Footwear and the Bridle Path


I had two walks last Saturday: a ‘tough’ morning walk, along the South West Coast Path with some steep climbs on wet terrain – and a simpler, though longer, afternoon walk involving the beach at Woolacombe. The weather in the morning was misty with increasingly hard rain; the afternoon was gloriously sunny by comparison – and that can happen in January, on our coastline!

In the autumn of 2016 I purchased some walking shoes, which have stood me in good stead on my walks, hikes and climbs since. Until, that was when, in November 2017, I climbed up West Mill Tor and then across to Yes Tor on Dartmoor. It was then that I realised I needed walking boots for traversing the rocky and boggy terrain I encountered that day.

In December 2017 I road-tested my new boots going across Saunton Down, back in North Devon, and found them ideal for the wet, muddy and slippery footpaths along the way. Appropriate footwear can elicit a felt sense of confidence.

Brave or Foolhardy?

On the Saturday morning walk I was part way up a long, steep climb when I met a couple coming down. This was a climb that I’d fallen and slipped down some distance in the autumn of 2016, and it was a wake-up call for me.

“Respect and attend to everything about the journey – for there are potential mishaps around every corner. You may not always get lucky.” I got lucky that day.

To return to the walking couple – the lady also had two small dogs with her, on leads, whilst her husband was about 5m behind, on the steps coming down. I could tell from her voice and demeanour she was not fully at ease, so I asked, “Are you OK?”

“No, I’ve just had a fall and I’m a bit shaken up, as I’ve only got a plastic kneecap,” she replied. I didn’t tell her I’ve had one knee with no patella since 1976, since it has never stopped me from doing exercise or playing sport. As I was telling her the variation routes to the next village along the coast, my eyes came to rest on the wellington boots she was wearing – and I remembered my previous fall on the same walk.

“Go easy on the rest of the descent,” I said, wishing her well. I did think that she should at least consider passing the dogs over to her husband – as the toughest bits on the descent were yet to come. Hopefully, they all got safely to where they were going, though I did think she was both brave and foolhardy at the same time.


Coast Path and Bridleway

The signposts I encounter on my coastal walks invariably show both the Coast Path AND any linked Bridleway.

On my afternoon walk I encountered a sign rather similar to the one pictured – and it was whilst negotiating the muddy and horse-worn pathway that I mused on the juxtaposition of the two descriptions – coming up with the actual and also metaphorical signposts of:

Coast Way and Bridal Path.

It only took a momentary bit of further musing – for me to arrive at linking Bridle Path – and Bridal Path with Appropriate Footwear.




Our Journeys in Life

We all undertake many journeys in our lives – both physically and metaphorically. Some of the journeys are regular and mundane; some are Life changing; some are on coast paths and some are on bridleways, perhaps even on horseback; sometimes we are coasting, free-wheeling, and sometimes we’re are striding out with a purpose; sometimes we are on a “Bridal Path”, stepping into pastures completely new; sometimes we are on the path more travelled.

Whichever the journeys, and whatever the purpose, we need to ask ourselves whether we have appropriate footwear. Will our footwear carry us, with confidence, along the way – or will we find ourselves on a hill steeper than we might have imagined, wearing wellington boots? Wellies are great for walking squelchy and muddy meadows or testing out the depth of flooded roads before venturing to drive through them – as I discovered on yesterday’s travels – however, they do not have good enough tread or support to see us safely down a steep and slippery descent.

Our best footwear for any metaphorical journey is, arguably, the last thing we consider before setting out – unless it is part of our checklist!

Consider the Bridal Path itself, or a new job, or emigration, moving house, going to University, transitioning from primary to secondary school. These are all crucial journeys, laced with and enriched by a considerable amount of emotion. Are we prepared enough for these types of journey? Or does the emotional involvement distract us from the real physical and mental metaphors of checking out that which is often the furthest away from our brains, or our minds – OUR FEET!

I know that, in terms of my emotion-filled journeys, I took on a number of them without any preparation or consideration of appropriate “footwear”. The “shoes” I wore on those journeys made them difficult to negotiate at best – and doomed to failure at the other end of the scale.


Self – Realisation

Yet, you might say, blundering footloose into those journeys and learning THE HARD WAY is all about Life’s Lessons. The ME that I AM right now would have been different if I had not learned the hard way. The mistakes and the learnings are all part of MY STORY.

What if I don’t realise? What if I don’t learn? What then?

Well then our STORY, our life, goes blundering off in another direction, doesn’t it?

And there’s a point I’d like to make about the word Réalisation – in French.

It actually means PRODUCTION. So, if we are to become the PRODUCERS, the shapers, of our lives – then we are engaged in our own Réalisation. The Réalisation of our selves.


Self Réalisation

Once I started on the journey of Self Réalisation, I knew was undertaking a much more sure-footed journey. This is now a journey of focussed intent and purpose; well beyond the mistakes and error-strewn journeys I took when much younger. True, I thought I had intent and purpose back then.

Now, I get a felt sense that the intent and purpose is aligned with who I truly am. I’m almost tempted to use the word authentic here, even though it is much-bandied-about buzz-word of our times.

So here, yet again, are the words of R D Laing’s timeless quote about the divided self:

“If I don’t know I don’t know – I think I know
If I don’t know I know – I think I don’t know”

And when we get to the pathway of Self-Realisation, there is this:

When I know I know – then I don’t Think

Bon Voyage!