Saturday 14 March will always be a bitter sweet date. Although it was a day filled with utter joy and hilarity as I took the group for a glorious 7-mile hike around part of the South West coast path, it was also the last ramble before lockdown came into force. At this point it still wasn't clear if I could continue to take people out on rambles, but alas it wasn't long after this particular weekend that, with a very heavy heart, I had to cancel all booked in walks for the foreseeable future.
I miss walking with my fellow ramblers more than I can say. The joy it brings to organise and lead rambles across Cornwall, and the wonderful humans I am honoured to go adventuring with; it is certainly one of my favourite ways to spend time. The camaraderie between the group is heartwarming and the chatter and laughter I hear behind as I lead the way is one of my favourite sounds. I am incredibly lucky to have experienced many magical moments on the walks I've organised; from strangers at the start to friends by the end; the offer of a hand as you tentatively make your way down a steep stile; words of encouragement spattering the group as we make our way breathlessly uphill; sharing memories of previous walks and recommendations for future rambles. Being part of a walking group is incredibly special. I can't wait for the day when we pack up our rucksacks, tighten our laces and head out again; excited smiles all round and ready for a new adventure.
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Helen Keller
The majority of those who regularly join me on a walk will know to expect two things when heading out for a Cornish Ramble;
I will definitely go wrong somewhere and have to backtrack the group a few steps to take us the correct way,
There will be mud!
That's right folks (ignore point number 1 for now!), no matter how dry it's been, you can guarantee I will take the group out and we'll have to hop, skip and jump over muddy puddles or pull ourselves through boggy fields. The St. Just walk back in March was no exception. In fact, I think it might be a record breaker for the most mud on a walk since establishing Cornish Ramblings over four years ago!
"We sit in the mud...and reach for the stars." Ivan Turgenev
What I loved most about this particular walk was the laughter. It was a tough hike in places, with plenty of scrabbling up the sides of the cragged coast and thundering hearts as we attempted to catch our breath after a steep climb. But regardless, all I saw for the entirety of the ramble were reassuring smiles and satisfied eyes. This 7-mile hike took us from St. Just to Nanquidno and is graded moderate due to the steep climbs. But I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with the views once you reach the top.
As I briefly mentioned, the one thing you can always rely on me bringing to the table when coming for a Cornish Ramble, is mud. However, this ramble was on a whole new level where the mud scale is concerned. Each time I thought we'd made it out the other end of all the squelching and sinking, we'd round the corner to another section of boggy delights. It was never ending. There were four particular ladies who joined us for their first experience with Cornish Ramblings, and they were absolute joys who seemed to relish in every moment of the mud fiasco; thankfully, because I did wonder if they'd want to come back and join us again. They lifted everyone's spirits and helped me to get the more timid ramblers across the worst areas with shouts of 'you can do this' and 'you're almost there'. I have kept in touch with two of the four ladies during lockdown and we have been geeing one another up in the hopes of keeping positive about rambling together again soon. Here's what Shelley had to say of her first ever experience with the group;
"My first Cornish Ramble was a day of ups and downs, literally! I must have chosen to join the hilliest walk ever. But it was stunning, once I had got to the top of the next hill and finally caught my breath! I know this particular part of the coast fairly well, but this walk took me to places I had never seen as well as to some that brought back very fond memories.
Four of us met that day for the first time in preparation to walk together for a 15-mile coastal challenge, which sadly is on hold due to Covid-19. But new friendships have been formed and although we can't all walk together at the moment, we keep in touch and make each other laugh, keeping us buoyed up until we can.
My lasting memory from the walk was Jody's never failing positivity and enthusiasm in the face of the mud. Having made our way stumbling and laughing, some of us barefoot, through mud that topped our boots, I realised it paid off to be nearer the front of the group before more people traipsing through made it even boggier. I followed closely as Jody led us gallantly into the next field saying "it's okay, not too muddy". There was a noticeable sigh of relief as the message was passed back along the group. We stomped up the field for the final stretch, only to encounter another gateway full of mud. But Jody was not put off, she found a way around and by holding onto the gate post was able to elegantly swing out of view into the next field having successfully circumnavigated the worst of the mud. Being just behind her I heard the "oh" as she landed on the other side. How can one little noise convey so much? But those two letters told a story, a story of another mud experience yet to come.
The camaraderie as we all encouraged and supported each other, one at a time, to step off dry land into the quagmire was truly wonderful. With varying techniques attempted; slow and careful or as quick as possible, not one left the scene with clean boots (except the lady who took her boots off!). Every way led to squelches and squeals as the mud topped our boots again. But we all made it to dry land with cheers from our comrades. I will personally always be grateful to the gentleman, whose name I don't know, who caught me as I stumbled, preventing me from falling flat on my face into the delightful cowpat/mud mix I was wading through! When we finally got back to the start I was exhausted, but exhilarated and excited for our upcoming challenge.
Right now I just look forward to getting out on more adventures with Jody and our little walking gang. The power of walking, easy company and our beautiful county should never be underestimated. Thanks Jody, we will be back for more."
I think that wonderful testament and recollection of our time in St. Just perfectly sums this ramble up. It almost felt, strangely, like we knew it could be our last ramble as a group for a while. The joy between us all was palpable and stayed with me for a long while after we had completed the walk, said our fond farewells and went on our merry ways. Although I enjoy every single one of the rambles I organise as well as the people who come along, there was something special about the St. Just walk and it is one I will always remember fondly.
Although it may be a while before we can all go rambling as a group together again, I have many wonderful memories of the walks we have conquered already, and continue to share these over on the Cornish Ramblings Instagram page (be sure to follow!) to remind you of the many adventures we have had, and hopefully, the many more yet to come.
Watch this space...
"Jody is the most warm and receiving person you could possibly have to guide you on a walk. She effortlessly brings together a group of random people (who may or may not know each other ) and guides us all on a brilliant, laughter filled walk. The joy of not having to think of a plan, a route and just to be able to breathe in the scenery is pure gold. I look forward to many more walks with this fab woman." Clare Savage, one of the four mud musketeers.