The Salt Path
Just days after Raynor learns that her husband Moth is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. It is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
NHS Staff Recommendation
“…Life-affirming…a testament to strength when everything is against you and life seems at its very worse, its about rediscovering what is important…a book that helps me put things into perspective.” – Sister in Urgent Care
30 September 2020
St Just Monday Morning Reading Group 31st August 2020.
The Salt Path. Raynor Winn.
There were many elements to this book, and many opinions of it as well. Most of those who commented found it very emotional to read – the sadness of Raynor and Moth’s situation, their courage in deciding to do what they did, their determination in continuing with it, and the adversities they found along the way, made the book hard to put down and almost impossible not to be moved by. “Inspirational” was a word used by almost all of the readers.
Quite a number of comments, however, also mentioned the word “irritated” – Raynor and Moth’s diet (noodles, chips and fudge bars), their taking risks which might have endangered others, the foolishness of camping on Portheras beach on a rising tide, “Ray’s constant whingeing”, and various choices that they made, aroused incredulity and disapproval. As also did their use of a campsite without paying the bill, particularly when they themselves had previously rented a barn to holiday visitors in order to “share their lives and pay the bills” – perhaps these proprietors could be recompensed from sales of the book, was suggested. Other readers excused them “nicking the odd shower”.
The matter of homelessness and the treatment of homeless people was perhaps the main theme to come out of the book. Most readers mentioned this, commenting on the problem of homelessness in society and attempts to solve it, particularly with reference to present conditions – the idea of using “pods” to provide homes, as is being used in Cornwall, and the use of office blocks which might possibly become housing as a result of the pandemic. But the more significant theme here is of social attitudes towards homeless people: Raynor and Moth were treated as “dross” because they were thought to be a particular stereotype of ‘homeless people’, as contrasted with ‘walkers’ who are admired and respected. The book brought this out very painfully.
The reactions of people they met along the way was also very notable. They met “rip off merchants and kind folk”; “those who have hearts and those that don’t”. Some considered that kindness generally appeared to be lacking in most of their chance meetings. Also the actions of Raynor and Moth’s own friends were questioned – the ‘friend’ to whom they lost their business, and the ones who rented them accommodation in return for work and then let it to someone else without telling them; readers differed in their reactions to these happenings.
The concept of long-distance walking as a cure for one’s problems came up – what motivation would be needed to complete such a feat, and whether we all do this to a lesser extent ourselves.
Descriptions of the landscape were appreciated by all readers. These were thought “beautiful and evocative”, they “caught the essence of walking and appreciating the nature and scenery around one”, and inspired one reader to want to go and walk portions of the South West Coast Path again and admire the diversity of its landscape. Several others mentioned places they knew or were familiar with. Also mentioned was the idea that the South West Coast Path might have offered Raynor and Moth things that they would not have found on other long distance paths, such as the healing and calming property of the sea.
The writing style was described as “poetic”, “easy to read”, and “very poised and flowing especially for a first-timer, and if it’s edited from diary entries even more so”. There was humour in places, for instance when Moth was mistaken for Simon Armitage.
Some readers empathised with the book for personal reasons; some found they “did not warm to Ray’s character and would have liked to hear Moth’s views as he did not feature much”. Some found the descriptions of continuous walking and pitching a tent to be boring; others thought that the story transcended this and found it to be not a travelogue at all, but rather a “tale of humanity”.
Being unable to meet in person to discuss this particular book was somewhat frustrating, as there was so much to say about it, from different angles and on different topics that it raised. A sequel has now been written, called The Wild Silence, and it is available at The Edge of the World bookshop, in Penzance. A review is at this link: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/23/beyond-the-salt-path-it-felt-abnormal-to-live-in-a-village-among-other-people-raynor-winn
This book was read during August 2020 and the continuing social distancing because of the Covid-19 virus, and so the discussion was not ‘live’ as usual, but took place via a Facebook group, email and telephone conversations.
19 May 2020
It was OK, but not as good as I expected. I did find the author moaned a bit too much, and thought it would be more inspirational.