Seatown – Abbotsbury (12.4 miles)
Distance from Minehead – 564 miles / Distance to Poole– 66.9 miles
Today was not one of my favourite days to be honest with you. I was late starting as I needed to first go to the bank and do a few errands – it seems that two months walking the coast path is no excuse for not paying bills! So as I climbed the hills out of Seatown towards West Bay I felt as though I was on catch-up duty. No one was walking with me today and if anything the backup drivers of the day (my parents) would rather me have finished a little later at Abbotsbury. This is because they had to travel some 104 miles to get there from their home in Cornwall, and it wasn’t the famous swannery that they were eager to see!
My parents have always been incredibly supportive and have encouraged me in most things I have wanted to do, including driving me to London in the dead of night so that I could go to both my 5th year ball and the MAYC London Weekend. When I told them of my vague idea of walking the whole South West Coast Path in one go, they rolled their eyes, rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. Without them I would never have got as far as Abbotsbury that’s for sure!
West Bay was packed full of holiday makers who, like me, were desperately willing the sun to come out. As I passed through I envied them sat on their beach towels or at outside tables, all enjoying a relaxing lunch overlooking the glorious coastal scene. They were not having to march along at breakneck speed to get to the next place and tick another stage off the list. They were not weary from over 500 miles of walking. They did not have to contend with an overexcited dog who can smell food on the air at ½ mile. Oh yes, by the time I hit the shingle that marked the beginning of the seemingly endless Chesil Beach, I was in a foul mood and ready to bite the head off anyone who came close.
This mood obviously made me march as I seemed to approach Abbotsbury well before schedule – instead of the 6 ¼ hours predicted it would take me, I was there in 4 ½! My parents wouldn’t be there for ages, so I decided to get a cup of tea whilst sitting and waiting. But with my meagre £1.70 in my purse (yes despite doing financial chores this morning, I totally forgot to get any cash out) there was only one place I could afford a cuppa. As I sat outside with my tea the rainclouds gathered and I started to get wet. This is when I cursed the ‘joys’ of dog ownership!
Time ticked on and I thought it was about time to hunt for mum and dad, although I now realised that with no mobile phone reception in the town, reuniting might be a bit tricky. Eventually we met up after randomly meeting mum walking up and down a side road. I would like to say I greeted her with a smile and a hug, but a terse word and a frown would be nearer the mark. Yet as we walked back to the car to find my dad holding out the day’s finish banner with pride, my mum patiently listened to my rants, which now sounded hollow and self obsessed, and quietly told me of the terrible journey they’d had to get there, and the worry of not finding me because of the lack of mobile signal. I suddenly realised how selfish I had been.
My mum and dad have given up the best part of 2 months to ferry me around, to support me, to wash my sweaty clothes, to provide me with food, to encourage me, to chivvy me on, to take my tiredness and bad moods, to hand out leaflets, to talk to strangers and to strange people, and to love me. They have done all of this wanting nothing more than to see their daughter succeed. As a huge fan of pro road cycling, I watch with awe at how cyclists will give their all on a stage, riding at the front and in the wind just to protect their team mate and enable him a win. Mark Cavendish, the fastest cycling sprinter in the world, cannot win without his team giving their all for the whole of the stage before the final sprint to the finish line. Yet they will place far down in the rankings. As I watch my parents cheering me on as I walk from place to place, as I am wrapped in a warm embrace next to the banner, I understand a little more of what it is to give your all for someone else to succeed. It is a real honour and privilege for me to be that person, and I hope that I have learned enough from their great example that I might be able to support others in their successes.