(pictured above: Louise and Tilly getting ready to set off on their trek) 

The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT) supporter Louise Barnes along with her favourite walking companion, rescued dog Tilly, completed the first part of their South West coastal path trek covering 407 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Plymouth in Devon. Louise took on this inspiring fundraising challenge for CPT in support of her sister who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 2016 at the age of 40. Here is Louise’s story:

“On September 1st 2018 myself and my rescue dog, Tilly, began walking along the UK’s longest national tail, The South West Coast Path. The team was completed by Steve, my partner of 18 years, who throughout the trek had the most difficult job of negotiating steep, often very narrow roads in our heavy, old camper van so that he could meet us at the end of each day’s trekking. 

For the first twenty five days I walked every day, except during a storm when it was too dangerous to be on the cliffs. The walks varied between ten and twenty two miles depending on the terrain. One of the best things about the trek was the ever changing scenery, hour to hour sometimes as well as day to day. I walked on high cliff edges where I watched birds of prey hunting at my eye level, over moorland jewelled with yellow gorse and purple heather, around immense, rocky headlands, through woodland full of dense, prehistoric looking ferns, across huge, golden beaches, around estuaries, through fishing villages, across farmland, through herds of cows, past sheep and wild ponies, past ruined tin mines, across golf courses, through a quarry and even through military firing ranges.  It did not get boring!

It was physically challenging as I was walking for between six and nine hours each day, and most of the time the walks were a series of ascents and descents, some days with no flat ground in between. There were times when my legs felt like jelly as I stood at the bottom of yet another huge valley, however walking the South West Coast Path is a little bit like Christmas in that there is a lot of effort as you get to it, then there is the moment of anticipation, and then the excitement and joy of opening your gift, or in this case the spectacular, new view that unfolds before you. One of the hardest days was between St Ives and Pendeen Watch. There was no real path, instead there was a narrow track in the cliffside filled with boulders ranging from quite big to huge. Tilly and I did a lot of climbing and scrambling that day and were glad to see Steve and the van.

The weather was very kind on the whole. I had a few misty days when I knew the view was incredible but could see no further than my hand at the end of my arm, and one day, around Land’s End the wind knocked me off my feet more than once, luckily into the cliff rather than over it. The worst day was when the wind blew and the rain lashed down for the entire six and a half hour walk. I am sure that there was fantastic scenery but all I saw was the inside of my rain-hood and the river of mud, which had been the official path before the rain. I learned that day that my boots and trousers were definitely not waterproof! 

Perhaps the most important, and most wonderful thing that we encountered was the incredible kindness of strangers. We had a few mishaps along the way and each time we were humbled by the generosity of people who had only just met us. At Port Isaac, with an injured dog, a broken down camper van, pouring rain, no phone signal and no internet we asked a lady, walking her dog if she knew of a local vet and somewhere with a phone. A short time later this wonderful women had organised a taxi, a vet, the RAC and asked if we needed food and drink as well. On the same day the vet treated Tilly for free once he knew about the reason for our trek and a local lady gave us a lift from the vet back to Port Isaac. This is just one example of the many, many people who gave to us in so many ways as they found out that we were raising money for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. One amazing lady even had us to stay in her house overnight, fed us and then sent us on our way with not only lunch but dinner for that night as well!

The hardest thing was realising that I was injured and that I would not be able to continue walking. I had, had a painful ankle and foot for three days but had hoped that I could walk through it. I was wrong. After seeing a doctor, going to a minor injuries unit and finally seeing a sports injury specialist physiotherapist, I learned that I had tendinitis. I had to rest for ten days before continuing. By then we knew that it was not possible to complete the whole trail. Steve and I needed to get home and earn some money after being away for so long and to finish the path would take until pretty much the end of October. I was incredibly frustrated and sad to admit this. Being me, I decided that I was not going to just give up and go home but I would walk out of Cornwall, leaving South Devon and Dorset to walk next year. And that is what I did. I finished, what I am calling part one of the trek, on Thursday 11th October as I arrived in Plymouth. 

I walked 407 miles and climbed 26,060m which is 2.95 times the equivalent of sea level to the top of Mount Everest. Tilly, did all but four of the days with me. So far we have raised very close to £3000. We will complete the trek next year and hopefully continue fundraising until it is done. I would love to eventually reach my target of £10,000. We have 223 miles left and one more Everest to climb. The Facebook Page, Trek for The Trust, alongside the donations page will remain open. I’m already looking forward to it.”

CPT would like to say a HUGE thank you to Louise and Tilly for their incredible and inspirational hard work fundraising and training for this challenge, and to everyone who has supported this winning pair along their route! We can’t wait to follow the second part of your adventure along the South West coastal path next year.

Louise and Tilly setting off from Minehead and the beginning of the South West coastal path

Stunning view of the Devon coastline along the trail

Tilly having a well earned rest in the sunshine just before reaching Woolacombe in Devon

Colourful flora along the coastal path in Exmoor

Crossing into Cornwall!

View leaving the charming fishing port of Padstow in Cornwall

Steep hills and climbs along the path from Perranporth to Portreath along the Cornish coastline

Louise and Tilly at the famous Land's End battling the stormy weather

Beautiful view passing Mullion Cove on the west coast of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall

Louise and Tilly reach the official half way marker in Porthallow having completed 315 miles of the South West coastal path!

Passing through the harbour town of Megavissey as Louise and Tilly walk out of Cornwall and onto Plymouth

To read more of Louise’s story or to support her fundraising please visit her fundraising page. Take a look at Louise and Tilly’s adventure so far on their ‘Trek for the Trust’ Facebook page.