The Salt Path a review

by frankbeswick

This book is about a journey through personal disaster to the triumph of hope over despair.

Raynor Winn's life collapsed in a short period. Firstly, her husband's doctors informed the Winns that he had an incurable relative of Parkinson's disease much more severe than conventional Parkinson's, and then a long extended court case over a failed business deal ended badly for the Winns. The judgment and costs hammered them financially and the Winns lost the farm that they had built up over many years Nearlyy bankrupt with nowhere to go, they decided to walk, which they did, and see what turned up. Despair turned in the end to hope and the first dawn gleaming of a new life.

Photo of the Cornish coast by Tim Hill, of Pixabay

The Beginning of the Troubles

Raynor Wiinn knew that the diagnosis was not good when the doctor put his arm round her husband and began to prepare him for bad news. He was to hear that Moth, for that was his nickname, had CBD, cortico basal disease, one of the several forms of Parkinson's Plus, a brain disorder that comes with the expectation of a significantly shortened lifespan, though exact life expectancy cannot be precisely predicted.

But further troubles were to come. The couple had been talked into investing a significant amount of money into a business deal by a so called friend, but when the deal coĺlapsed he unexpectedly demanded that the Winns pay part of his financial liabilities.The court case went on for several years, but when the Winns thought that they had a document that vindicated their case the judge decided that he would accept no new evidence and decided against the couple. The costs of court were crippling, as was the share in the liabilities, and the Winns lost everything.

Raynor, though she had never written before reveals her first rate talent as a writer. As she weaves her way through the trauma of eviction and homelessness readers can feel her sadness and near despair and can be awed by her determination to protect her incurably sick husband. In this book the triumph of love begins early and is sustained throughout the text. As a fellow sufferer from Parkinson's disease, I could not do otherwise than be amazed at the valiant struggle of the Winns to overcome adversity. There were times and places when I felt on edge as I empathise with Moth's struggle over difficult ground, even though my condition is not as serious as his. (All Parkinson's is serious.) All the time the future looms over their journey as the Winns ponder on what will happen on the end of the walk.

A sad episode at the beginning concerns the Winns' pet sheep, one that they had reared from an orphan lamb. Just before they went to its paddock to have it taken away they found that it had laid down and died. Did it sense that something bad was happening? I know not,but animals are sentient and not constrained by philosophical dogma which denies all but a limited range of senses.

The Walk

Though the Winns dwelt in South Wales they chose to take the South West Path, which is a long path over six hundred  miles in length. If you take a map of Britain you will notice a large peninsula in the south western corner. This is Devon and Cornwall. The path begins on the cliffs above a town called Minehead, a name derived from the old Celtic for big headland. While the Winns were jobless they had access to the meagre sum of forty eight pounds a week, just enough to purchase cheap rations for the journey, which often consisted in part of noodles and chocolateor cereal bars. They had a small tent. Accommodation was by wild camping, which consists of sleeping out without permission from a landowner or finding a cheap campsite. Often this meant arising earlier than the landowners. They managed to avoid trouble. Washing consisted of using site facilities where possible or going to the sea. Occasionally they picked mussels on the sea shore and boiled them. Contact with their adult children,both at university, was a daily call on a mobile phone (cell phone.) 

As the walk was in Spring they were subject to the vagaries of British weather, which can be stormy occasionally this meant getting very wet and having to dry out.

Raynor noticed that the exercise seemed to be doing her husband good, and this gave her a faint hope that he could exercise his way to health. This is a vain hope, the cry of a despairing soul, for there is no cure for diseases in the Parkinson's family. Progress is inevitable and all that can be done is to stave off the inevitable. But her enduring hope is a testimony to the human spirit and the wonders of love.

The Winns met people on their journey, and the encountered varied in their attitude. Some were obnoxious, like the obviously well off woman who didn't care that her dogs had discomfited a pair of tramps. Others were polite, but were evidently frightened of homeless people, for whatever reasons one can only but infer. Did they feel that they would be robbed, or do the homeless remind the secure folk of the chasm of insecurity that lurks on the edge of normal life. Yet there were many gentle and kindly people, who gave the Winns comfort on their voyage. Some acts of generosity were given to the Winns, a testimony to the human capacity for goodness.

Though the walk was made in a traumatic time in the Winn's life the book is never depressing, as their is an undercurrent of hope and goodness that flows through the text, like a river in a subterranean cavern that at times bubbles happily to the surface to refresh those who drink it.

