Action Nan: My 300 mile walk around Cornwall

Pat Smith, aka Action Nan promoting her walk in full RNLI kit before her walk

Exploring the remote and wild spaces on our Cornish coast has offered enjoyment  and inspiration to many of us, particularly in recent times when venturing out for walks has been a way to escape the challenging nature of lockdown and the COVID-19 restrictions.

In April 2016, aged 67, I was fortunate enough to set out on my own adventure on the Cornwall coast path when I undertook a walk of around nearly 300 miles around the Cornish section of the South West Coast Path to raise funds for the RNLI.


Pat begins her walk at the Devon / Cornwall border


It is a varied and spectacular coastline. Some stretches such as the coast path near the north Devon border and around Penwith are (quite rightly in my opinion) considered to be some of the most challenging sections of the entire British coast path.

There are almost vertical slopes, enormous boulders to climb over, streams to cross and bogs to sink in.  There is danger — the risk of cliff falls, or human falls!

I walked the path continuously over 22 days,  Averaging 15 miles a day with no breaks. I started out at the north of the Cornwall / Devon border near Bude and finishing at the Cremyll Ferry on the Rame Peninsula following the tips in Paddy Dillon’s ‘Walking the SW coast path’, the SW Coast path website with their very useful distance calculator and the relevant OS maps. My one concession to my age was that I was not going to carry a heavy rucksack or camp. I needed a comfy bed and a hot shower or bath to equip me for the day ahead. Each night I stopped at a B&B where my bags had been transported thanks to the wonderful ‘Walk the Trail’ company in Helston who organised all my accommodation and luggage transfers.


Support en route from Bude RNLI team


On occasions friends walked with me or met me on the way. Often I was alone. Like any adventure there were moment of sheer bliss when I looked out over the peaceful seas and blue skies, and it felt as though I had the whole world to myself. One of the most powerful memories is seeing the distance ahead and behind me laid out in a linear line so I was constantly reminded of the distances I had  yet to cover or had left behind. I remember certain features such as the satellite dishes at Bude and  Pendeen lighthouse which featured in the landscape for days. There were also days when my hips and feet hurt, the wind howled and I fell in the mud and cried from sheer exhaustion.

Each night I recorded all of this in a diary ( the last thing I wanted to do as exhaustion set in!) which I sent through to my team of volunteers, waiting to hear from me so they could share the journey on social media, helping our efforts to raise what would eventually be over £8,000 for the RNLI.

The result is this journal which records almost step by step, my walk around the Cornwall coast. I’ve included stories of the many characters and intriguing discoveries I made along the way.


Pat's Action Nan doll kept her company along the way


I’ve shared tmy journal online in the hope that you too can enjoy the stories and perhaps experience your own adventures and undertake a challenge that you have always dreamt of but never made happen.  Trust me, anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself and put in the training!

Remember those famous words

‘The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ Lao Tzu

For me the first step is having the idea and then making it happen. Every time I walk the SW coast path now, memories of my journey come flooding back making me happy and proud. I did it and it reaffirmed my love of nature, the great outdoors and the beautiful county I live in – plus I got to know myself a whole lot better without the constant interruptions of a busy life getting in the way. Good luck with yours……..

If you would like to donate to the RNLI whose teams do so much to keep us safe and rescue us from danger on the coast visit www.RNLI/.com/donate

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