A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

All Content By Shelley Kelly 

I think of this when I consider one of my biggest achievements – walking the South West Coast Path (SWCP). All 630 miles of it but it started with just six at Soar Mill Cove. Then Baggy Point the following weekend. Easter around the Lizard. A friend bought me the SWCP guidebook and a map. An obsession was born. After every walk I’d mark off the bit I had just walked, the date and the distance, thinking that maybe one day all the bits might join up. It took many years, and many cream teas were consumed, but I did it!  

Every single step contributing to something much bigger.   

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it sometimes feels the same when I consider protecting our environment. So far to go, and it just feels too big. What difference can little old me make? Sure, I’ve switched from cotton wool to washable makeup remover pads. But I’m all too aware that that’s smaller than the smallest of steps.  

When I look back at the photos that I took on the SWCP, one thing strikes me. What I’m wearing. Only 3 different pairs of boots, just 2 waterproof jackets and 2 different fleeces. The same cosy hat, over 15 years. The fashion industry is much maligned for the devastating effects it can have on the environment but you get a lot of mileage out of walking gear, in more ways than one. I definitely get my £ a wear from these clothes – probably more like 10p a wear (especially in the waterproofs department!!!).  


When walking, I see the effects environmental change has on our coast. Paths I walked years ago, now washed out to sea after powerful storms. Majestic cliffs slowly but steadily eroding onto beaches below. Footpath diversions to more stable parts of the coast.  

Being aware of these changes seems to me the first step in protection. Taking the time to stand and stare. Year after year in this dramatic landscape, allowing me to recognise its evolution. Take your litter home. Of course. Use a refillable water bottle. Stick to the path. But most of all observe and appreciate what’s right in front of you.   

The SWCP encircles Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, like a life jacket around our very special part of the world. I maybe can’t protect the whole world, but I can protect our little bit of it. 

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