Blown along by a cold easterly gale, and wishing I'd brought a coat, I set off along the coastal path. I aimed to go around the western- most tip of England - St Ives to Penzance - in four days. It was a spur of the moment thing, and all I had with me was a trail guide, a toothbrush and four days' supply of extract of St John's Wort.

After Clodgy Point it started to rain ("Clodgy" is Cornish for leper, the trail guide informed me). Then, a little further on, I found myself picking my way across a vast swamp - the kind of terrain my Jesus sandals had just not been designed for. Things were getting out of hand, and I'd only been on the trail for half an hour. I got the trail guide out again to see what was going on.

"After Clodgy Point," it said, "the going becomes boggy in places." This was the understatement of the year. I mustn't be downhearted though, it went on in a brighter vein, "because the bogginess brings its own flora, including refreshing mint to chew and orchids to look at." I stood there, just past Leper's Point, cold, wet, up to my ankles in black mud, and looked about me in case there was any refreshing mint or orchids to lift my spirits.

After passing some boulders called Zawn Quoits, the going became drier. It also became steeper and rockier and, because it was more exposed, much windier. Tugged at and buffeted by the wind, I staggered along like a drunken man.

I'd come to get away from it all but, now that I had, I didn't like it. There wasn't a living thing anywhere to be seen: not a bird in the sky, nor anything creeping along the ground. There wasn't a boat at sea either - too rough even for the fishermen, I supposed - and in the tiny boulder- strewn fields beside the cliff path there was only the occasional collapsed remains of a tin mine or a long-deserted pre-historic homestead.

But then things began to look up. First a shrew ran across my path, which cheered me up enormously, and then I saw another human being coming along the cliff towards me.

We crossed on a wind-blasted promontory. Judging by the style of his canvas rucksack and his natural fibres, he was one of the old school of walkers. My first impulse was to stop him and embrace him like a long- lost brother. Then I would ask him where he was going and why, and how far he'd come.

But the wind was so fierce there that as we passed one another I could only grimace at him, and he grimaced back. Even grimacing was a risky distraction under the circumstances for the man had to cut short his grimace and hold out his arms, like a tightrope walker, to steady himself against an unexpectedly strong gust.

After walking for what the trail guide claims is seven miles, but which seemed more like 47, there was another promontory, and behind this a village. According to the guide, painters flock to Zennor to take advantage of the peculiar quality of the light there; how they keep their easels from blowing away it didn't say.

At Zennor I was bitten by a dog. This farm collie came up from behind me in the lane and left four bloody puncture marks just above my ankle. When I knocked on the farmer's door and showed him my leg, though, his owner couldn't have been more apologetic. He took me into his parlour, offered me tea and bandages and said that his dog deserved to be burnt. And what with him apologising for his dog and me for dripping blood all over the floor, it was like an apologising contest. More than anything else, it was a relief to get out of the wind and the rain for a moment.

With blood seeping through all four Elastoplasts, I hobbled on towards the west. After a mile or so I came to what my guide claims is a Holy Well. There I stopped and stuck my leg in it, hoping that it might be healed. And perhaps not only my leg, but the whole of me, mind, body, spirit, the lot. But the holiness must have gone from the well because if anything I felt much worse after that, and my leg became so stiff I could hardly walk, and I had visions of dying from lockjaw.

And all this on the first day. By my free Boots watch, I'd only been walking for three hours!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

Read Next

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner

Sorry Britain, but nobody cares about your little election – try being relevant next time

Emanuel Sidea
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power