The Triumph of Hope

Just as the journey came to an end the Winns received a message from an old college friend of Raynors who had some accommodation in a converted barn in the English Midlands, some distance from the sea. It was better than nothing and so the Winns took it up. During the brief period of their stay there Raynor found a few days work helping sheep shearers bag up their fleeces. Work was welcome, but this accomodation was not to last, as the friend's farm was under financial pressure which resulted in her accepting an offer for the barn from an agricultural worker. The couple were on the road again. They returned to the South West to walk some more.

Moth decided that he would return to college and so applied for a course in regenerative horticulture. This qualified him for a student loan, available to anyone of any age and payable only when and if your earnings reach a certain level. The Winns could now afford a small flat. 

Little did they know that hope was to be victorious, for they met a kindly lady in a South western town who told them that she had a small flat for rent and rather than advertise it she would rent it to them. Radnor took the  opportunity to begin a career as a writer. The troubles had opened up a new career for her.


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Updated: 03/13/2023, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick 5 days ago

Yes those are the rules.

frankbeswick 5 days ago

Correction, my daughter lives with her husband and son in North Wales, and there is a grand daughter on the way. There are no farms in the offing, as my daughter is doing so well as a therapist she would not need a career change.

I hope that the market for wool improves.

DerdriuMarriner 5 days ago

The comment below actually should have included another question, somewhat related, somewhat unrelated, about grammar.

This, western side of the (Atlantic) pond tends toward "your sister Veronica" and "your wife Maureen" if you have one sister and one wife. It tends toward "your sister, Veronica" and "your wife, Maureen" if you have more than one sister and more than one -- perish the thought, ;-[ -- wife.

Would those be the rules that govern your, eastern (Atlantic) pond side?

DerdriuMarriner 5 days ago

You've indicated elsewhere that your daughter and son-in-law live with their two daughters in North Wales. You also have mentioned that a dream of you and your wife previously had thought of retiring to North Wales.

Is it possible that your granddaughters, if not your daughter and son-in-law, one day will have sheep farms?

Markets respond to falling and rising demands and supplies. Will North Wales be able to supply their quality wool should quality products at reasonable prices for consumers, with reasonable profits for producers return?

frankbeswick 7 days ago

The sheep market has been disrUpted by the idiocy of Brexit, which has undermined European markets for lamb. The Middle Eastern market for British lamb is strong, especially at the times of religious festivals. The prices that farmers get for wool are very poor, which is sad because as man-made fibres become ecologically inviable, wool and other natural fibres will take their place.

DerdriuMarriner 8 days ago

Online sources describe Welsh sheep (Ovies aries) as badger-face and black mountain sheep. They indicate the appeal of the sweet meat that can be had from them as food sources and of their all-dark, dense, durable fleece.

Would Welsh sheep farms be oriented to United Kingdom, Welsh or world markets?

frankbeswick 8 days ago

Like many Welsh farms it focused on sheep. In their new farm in Cornwall they focus on Apple's and make cider out of it.

DerdriuMarriner 9 days ago

Your first paragraph describes the couple's farm as one "that they had built up over many years."

Does the author indicate what the focus -- possibly sheep-shearing what with their orphaned sentient lamb? -- of that farm was?

Wild onions and their companionable wild strawberries already populate the front and back yards despite the winter's first, only minimal snow dusting Sunday and first, only snow-flaking today. Just when it seemed like the winter 2022-2023 that never was!

What would be the most marketable, most profitable fruit for the Winn couple to grow?

frankbeswick 9 days ago

They have enough money from Raynor's books for them to have a small farm that specializes in fruit, but I do not know if they keep animals now.

DerdriuMarriner 9 days ago

The last paragraph in the first subheading, The Beginning of the Troubles, indicates that "A sad episode at the beginning concerns the Winns' pet sheep, one that they had reared from an orphan lamb. Just before they went to its paddock to have it taken away they found that it had laid down and died. Did it sense that something bad was happening? I know not,but animals are sentient and not constrained by philosophical dogma which denies all but a limited range of senses."

In particular, I like your observation about sentient animals, especially since all my felines have been and are sentient.

It made me quite sad to read about their lamb. Just last week I observed the donkey dying in The Banshees of Inisherin. Colin Farrell's character refuses to avenge himself and his donkey by killing the perpetrator's dog. He respects his donkey's sentience by trying-- apart one relapse -- to be good and taking care of his sister's other sentient animals.

Bagging fleece with sheep shearers perhaps started the author and her husband reminiscing about their lamb. Would she have given any indication of raising another lamb (or some other sentient animal)?

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