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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

So you mean that the first ever long distance walk that you ever done is the longest in the UK

Written by  Oct 01, 2022

We walk, and we walk. Every day another 10 miles pass under our feet. We have managed to walk the whole of the north coast of the county of Devon and pass into the most south westerly county in England, Cornwall. Our legs have walked over 150 miles. And the path before us still holds 500 miles.

This is an adventure. Every day a new challenge and a fresh opportunity.

Now the people of the coast of Cornwall, and to a certain extent Devon, are, well, let’s just say arty. There is a freedom, or liberty, that they cherish. This can be seen in every walk of life. “Why would we need your ID or passport, or even address,” said the lady at the first camp site we stayed in. “Your name is enough,” she replied. “But I could give you any name, I could say Elton John,” I replied. “You could, do you want me to write Elton John then;” she smiled.

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This has been a pattern that has continued in every form of accommodation, from camp sites to hotels. And not only has nobody asked for my ID nobody has even given me a receipt after I paid them. And I’m not just talking about camp sites. “Would you like a copy of your receipt?” Is a question that echos after you make any purchase, whether in a supermarket or pub. And I haven’t seen anyone yet take the receipt. “If you did that in my country you’d be breaking the law,” said my wife to now shop assistant. “That seems a little strict,” smiled the assistant.

Cornwall has this mystical feel. It always has had for me. The long Celtic roots, the isolation from the rest of the country, the dramatic coastline, the traditions that live on to this day, the Cornish language (yes, they have their own language although not so many people use it) and the fact that they believe in fairies. OK, that last one might be a slight exaggeration, but there is certainly a love for the mythical. Allegedly the home of King Arthur and Merlin, and by the time you read this text I will have passed Merlin’s cave and the site of the round table. And you can see that this “final county” of the UK and its people are almost like island people, living on an island on an island.

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There are of course similarities with Dalmatia. Firstly, it’s a region that relies largely on tourism. And every camp site or pub or restaurant that we have been in has been packed mostly with tourists. There are quite a few Americans. Which isn’t a huge surprise as just as Dalmatia a large section of the population moved abroad looking for a better way of life, and the promise of the New World was just as bright for the Cornish as the Dalmatians. Just over half a million people live in Cornwall and around 2 million live in the US, a further million in Australia, all sounds rather familiar doesn’t it.

These are proud people. They are tough. Most work on the land, either on farms or forestry or fishing. It is a county without one mile of motorway. Without one football club in any of the major leagues. A county that traditionally votes Liberal. And a county that has its own political party that are fighting for independence. It has that “don’t touch us and we we won’t touch you feel.”

And it is beautiful on a biblical scale. The coastline is monumental. And the paths that we are walking go from treacherous to down right punishing.

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“How many long distance walks have you done before,” asked one clearly experienced walker with legs like an oak tree. “Have you done Scotland or the Alps? I did the Camino de Santiago just a few months ago and it was much, much easier than this,” he continued. “This is our first walk really,” I sheepishly replied. He laughed, a thunderous laugh.

“So you mean that the first ever long distance walk that you ever done is the longest in the UK, in the top five hardest in Europe and one if the most challenging I have done in my 30 years of walking,” he looked a little shocked. 

We aren’t athletes, to be honest before I started this I wasn't even that fit, and we are both a long way from being long distance walkers. But somehow we are. We keep going. We keep surprising ourselves, believe me nobody is more shocked than me that I have gone so far. We have walked over 200 kilometres so far, and we were doing it with a dog.

Now, walking with a dog is around 20 percent harder than walking on your own. They run off after sheep and birds (Toto’s new love is pheasants) they need food and water, you have to make sure that accommodation is pet-friendly, they poop, they bark and they need looking after. 20 percent harder but 100 percent more enjoyable. Toto is the leader of our pack. He cuddles with everyone. And it makes talking to people much easier, as they all want to know what breed he is. “Oh, where can I buy one like him,” is a question we often hear.

And the simplicity of life is being highlighted to us in full focus. We have been on the road for over two weeks, and in that time we have both been using clothes in threes, three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, three T-Shirts, you get the idea. Basically everything that we need to live with is on our backs, we are like two human snails. And are we missing anything? No! Life is as complicated or as simple as you make it. And believe me it can be very, very simple. 

Follow out travels on - Travels With Toto 2022 

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