To mark the end of a fantastic National Walking Month, we've partnered with Penguin Michael Joseph, for a social media giveaway.
Five lucky winners will receive copies of The Salt Path and The Wild Silence, from best-selling author Raynor Winn.
**This competition is now closed but you can still read extracts from both books below**
Raynor Winn (image c. Robert Darch)
Raynor Winn has written about the tremendous power of walking in The Salt Path and its sequel The Wild Silence.
Raynor’s books tell her incredible story of a walk that changed her life. Just days after learning that her husband, Moth has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable degenerative disease, the couple lost the farm which had been their home and livelihood for decades. Homeless and with nowhere they could turn, they made the brave and impulsive decision to walk the entire length of the South West Coastal Path, wild camping and carrying only the essentials for survival. Whilst Moth’s doctors had told him to avoid physical exertion, miraculously the hugely strenuous undertaking of walking the path alleviated the symptoms of his condition, and their walk turned into an extraordinary and life-changing journey.
Raynor’s bestselling memoirs The Salt Path and The Wild Silence have now sold over half a million copies, with The Salt Path spending over 80 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller charts!
I was under the stairs when I decided to walk. In that moment, I hadn’t carefully considered walking 630 miles with a rucksack on my back, I hadn’t thought about how I could afford to do it, or that I’d be wild camping for nearly one hundred nights, or what I’d do afterwards. I hadn’t told my partner of thirty-two years that he was coming with me. Only minutes earlier hiding under the stairs had seemed a good option. The men in black began hammering on the door at 9 a.m., but we weren’t ready. We weren’t ready to let go. I needed more time: just another hour, another week, another lifetime. There would never be enough time. So we crouched together under the stairs, pressed together, whispering like scared mice, like naughty children, waiting to be found. The bailiffs moved to the back of the house, banging on the windows, trying all the catches, looking for a way in. I could hear one of them climbing on to the garden bench, pushing at the kitchen skylight, shouting.
It was then that I spotted the book in a packing box. I’d read Five Hundred Mile Walkies in my twenties, the story of a man who walked the South West Coast Path with his dog. Moth was squeezed in next to me, his head on his knees, his arms wrapped around in self- defence, and pain, and fear, and anger. Above all anger. Life had picked up every piece of ammunition possible and hurled it at him full force, in what had been three years of endless battle. He was exhausted with anger. I put my hand on his hair. I’d stroked that hair when it was long and blond, full of sea salt, heather and youth; brown and shorter, full of building plaster and kids’ play dough; and now silver, thinner, full of the dust of our life. I’d met this man when I was eighteen; I was now fifty. We’d rebuilt this ruined farm together, restoring every wall, every stone, growing vegetables and hens and two children, creating a barn for visitors to share our lives and pay the bills. And now, when we walked out of that door, it would all be behind us, everything behind us, over, finished, done.
‘We could just walk.’
It was a ridiculous thing to say, but I said it anyway.
‘Yeah, just walk.’
We began our epic walk of the Coast Path with no sense of hope or possibility. Moth had been told he couldn’t survive, that the tau protein in his brain had stopped functioning in its nor-mal way and was now clustering together in what the consultant called aggregates. A creeping process of tau phosphorylation, which would slowly close down the parts of his brain that instructed his body what to do. I imagined the tau forming like plaque on teeth, but in a place where the brush wouldn’t reach. So it could spread and grow until it suffocated all those beautiful brain cells that told Moth how to move, to feel, to remember, to swallow, to breathe. And yet as we walked along that incredible strip of wilderness, forgetting the existence of the normal world that lay to one side of the path, with our eyes always drawn to the endless horizon of the sea on the other, exhausted and starving, something had changed. He had changed. He’d grown stronger, the fog in his brain had cleared, his movements had become surer, easier to control. Why, why, why had that happened? There had to be a reason, but maybe it was time to accept that the doctors were right, that there was nothing that could be done other than face the inevitability of the end.
I couldn’t accept it. At the ﬁrst crack of light through the window I picked the phone up.
‘I don’t care how tired you are – get up. You have to walk; you have to move. Just get outside and move.’
‘But I can’t. I feel like shit.’
‘I don’t care. Get up.’ I put the phone down and went into the corridor for another tiny tea from the machine, then picked the phone up again.
‘You’re still in bed; I know you are. Get up – you have to. Please just get up.’ There had to be a connection, a physical, chemical, biological reason why he’d improved when we walked. Whatever it was we had to look for a way to replicate that effect. If we couldn’t find a way, we’d have to put on our rucksacks and walk again, indefinitely. He was on the slide to the bottom of CBD, with no twists or turns to slow his descent; we had to find a way. ‘Moth, put your boots on. I don’t care how you feel; you have to keep fighting. Just get up and try. Please try . . .’