8 in total):
- Salcombe to East Portlemouth
- Dartmouth to Kingswear
- Starcross to Exmouth
- Shaldon to Teignmouth
Key stats (not including redoing the stage to use the Bantham ferry)
- Distance: 151 miles / 243 km
- Ascent: 7,772m 25,499 feet
- Total time on the trail: 60.5 hours over 9 separate days
A friend asked me what I think about when walking – I’m not one for listening to music or audio books – and I explained that it is a mixture of swirling thoughts and feelings:
– appreciating the beauty of the flowers, wanting to touch any moss, and then trying to capture a photo somewhere close to how Kat might have done so
– exclaiming ‘bunny rabbit’ or ‘squirrel’ whenever I saw one, just like Kat used to do
– thoughts of disbelief and confusion that Kat is no longer with us
– enjoying the views and saying it out loud.
But while the swirling is relentless, the physical exertion somehow channels some of the sadness and pain out of my body.
I dedicate every mile, every butterfly, every cooling breeze, every mushroom, every clump of moss, every river crossing, every stunning view, the joy, the pain and the experience to the love of my life, Katrina Davis. Keep following the arrows…