There’s a sound to breaking waves when they’re close, a sound like nothing else. The background roar is unmistakable, overlaid by the swash of the landing wave and then the sucking noise of the back-wash as it retreats. It was dark, barely a speck of light, but even without seeing it I recognized the strength of the swash and knew it must be close. I tried to be logical. We’d camped well above the high-tide line; the beach shelved away below us and beyond that was the water level: it couldn’t reach us; we were fine. I put my head back on the rolled-up jumper and thought about sleep. No, we weren’t fine, we were far from fine. The swash and suck wasn’t coming from below, it was right outside.Opening paragraph from the Prologue – The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
There is something very beautiful about this book. The writing itself is a given, the descriptive journey we are taken on as this inspiring and courageous couple walked the 630-miles of the South West Coast Path is without doubt incredible. The edition I have is a 27th print run and it is a Sunday Times bestseller. Many, many people have read this book. I’m not sure what made me pick it up now, perhaps it is my own desire at times to just walk, that need to breathe the fresh air, take in our world around us and to try to make sense of things.
So, what’s it about? The blurb on the back says:
Just days after Raynor Winn learned that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, was terminally ill, they lost their home and livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they impulsively decided to walk the 630-mile South Coast path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall. Living wild and free, at the mercy of sea and sky, they discovered a new, liberating existence – but what would they find at the journey’s end?
I think one of the things that I loved most about this book is the way it brought a different viewpoint. Raynor gives you the darker side of society, the side that closes their eyes to homelessness. She helps us to open our eyes to real life, not just the romantic touristy, rose-tinted glasses view that we can often have but the harsh reality of it all. Yet it is still beautiful out there – we just need to open our eyes to it and remember that we are all guests on this earth. We need to be kind to it and to each other.
The book was written in a world before Covid. Time moves on, troubles arrive in different guises and our faith in our kind is often tested but there is still healing to be found in the world around us. I found this book incredibly uplifting. Yes it made me feel angry, angry for the injustice of things but I also witnessed moments of extreme kindness when good overcomes the bad. Small moments at times but it is these moments that remain the most memorable now that I have finished reading… and that gives me hope.
If you enjoy memoirs that take you away from your own life but also inspire the way you too live, then this is a worthy read indeed. It is also in many ways a love story. A story of the power of nature and the power of love. How sometimes you have to reach the very bottom to find just what you are capable of and to filter out the good from the bad. If you don’t believe in soulmates then this book might just change your mind. How two people bound together by love and life survive the very worst – together. It is a story of great loss but also how getting up and putting one foot in front of the other may just bring you out on the other side.
I have always loved the West Country and this book has just increased that love. I now very much look forward to reading The Wild Silence to see where Moth and Raynor’s journey took them next.