Aberaeron looks lovely in the soft light of morning, with the tide high, and the ships bobbing in the marina.
I walk along the sea front. A worker in a fluorescent jacket is picking litter off the beach.
And then I leave the town behind as I follow a path beside the shingle beach, heading for Llanrhystud. The first place I’ll come to is Aberarth and this is just visible ahead, although the view is hazy through a morning mist.
The footpath between Aberaeron and Aberarth is popular with dog walkers. As I near the village, I spot a commotion. A man (in the right on the photograph below) is standing with two dogs. The dogs are barking furiously at something. Not at me, for a change, but at another man ahead (also visible in the photo below). What’s going on?
As I get closer I begin to feel nervous, because I don’t want the dogs to turn their aggressive attention on me. Then I realise what’s happening. The second man has a drone, which he is flying a few yards off the ground. This is why the dogs are barking – at the drone. They don’t like it at all.
With all the growling and howling, I don’t want to linger, and so I walk quickly past the men and don’t stop to snap a photograph of the flying drone. Shame.
Aberarth has a beach and a small stream. The coastal path heads inland through the village, but I check my map and see a public footpath runs down the side of the stream to the shore, and so I follow this route. There is a high bank of sea defences protecting the mouth of the stream. Piled rocks. Riprap.
After a very brief walk by the shore, I regain the official path, which climbs steadily out of the valley and runs along the top of a ridge of cliffs, with the sea below.
It’s obvious this area of the coast is suffering from erosion. In Aberarth I saw groynes (the first I’ve come across for a long time) and riprap. Here there is no such protection and great slabs of land have slipped downwards towards the sea. In places the path is forced to deviate, and its unstable edges are fenced off.
The sun burns away the early morning mist, and I really enjoy this section of the walk. Calm sea, clear sky, mellow bracken. Despite the fine weather, there is nobody around – until I decide to crouch behind a bush for a pee, at which point a male walker suddenly appears round the corner. Embarrassing!
After a couple of miles on high ground, the trail begins to lead downwards. I’m approaching a wide open valley. Ahead is the village of Llansantffraed.
The route is well signposted. But the path has undergone another deviation as a further section of land has crumbled away.
I cross over a stream. The landscape suddenly changes. Now I’m walking along the edge of fields, along a clearly defined path through dried grasses and scrub, beside the shingle beach. This reminds me of Norfolk. Flat, low-lying land.
I stop for a rest, sitting on some rocks on the beach, and notice bright, pure-white pebbles – quartz, I think – among the grey stones.
At Llansantffraed they are making valiant efforts to hold back the sea. A wall of thick poles has been erected, but the sea has smashed through and the low cliff behind is crumbled and worn. At intervals along the pebbly beach are wooden staircases, constructed to be extensible as the low cliff erodes.
The place has a sad air. It reminds me of poor, doomed Happisburg in Norfolk.
Between the valiant wooden trunks, as if to demonstrate the uselessness of this barricade, the sea has smashed giant pebbles – some wedged so firmly they seem to be part of the defensive structure.
The path leaves the beach and I walk through Llansantffraed village (which, confusingly, is also called Llanon, according to a sign). It seems to consist mainly of bungalows.
Maybe it’s a pleasant place to retire. But, given the erosion problems, perhaps it’s not a place to make a long-lasting real estate investment.
Somebody has donated land to the community, although the plot is horribly overgrown with brambles and nettles.
‘This slang was donated to the community of Llansantffraed by Miss Margot James in the year 2000 in memory of her parents, grandparents and aunt namely the old Roseland family.’
I am struck by the old-fashioned wording. It seems more in tune with early 1900s, rather than the year 2000.
And that’s a strange word to use: slang.
[Later I look up the meaning of ‘slang’ in my Collins and in my Oxford Concise dictionary and can only find a definition for slang language. But a quick Google search brings up The Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter Skeat, which cites a possible meaning for slang as being ‘a narrow strip of wasteland by the roadside’. This must be the meaning intended in the sign.]
The coast path goes past the church and I can’t resist a photograph of the graveyard. Some of the headstones are very impressive.
And now I am walking up a farm track and on either side are fields of cows. This one gives me a particularly evil stare. And seems to be slobbering. Ugh. I’m glad it’s on the other side of the gate.
Cow fields give way to undulating crop fields. And I meet a woman walking her dog. She is the first walker I’ve seen for some time and we discuss the amazingly wonderful weather.
Ahead the ground flattens out into another wide valley, and I can see my destination, the village of Llanrhystud, situated about a mile inland of the coast.
Then, onwards, through a thicket of hawthorn bushes and past a line of old lime kilns, and I am walking along the edge of a field beside another endless pebble beach.
The path follows the grassy bank, but the tide is very low now and so I walk down and stroll along the exposed sand at the bottom of the beach. This reminds me of Norfolk again. Miles of emptiness.
It is tempting to keep walking, but I know the beach ahead is interrupted by a stream, and by a caravan park. So, when I reach the beach road, I turn inland. My legs are tired now, and it’s a long slog up the lane from the coast.
As I get nearer to the village, I notice an unpleasant whiff in the air. At first I think it is a cattle farm. I’ve noticed some farms manage to remain clean and sweet-smelling, while others stink of manure and cow-slurry. So, I’m expecting to come across a poorly kept cow barn.
But it’s not cows creating the stench. It’s a sewage works. With open pools. Yuck. What a shame that this place with its barren beach – which hasn’t got much going for it in the first place – is made even more unpleasant by the sewage plant.
I walk through the village to find my car. The weather is set fine for the next week, and I would love to stay in Wales longer, but this afternoon I’m driving back to Lincolnshire. There is the small matter of my daughter’s wedding to attend.
Miles walked today: 8 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 561 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,168 miles