Striking Out For Cornwall

MindLetter post written by Dr Kitty Wheater.

Dear all,


I love a rainy Friday in August. Nothing says 'Scotland' quite like it. Close the windows on this damp summer day - especially if you're in bed with the 'rona - and dream of a sunny September further south...

a grassy pasture with a dirt trail running through it
Cornwall (South-West Coastal Path) - Photo by Kitty Wheater


Striking Out For Cornwall 

When I fractured my foot in January doing yoga (self-care is dangerous), it put paid to my fantasies of hiking the West Highland Way earlier this summer. But as I walk Hope in Holyrood or Hermitage, images of hiking trips past keep veering, sunnily, into the vistas of my imagination. The South-West Coastal Path – up, down, up, down – with my oldest friend; an accidental 33-km day en route to Stonehenge; walking towards blue mountains in California. I miss the sweating, uncomfortable, uncomplicated freedom of a really long walk; how simple the world becomes when your only purpose each day is to get to a certain point or pass; how bracingly you realise – because it’s so easy to forget – that you are a body in motion, not a brain floating in an ethereal vat. It’s no surprise, then, that when I realised the trains would be on strike the day before my sister’s wedding, I idly calculated how long it would take me to walk to Cornwall.  

I had booked a flight, and then a train. The other end of the country is far. Globalised travel or no, this is the kind of journey you fix in advance, at no small expense. You are at the mercy of the operators. When I hear the news, I begin to consider all the possible permutations of flight and bus and taxi and maybe the train the day before instead? But flight delays and airline reviews (bad. I am in trouble) and to keep the Airbnb reservation or not? And the casual coach reservation just in case, but it’s another thirty quid, and coach-sickness takes me right back to being twelve, and no-one needs that. The alerts go out to aunts and uncles across the southern counties. Are you driving past Exeter? Can you fit a Kitty?  

The long walk begins to appeal. I’m halfway through Cheryl Strayed’s Wild – again – and my striking dilemma, nested into my end-of-summer ennui, brings to mind all the friends in my bookshelves with whom I have ambled, six inches deep in mud. Harold Fry and his pilgrimage to Queenie. Down through the Borders, the Yorkshire Dales, land of James Herriot. I’d take in the Peak District for a disastrous petticoat and a glimpse of Pemberley. Perhaps give Birmingham a wide berth, but then Alys Fowler’s tale of kayaking on the canals could get me through, help rest the weary feet. Hope would love it: I can just see her sitting and watching from the boat as we glide along the water, head cocked, eyes darting. And then we are well and truly south, and (Cormoran) Strike himself rumbles into mind, driving London to St Mawes in a filthy storm for the sake of his own family, abandoning the car for waders and dinghies, washing up on a Cornish beach. My outfit would be ruined, but what an entrance.  

I think I'll be more Strike. I eye up my boots: seven days, says Google Maps; five hundred miles, all day and all night. If I’m to be there in time to see my wonderful sister walk down the aisle, I’d best be off. Life is complicated, but some things are very simple: find the certain point or pass, and steer by it; keep putting one foot in front of the other; get to your sister’s wedding. Use your imagination. Do what it takes. And take a book. 

I wish you all lovely weekends. 



A small tower in the foreground with path leading to it and flowers on one side of the path, along the coastline