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Finding love on the South West Coast Path

PUBLISHED: 17:41 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:41 14 February 2018

Sunset at the Valley of the Rocks: Photographer Robert Small (2015 Photo Competition entry)

Sunset at the Valley of the Rocks: Photographer Robert Small (2015 Photo Competition entry)

2015 Bob Small Photography

The South West Coast Path has led to romance for many couples. Now Becky Millington wonders, will she be next?

As a singleton, I can’t say 14 February is circled as a key date in my social calendar. I’ve always been single for it, so the day tends to pass me by much as any other.

However, this year as I plod my way towards 30 it seems the domino effect of friends getting engaged and married has begun. In fact, as I sat down to write this a friend called to say she just got engaged whilst husky sledging in Lapland! So perhaps it’s the flurry of romantic proposals I’ve been privy to recently or just that I’m becoming more sentimental, but this year Valentine’s Day is well and truly on my radar.

The vast majority of us looking for love have tried online dating and free dating apps to scout out potentials suitors. Recently a friend eagerly recommended I try one of the paid-for sites, assuring me that the quality of matches is far superior due to thorough compatibility testing.

Will Becky Millington find love on the coast pathWill Becky Millington find love on the coast path

After completing a somewhat lengthy questionnaire, I was then prompted to write an unnerving amount of information about my likes, dislikes and interests. Writing a dating profile quickly shot up to the top of the list of things I’m not interested in and I abandoned it and went out for a walk. It was then, with salty sea air in my lungs and an expanse of Devon countryside around when it struck me; surely, I’ll meet the right person out doing the things I love!?

My love affair with the outdoors started at a young age having grown up in Ilfracombe, a stone’s throw from the South West Coast Path. I’m now lucky enough to work for the South West Coast Path Association, the charity that cares for this world-class walking route.

Having hiked up volcanoes, trekked to lost cities and explored the wilds of the Amazon jungle I can honestly say I still return home to Devon desperate to discover the great outdoors that’s sat right on my doorstep. I can’t help but wonder if this path, that’s inspired poetry and dozens of romance novels, is where I may find true love.

Looking east near Woody Bay. Photographer: Mike WatsonLooking east near Woody Bay. Photographer: Mike Watson

The South West Coast Path is close to so many people’s hearts. I began to question how many real-life love stories it’s home to. Susana Temple is a keen walker and a member of the Nottingham & Derby Walking Group. For years she was part of the same group as her now husband Bonamy, but it wasn’t until Susana took the lead in organising a trip to the South West Coast Path in 2009 that the lovers were to meet.

“I had planned to lead the first day’s walk from Land’s End to Lamorna. I’d never considered myself particularly good at map reading but I thought, how hard can it be? You just have to keep the sea on your right,” Susana explains. Immersed in very thick fog, Susana’s dreams of stress-free navigation were dashed, but it was then that fellow walker Bonamy came to her rescue.

The pair spent the following days getting to know each other on the long coastal walks, at team meals and discovering local delights like a cream tea for the first time (what a sheltered life some lead!).

Susana and Bonamy met while walking on the South West Coast PathSusana and Bonamy met while walking on the South West Coast Path

“Walking the South West Coast Path together became a crucial part of our lives and it took us five years to complete it. We will always have fond memories of our adventures along the path and I can honestly say that doing the whole thing has been one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished,” says Susana.

The couple were married in March 2013 and made a fitting tribute to the place that sparked their romance with a coastal-themed hand painted wedding cake.

The path’s match-making abilities don’t stop there though; helping to spark romance between octogenarians Barbara Butler and Bernard Winnington.

The coast path sparked romance between octogenarians Barbara and BernardThe coast path sparked romance between octogenarians Barbara and Bernard

After Barbara wrote an article for a local magazine about her life achievements (which included completing the path), Bernard got in touch and the rest is history.

“Bernard phoned to congratulate me and said he knew the farm where I was born, asking if he could take me there,” says Barbara. “I said I am not getting into your car without a chaperone!” This was the beginning of their romance, which led to their wedding in July last year.

One Devon couple whose love truly blossomed on the coast path is James and Laura Hobbs. Having discovered a mutual love of hiking, they spent much of the early part of their relationship exploring the areas near to where they live (James from Plymouth and Laura from Exmouth).

Fast forward a few years and on a hike past Start Point, James’s proposal had to compete with the stunning South Devon views. With the path holding such a special place in their hearts, the pair married and then set out on a three-week honeymoon in the South West.

Love  blossomed on the coast path for James and Laura HobbsLove blossomed on the coast path for James and Laura Hobbs

“People seem to feel that you have to pay a huge amount of money and go to the ends of the earth to get that really special honeymoon experience, but when you live here in the South West, extraordinary is always just down the road,” says Laura. “Some photos even tricked people into believing we were in the Maldives!”

The path is part of the story for Edd Lane and his wife Lora too.

Edd chose the majestic backdrop of Tintagel to pop the question and in floods of tears looking out to the Atlantic, Lora said yes.

Edd and Lora Lane were married at the start (or end) of the coast path at MineheadEdd and Lora Lane were married at the start (or end) of the coast path at Minehead

Their wedding took place in Minehead where the path begins, and now they have two beautiful children – Lyra and Logan.

I can’t promise the Coast Path will lead you to love, but it’s not a bad place to start.

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