A couple of weekends ago last my partner Jane and I decided to have “a day at the seaside”. Although we live only a few miles from Aberystwyth, going there is such a routine that it is sometimes difficult to drag one’s feet away from the well trodden paths we have each made in the town. So we decided to head down to New Quay, about 25 miles to the south, and what is more, go (most of the way) on the bus. Arriving on the outskirts of the village we made a connection on to the “Cardi Bach” – a local bus that twice daily links the villages between there and Cardigan. It seemed more like a fairground ride than a bus service as it rattled down the steep, narrow and overgrown lane running down to the coast at Cwmtydi. Having fortified ourselves with coffee there, we began the coastal walk to New Quay about five miles distant.
Many years ago I had what could almost be described as “a proper job”. It was in 1983 and I was employed on a Manpower Services Scheme to supervise the clearance and re-opening of various stretches of footpath along the Ceredigion coast. So it was a trip down memory lane for me, although it is shameful to admit that I’ve not walked several lengths of the coast since the early 1980’s! One particular stretch of the coastal slope/hillside I remembered as being impossible to traverse despite there being a public footpath across it. In those early days it was necessary to descend right down to a narrow and remote pebbly beach and then after 100 yards or so climb back up on to the cliff top. Since those early days additional sums of money have been spent on these paths and some relatively major engineering projects completed, and they now form part of the All-Wales Coastal footpath. What really brought my mind back to those days was the sight of two footpath signs which I had designed and possibly even built myself back in early 1984 – much the worse for wear after more than thirty years out in the elements but still doing their job and now almost part of the landscape.
On the walk we met Arfon Williams, one of the RSPB’s top people in Wales. We stopped to have a chat and he told me that he was planning to return to Cwmtydi via Cwm Soden, a wooded valley which Jane and I had crossed via a footbridge. During my footpath survey and clearance days I had identified Cwm Soden as having a particularly diverse range of butterflies and Arfon mentioned that it was now managed for them by the National Trust in conjunction with the charity Butterfly Conservation. I wondered if my observations in summer 1983 had contributed to the knowledge about Cwm Soden and the conservation effort now made there. I’d like to think so.
It was a good walk- if rather bird-free – and after a couple of hours (well, three….) we arrived at the bustling holiday village of New Quay. On this sunny Saturday afternoon it was absolutely heaving with visitors. The beach was thronged with families and the high-pitched voices of happy children were everywhere to be heard. There were queues for ice-creams and chips and it really was the archetypal British summer seaside holiday experience. There is still a resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay and New Quay is also the centre for dolphin watching in Wales. Several operators run boat trips out of the harbour to see them. There is also a conservation presence there – I should damn well hope so! In particular I popped in to the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. It so happened they were running a 8 hour dolphin survey boat trip the following day and they had one space left! So it was back home on the bus then an early start the following day and a drive back down to New Quay. It was hardly good planning but that spare place definitely had my name on it!
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