Portreath – Hayle (12.4 miles)
Distance from Minehead – 226.9 miles / Distance to Poole– 405.4 miles
Today started well with beautiful headlands, dramatic cliffs, waves crashing against the rocks, seals playing in the coves and then the beautiful scene of Godrevy Island with its octagonal lighthouse. Then, after a picnic lunch in the sunshine (whilst also trying to hide from the mighty wind – not always an easy feat on an exposed area of headland!), an afternoon of sand loomed. Of all the surfaces to walk on sand is one of the worst. Particularly when you are in walking boots. A short dash across the sand in flip flops or bare feet might be relatively easy, but trekking across 3 miles of sand dunes to Hayle is truly horrible. Give me a steep cliff climb over sand any day.
In addition to the difficulty of walking on the stuff, sand also gets everywhere – into every nook and cranny and it causes irritations. One puff of wind on a sandy beach or dune and your eyes are gritty and sore, your sandwiches live up to their name, a layer of skin is removed from any exposed body parts and you’ll be finding sand wherever you go for days to come.
As I trudged up and down the undulating dunes (frequently being spiked at by the annoyingly prickly Marram grass) I found myself becoming more and more irritated and annoyed with this place – seriously are 3 miles of sand dunes really necessary? Why can’t someone put a path in that doesn’t go up and down all the time, which would hopefully eliminate the whole sand in the boot problem. What’s so special about this awful habitat anyway? And so on and so forth. By the time I reached Hayle I was a little grumpy and had totally forgotten all the great experiences of the morning.
I realised that there are two solutions to irritations – one positive and one not so positive. Oysters use an irritation to create something beautiful and something which can definitely be described as positive. Pearls can only be formed if something irritated the oyster. No irritation, no pearl. But if we have an irritation on our skin or our feet for example and we do nothing but let it fester, then what may have started out as a minor health issue can easily manifest into something serious. This reaction can be seen in so many cases of people who suffer from leprosy – the feeling loss that comes with leprosy means people may not realise that they even have an irritation and so don’t respond. After a long time of festering and the irritation getting worse and worse, their bodies can end up having serious health problems and may need reconstructive surgery or amputations.
In the same way when things irritate and annoy us (or perhaps it is just me who is so easily riled by small and insignificant issues) we have a choice. We can be like the oyster and create something positive out of it – speaking out against injustice, making changes in our communities, holding people in authority to account. One example of this is Rosa Parks who was so irritated at the treatment of black people in America that she took a stand, or rather a seat, and made something good come out of something bad.
Or perhaps we can choose to let these irritations fester and grow. We can decide to not forgive the people who have hurt us, not let a disagreement rest, not get over our irrational fears or dislikes. But just like the leprosy which is left untreated, nothing good can come out of this attitude. We will, if left unchecked, find ourselves filled with hatred and bile and essentially the people we end up hurting most will be ourselves.
So as I look back on today I thank God that I was physically able to walk over the extensive sand dunes, I praise him for his wonderful creation of such great variety and I am hugely thankful that tomorrow’s walk is sand free!