Having now walked almost 20% of the South West Coast Path, I have lost none of my enthusiasm for the walk itself, nor my ambition to complete it. I have been fortunate, for most of the sections I’ve walked, to have someone to walk with, although this has not always been the same person. The variety of companions has made me realise just how differently people can approach the same task, and, to date, I’ve identified three distinct types of walker.
The route marcher. This person has a goal – the end of the walk for the day – and nothing will detract from achieving that aim. He or she walks purposefully, at a good pace, and even stops for eating are strictly regulated. They are not necessarily the most companionable of companions, and you won’t always have time to admire the scenery, but they certainly help you get the job done. I walked the opening section of the SWCP with a route marcher – we made excellent time!
The frequent stopper. No surprises; in contrast, this person makes regular stops along the way. SeaMoor Photographer is a frequent stopper, in his case, to take the lovely scenic photographs that grace his hand-made cards. Others may also stop to admire the view, or just to have a breather, especially on some of the steeper sections of a walk. When climbing to the top of Golden Cap (the highest point on the southern section of the SWCP, in Dorset), I decided to stop for an early lunch part-way up, simply to have a rest! SMP has accompanied me on several sections of the SWCP – you can work out which ones if you visit the galleries on the website!
The walk and chat-ter. Several of my friends fall into this category, and very good company they are. No topic is off-limits, and I have enjoyed philosophical discussions as well as catching up with friends’ news, all whilst traversing the miles. The amount of conversation is usually in indirect proportion to the steepness of the ascent, but flat sections are particularly ideal, and you can enjoy a good laugh about the ascents, once you’ve safely reached the top. One friend and I still refer to the first section that we walked together as the ‘never-ending walk’, the name coming about because it contained the ‘never-ending hill’. It has given us much to laugh about since, and a ready comparison to anything else we’ve tackled – it is the barometer by which we measure all other walks and hills.
In contrast, I have also walked a couple of sections solo. Apart from the possible advantage that no-one disagrees on which way the path goes, or on when (or if) to stop, personally I always prefer a companion for my walks. But as to which of the types I would choose? – if a friend is kind enough to walk with me, I really don’t mind how they do it!