NOTE: Sadly my phone broke so i ended up losing some of the pictures i took on my return visit in 2021.
I went back to this place by chance, knowing this was one of the places I had such fond memories from the walk. There were toilets with drinking water, a quiet cove, beautiful places and food shops, all within a 15 minute walk. We stayed here for ten days.
When I arrived I felt weird, I had re-entered the past, I was jumping timelines in a way I had not expected. Part of me was shut down in response to this intensity. But writing now, processing the information that came up, I'm revisiting the revisit, with more physical distance. Which feels appropriate (I’m working with three timelines, actually four as i had a very brief and shit visit to this place last year on my way to somewhere else).
Memories: There are so many things I didn't remember until I walked down this path again. It was the path we took from the town to our camp. The way i walk is the opposite way we would have taken the path, now I am staying in the town. We slept on a very steep hill at the top of a cove and I hung my hammock on this tree.
Every step I take a new and old memory floods into my consciousness, they are floods. Some of the waters bless me, others are jagged waves enmeshed with sharp rock that hurt. Some wash me over with surprise that they were lost to the sea until now.
Here is the hole in the hedge to get to camp. Tom pointed it out to me as the ‘shortcut'. Shortcut was an interesting word to use as it was steep and scrabbly and easy to get lost somewhere up on the hillside, often i would have to circle back around and come back up another path. (Everything is much steeper in real life than it looks in pictures)
I remember this rock so well, it was always confusing to get down. It was part of the shortcut route, and has two pathway options. When i found it again this time i took the wrong path and ended up at the edge of a cliff. I retraced my steps and took the second path, which led me down to the beach.
This is the beach, we would hang our towels on these rocks that are currently engulfed by sea. Tom brought back a bagful of gutweed that we fried for dinner, and that was the first time I ever ate gutweed. We washed every day in the sea. One day we went to swim and we saw a man and a seal next to each other, it was the day before we started walking again and it felt very mythical so me and Tom decided to write a song about a man who lived by the sea and the seal. Maybe he was the seal.
Today is full moon so the tides are much more movable than I remember them being when we stayed. They come much further in and go much further out on new moon and full moon, and even further in the spring and autumn. It was early summer when we were here, and I can only guess the moon must have been half way, either waxing or waning.
This was the entrance to our camp. When we were here it was barely noticeable. It seems like a popular spot to camp (and get drunk) now. There are a lot of old cans and rubbish and the hole has become a lot bigger and easier to access, there are now two access points but when we stayed here there was only one, which we only ever saw dogs and each other go through.
*non existent picture of entrance to the camp*
There are a few spots I remember sitting to eat, cooking both on fire and on our camping stove. I remember doing work and having conversations here, I don't really remember what they were about but I do remember the feelings. Feeling my way back into those moments i can see that I wasn't really ok, I was in survival mode and I remember having this sense that I was living in a murky cloud, unable to work out why I wasn't ok and what was going on. This is a feeling I now recognise as trauma / being triggered / a flashback. I can look back with clarity, and I think it’s helpful to look back and acknowledge to myself what was happening. Past time healing repair, I'm still timeline jumping.
At this point I'm experiencing massive tensions in our team, one person is thinking about leaving, I am incredibly low on resources, burnt out and on the precipice of falling. We have barely started our journey and there are divisions dividing us in multiple ways. Making decisions often feels an impossible and frustrating task. There is a shit load of learning to come on this trip, and not all of it was good for me. If I knew then what I know now it’s possible that I would have left, but we make the decisions we make for reasons that make sense so I will always put my trust in that.
As well as this distant sense of possible healing on this revisit, It also feels mildly re-traumatising for me being here again. The two years that followed the walk have been incredibly difficult for me. It's interesting to revisit this place, and to feel this sense of fear and dread wash over me. Alongside the dynamics happening in the team I was also in the beginning (and easy) phases of a romantic relationship, which ended up being a very traumatising relationship for me. I feel a lot of pain remembering the love and ease that existed for me at that time in this place. Some of this feels distant, and healed, these small traces of memory in my body. Other bits not so much.
Here are the public toilets. As public toilets go these are truly some of the best we came across. Firstly: they have sinks, proper sinks, and with soap. I can't tell you what one of those all in one soap-wash-dry-built-into-the-wall hand washing things does to morale. It's not good. With a proper sink you can do everything, and meet so many needs. You could have a nice clean face, wash some dirty pants, fill up your water bottle (don’t underestimate how hard it is for walkers to get water), and even the luxurious task of washing up your lunchbox (that you have been carrying food around in and only rinsing for the last 4 days in the sea or rubbing clean with leaves from the forest floor).
Secondly: an actual hand dryer, with a twisty bit. I remember the collective excitement. This means things like: drying your freshly cleaned pants / face / lunch box or even a hair dry after a salty swim, luxury. The Toilets themselves are pretty standard (we kinda preferred pooing in a hole in the woods), but it's nice when they are prepared, spacious and well equipped.
I remember one night being sat up in the branches of this holm oak, at the top of the hill having a phone conversation. After an hour on the phone, the sun had gone down and I saw these figures emerging in the twilight, swaying, dancing and shouting. I don’t clearly remember the sequence of events but within ten minutes of telling the drunk teenagers what I was doing sat in this tree in the dark on a friday night, they were chanting my name. “LAUREN LLAAAUUUREEEENNN, WEEE LOOVEEE LAUUUUREN, LAUREN, LAUREN is the BESSSSTTTTT” There were fourteen of them, aged from 11-16. It was very loud and a very joyous thing to have drunk teenagers chanting my name, amusing, connecting and heart-warming. I got off the phone and said goodbye to them as they drifted away in small groups back into the darkness. I remember returning to camp and seeing Tom who had heard the chanting and laughed with me, but I also remember having a distinct feeling that I couldn't share this experience in the morning with the group as it wouldn’t be welcome, i don’t think I understood that this was happening for me at the time, or what it meant. A back sign*
* back signs (need to think of a better word for this) - being in the future but remembering things about the past or an event that you didn’t know you were feeling at the time but now you look back and say ‘aaaah that’s what that was.’
Memories are interesting, some of them are scary and I have to switch them off. I don’t want to think about them, I'm not far enough away. But it's clear to me that the place, the wind, the way the land slopes, the shrubby holm oaks, the way the tide moves in and out and the sea touches my skin, the path i walked down before, the places i sat by the fire, they bring so much back.