A heartwarming and inspiring guest blog by Cambridge based blogger, Abbi Pitt. Abbi not only has a special affinity for our beloved Cornwall, but is also tackling the divine, and sometimes challenging, South West coast path with her side-kick, Dottie the Cockapoo.
To me Cornwall is my happy place. My place of escapism and therapy. It’s hard to put into words to describe just how much I love Cornwall. It’s the place where I’ve spent some of the happiest times of my life. It’s unique, nowhere else compares. I’m naturally drawn to the drama and atmosphere of the north coast. When I arrive, I take in that first breath of sea air and I just feel calm. I always feel like I have come home.
When I was approaching turning 30, I decided that I wanted to do something to mark this stage in my life. That something was to walk 30 miles of the coast path in Cornwall spread out across the year. To some, this may seem like a relatively small goal or distance but to me it was huge due to underlying health problems.
I was diagnosed as having Fibromyalgia at the age of 20, and then a little later as also having Sjorgren’s Syndrome. Fibromyalgia is a life changing, debilitating condition that causes widespread muscular pain and chronic fatigue. It also effects your bladder and digestive system, and can cause numbness, tingling, nausea and ‘fibro' fog. You can be talking and mid-sentence completely forget what you were saying. Sjorgren’s is an auto immune disorder where my once healthy immune system has turned and started attacking my body. Anxiety is also a big struggle for me. I have had panic attacks in the past and it’s really draining coping with this constant negative voice that gradually destroys any feelings of self-worth.
I always thought that walking a distance on the coast path would be impossible but I was determined. The main challenge is pain and how my muscles can tire really quickly with fatigue. I knew that I would need to improve my fitness, so I started going swimming once a week to help with that. I also researched the things I would need to buy. I made sure I bought clothing that would keep me warm and that was also breathable, a comfortable backpack, a trekking pole for support and a hydration pack as keeping hydrated was key.
I planned which walks I wanted to do and used an online distance measurer to help. One walk I knew I really wanted to do was from Port Isaac to Port Quin. I knew this was a really challenging section of coast path and that I would need to build up to it both physically and mentally.
The first walk I did was from Daymer Bay to Polzeath as this was an easy one to start with. It felt exhilarating being out on the coast path. I was in pain and exhausted, but I was in my happy place and it didn’t matter. I was now seeing Cornwall in ways I had never seen before by getting myself on the path. It was like I was seeing it with a fresh pair of eyes.
The next walk was from Holywell Bay to Crantock. The most challenging part of this one was walking in the dunes at the beginning of the walk as it was so tough on my legs. It was sunny, the wind was strong and I nearly got blown over a couple of times but it didn’t matter. It just felt amazing being out on the path and I seemed to cover quite a distance quite quickly and this really boosted my confidence.
Another challenge of walking with Fibromyalgia is the importance of pacing yourself. My plan was to take each mile at a time and have a rest at each mile point, but I was enjoying myself so much this didn’t really happen, and I regretted it the next day as I had pretty much pulled every muscle in my body.
The next walk I did was from Port Isaac to Port Quin. This was the big one and it pushed me so much physically and mentally. It was tough. There were points where I wondered if I had pushed myself too far and that was a scary feeling when I had no choice but to keep going. I had to keep telling myself that I could do it as I knew that if my body was tiring, I needed to keep myself motivated mentally to keep going. The sheer number of steps and climbing involved meant it took me a long time. What would normally take someone healthy 2-3 hours, took me over 6! I couldn’t have done it without my faithful Cockapoo, Dottie. She knew the moments when I was struggling and she would give me a lick or tap me with her consoling paw as if to say, “you can do it Mummy!”
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I reached Crantock and Port Isaac after those walks. I cried happy tears and I don’t think I have ever felt so alive. It just felt incredible and I was buzzing with adrenaline even though my body felt so weak. It gave me such a confidence boost because I had just achieved what had once felt impossible. I think it also felt more emotional because my late father loved the outdoors. He suffered with terrible anxiety and depression and his coping mechanism was to walk and be outside. It felt like I was now following in his footsteps, doing something that I knew would’ve made him so proud.
I loved getting to see Cornwall in a new way and it proved to me just how important Cornwall is to my happiness and mental well-being. I feel it cares and nurtures me when I am there and it just keeps on giving each time I go. Thank you Cornwall - I love you.