Exmouth – Sidmouth (13.1 miles)
Distance from Minehead – 520.8 miles / Distance to Poole– 103.9 miles
Today, just 20 minutes after I started at the Exmouth Ferry, I was invited into a beach hut. In fact as I walked along the sea front I was greeted by 14 folk all crammed around the beach hut, drinking coffee and eating biscuits. They had come out this morning to greet me and wish me well as I travelled along my path. It was a glorious sight, and despite having hardly walked at all by that point, I enjoyed sharing a cuppa and a couple of chocolate biscuits. Toby also enjoyed the biscuits, but I hasten to add his were chocolate free!
One of the most frequently asked questions I get as I walk around is, ‘So where do you stay?’ I personally could not afford two months of B&B’s and there is no way that I think people who are giving money to sponsor me, should in fact be paying for my night’s sleep and a bowl of porridge in the morning! So I have mostly been staying with supporters of The Leprosy Mission or friends of supporters. Or my parents – having them living in Cornwall has been more than handy! But mostly it has been supporters. It is one way which folk, who may not have been able to join me on a walk, have been able to support me in a most invaluable way. I have met so many new people and I am most appreciative of these lovely folk opening their homes to me. Homes of all shapes and sizes, with perhaps the beach hut (yes I know I didn’t stay here overnight, but I was welcomed in just the same) being the smallest so far!
In fact the beach hut, with it’s lack of running water and electricity and it’s small and simple space, reminds me a lot of the homes that I was invited into during a trip to India about 18 months ago. These low cost houses were incredibly basic compared to our standard of house, and some of them were not much bigger than a beach hut either. But I, in spite of being a stranger and a foreigner who didn’t even speak the language, was welcomed in as though I was a long lost friend or relative. I was offered food, which was meant to feed a whole family, and I was offered friendship and love by people whose names I couldn’t pronounce. It was incredibly humbling, especially as I kept flashing back to my behaviour at welcoming guests.
I like people coming to visit and I welcome them gladly into my home. But I have been known to push the best biscuits to the back of the cupboard and get out only the ones which need eating up. I have found myself hiding some cake because if I share it out amongst my guests, there isn’t enough for me. I will sometimes give people the mugs I like least because I don’t want them using my special ones. How ridiculous is that? How stupid, irrational and selfish is that kind of behaviour? (no need to respond to those, as I already know the answer!)
I have been overwhelmed by the welcome and hospitality that has been offered and given to me as I travel around the South West Coast Path, just as I was overwhelmed by the welcome and hospitality offered to me in India. It has challenged me that it is not about how big or flashy your house is, and believe me I have seen some AMAZING houses so far, it is not about what food you prepare or in what tableware you serve it in, it is not about the softness of the bed or the water pressure of the shower. It is about the manner in which it is given. When we offer hospitality with love and generosity of spirit, then that is a good welcome. When we hold back and save a little bit of ourselves along with the things we don’t want to share, then that is no welcome at all.
So when I reach home and have slept long enough to have people to come and visit me, I hope that they will be overwhelmed by my attitude of welcome…..just as long as they use the right mugs!