Marlborough LitFest’s life affirming Big Town Read - author Raynor Winn on the couple’s coastal journeyThis year, Marlborough LitFest’s Big Town Read is The Salt Path by Raynor Winn - a book that's in line for several prizes.
In August 2013, due to an unfortunate investment, Raynor and her husband, Moth, lost their Welsh farmhouse home which also provided their income. A few days later Moth was diagnosed with CBD - a rare degenerative brain disease.
Faced with these two traumatic events, the couple decided to walk the six hundred and thirty miles of the South West Coast Path. With a tent bought on eBay and a couple of cheap sleeping bags from the supermarket, they had only £115 in cash and £48 per week in tax credits to fund the trip.
The Salt Path is a memoir of that journey. It has been nominated for The Royal Society of Literature Christopher Bland Prize (winner to be announced on May 29), as well as the Costa Book awards and The Wainwright Prize.
Raynor Winn wrote The Salt Path two years after they finished the walk. She told marlborough.news: “The walk wasn’t just a physical journey, but a huge emotional journey. I wanted to make a record of it and what effect it had on us.”
“I also wanted to write it for Moth as a way for him to remember it when his disease gets worse. And as a result of the walk I had something to say about rural homelessness.”
Raynor and Moth had been unprepared for the prejudice and preconceptions they encountered when they told the people they met that they were homeless: “It came as a surprise. It was as if when they knew you were homeless they wanted to step back from you.”
They started to tell people instead that they had sold their house and were on an adventure. Immediately the responses changed and they were told they were inspirational.
“The star of the book,” says Raynor,“is the coast path. It’s a magical place, between the ordinary everyday on one side and the horizon of the sea on the other.”
“The book is in essence a nature book. I hope readers will take something from it like we did from the path. It’s about living in the moment, the right now. When you are walking the only thing that matters is the next step, that’s the only thing you have control over.”
“We reached Lands End in gales and horizontal rain and were there alone at the edge of the Atlantic with just a Mars Bar! It should have been our worst moment, but it was probably the most uplifting.”
“The path had given us life when we thought ours was over and a sense of hope that we thought we would never feel again.”
As a result of the book Raynor and Moth’s life has changed completely: “From a life of barely speaking to anyone, I’m able to meet such lovely people and I get to talk about the path.”
Moth has completed a degree from Plymouth University and Raynor is working on her next book which will be available next year. This book is also autobiographical and is about the difficulty of gaining self-belief when something has destroyed it. It is based around an unusual incident that occurred as a result of someone reading The Salt Path.
At the end of the walk Raynor and Moth were offered some accommodation in Cornwall. They have recently moved, but are still in Cornwall and near the coast path where they walk whenever they can.
Raynor will be speaking at the Marlborough LitFest on Sunday, 29 September at 3pm in the Town Hall - and Moth will be accompanying her. Free copies of her book are available from Marlborough Library.
However Raynor's book is proving very popular and there is a waiting list of borrowers - join the list now!
The Salt Path is published by Penguin Random House and can be bought from the White Horse Bookshop.
The tenth anniversary Marlborough LitFest takes place 26-29 September - the full programme and brochure will be available towards the end of June. More info at www.marlboroughlitfest.org