Diaries from my Wonderful Walks in Wales
August 16, 2012
Beside the seaside
Summer at last!
Summer holidays always conjure up the vision of seaside, sandcastles and sun. The sounds of the waves, seagulls and laughter, the smell of the sea.
Usually , we avoid the beaches in August, we do prefer to have them all to ourselves. But if we venture just a little way from the main car parks we still find miles of coastline where we can enjoy the peace of our solitary stroll.
We drive down to Borth. The day is a perfect summer day, and the children are out in force on the beach. Oscar acts as a magnet for them all, taking all the fuss and compliments with his usual aplomb.
The tide is way out, and so we can walk around the huge old groynes on the flat sandy beach below the shingle.
Walking down towards the edge of the sea, we can see fragments of the petrified forest, just visible through the sand. Depending on the shifting sands and the tides, you can sometimes see whole groups of blackened tree trunks with spreading root systems. These are the remnants of pine, oak, alder and hazel trees which cloaked the estuary over 5000 years ago. Proof that the coast line was much further west then.
We follow the edge of the sea south , leaving the beach and its happy occupants behind. Climbing up towards the cliff tops, following the coastal path.
A stiff climb is rewarded as we look down towards Aberystwyth seeing the whole sweep ofCardigan bayto the south. The rocky cliffs are full of cormorants , with outstretched wings drying in the sun. Every few minutes one dives again into the sea plunging deep to search for small fish and molluscs. Their feathers have wider barbs than other seabirds to allow them to dive much deeper, but this means they become waterlogged , hence the need to dry them in the sun after diving.
At the top of the cliffs we remember to turn to look back. This is a glorious view back north over the golden sands of Borth and the dunes at Ynyslas, the Dovey estuary with Aberdovey beyond , Borth Bog to the east and Cader Idris as a majestic backdrop. The whole of the southern side of the Dovey estuary is managed by several different bodies to protect the huge variety of flora and fauna that survives in the wonderful pure environment. The main part of the estuary is governed by the RSPB, the dunes at Ynyslas by the Nature conservancy for Wales and Borth bog and Artists valley are both SSSI’ s. So it is good to know this view is assured to remain for future generations to enjoy.
The children on the beach are specks in the distance, and the fishing boats look like toys lined up along the sea wall.
The sea dark blue on the horizon, becoming translucent turquoise towards the beach.
We head south, feeling the warm sun on our backs, glad of the sea breeze full of ozone and the smell of seaweed.
The path is springy turf, the cliffs below black and craggy. The folded and convoluted rocks etched by the pounding of the sea.
Today though the sea is placid, deep blue and gently lapping the rocks, like a lion might lick your hand. But I have seen it in all its fury, and know never to underestimate its capabilities!
There are caves hollowed out at the bottom of the cliffs in places, accessible at low tide.
The Cistercian monks had an ingenious way of harvesting the bountiful seafood here. They must have noticed that depressions in the cave floors acted as natural lobster pots, where the departing tide left its gifts of lobsters crabs and prawns. So they carved out these to make large potholes, and at low tide simply gathered whatever the sea gave to them.
The path descends to a bay, and you catch a first glimpse of the wonderful Wallog house . It seems so incongruous to see a house as big and almost as old as Ynyshir sited so close to the sea. It has a large wall to protect it from the worst of the storms, and the bay itself must offer some shelter, but it is virtually on its own small beach. The first time I stumbled upon it, I dreamed of converting it into a second Ynyshir but the family that has owned it for generations is very loathe to part with it, and it is easy to see why!
There is a long spit , Sarn Cynfelin, which is a feature unique toCardigan Bay. It is a 20 yard wide old Glacial Morraine which extends out well into the sea from the small bay. It never ceases to amaze me that these features can survive the daily pounding of the sea for thousands of years.
There is also an old lime kiln just by the end of the moraine. The lime was shipped in and then treated here to be spread over the lands of the Wallog estate.
The path ascends steeply again and we make our way to the next bay, Clarach. This is at the end of the wide valley of the Clarach river, which pours over the rocks into the sea. There are stretches of sandy shingle and rock pools, perfect for family days out. Clarach is now home to a large and very well managed caravan park, where many families spend happy summers.
Climbing back up from Clarach bay, the cliffs become very different. They are steep soft clay and susceptible to erosion.
Gorse bushes, shaped by the wind line the edge of the cliffs, and sheep graze the short sea washed turf.
We can see Aberystwyth bay with its pier down in the distance as we climb up to Constitution Hill.
On the top of the hill is a café, an electric cliff railway and the largest Camera Obscura in the World , all remnants of the time when Aberystwyth was the most popular and chic Victorian seaside resort.
Now, with the University, National Library and large Arts Centre, it is an eclectic mix of faded seaside and Academia.
We wend our way through the town, stopping for a snack at Ultracomedia, our favourite tapas bar, and time it perfectly to catch the train back to Borth, to pick up the car! A perfect summer stroll