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HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

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a dramatic, lonely and extreamely worthwhile coastal path walk

My family and I have very different view’s on camping. Give me a bivvy bag, a three season minimum sleeping bag, the means to make a fire, and adequate company as I am ashamed to admit on all my wanderings I have never learnt to read a map. My family on the other hand has adopted this new wave of “glamping” as their preferred escape into nature. All the modern conveniences and comforts we have become accustomed to placed in a beautiful scenic landscape. The location of choice for this latest trip that I have somehow find myself apart of is Glan Y Mor on the Mid Wales coast. The saving grace for me will be leaving the family in the early hours of the morning to explore the Ceredigion coastal path.

It’s 6am. The sun is starting to fill the sky giving the illusion of warmth but the chill in the wind is sharp enough to cut glass. Needing both sunglasses and a down layer under shell, I quietly pack my bag, make a flask of coffee and sneak out of the little cabin. A few key things I always pack for a hike are my kuksa; a gift from Finland that gives port particularly a finer taste. A foil blanket for emergency, along with a knife, some basic first aid and waterproof matches, a poncho with eyelets that can easily become a tarpaulin with para-cord, and a few extra base layers for warmth. I’m aware a map and compass should also be in my basic pack but neither would assist me; this is a skill I do plan to acquire at some point though rest assured.

The Ceredigion coastal path passes directly through Aberystwyth, it is a 60-mile route from Cardigan in the south of the county to Ynyslas in the north. Glan Y Mor is my starting point which is in Clarach; Clarach to Borth being a challenging yet popular section of Heritage Coast, Borth to Ynys-las by contrast is a much easier flat path. If any true ramblers come across this post all I can do is apologize for the lack of technical information, I can only state that I am not a rambler, I am a wanderer. I was not looking for an extensive walk that day and so did not do the full route, I headed in the direction of Llanrhystud, the appeal being the promise from the official website for the Ceredigion Coastal Path that it will be a “dramatic, lonely and extremely worthwhile” experience.

I love to wander with only the company of wildlife, kestrels and ravens haunt the sky and below glimpses of seals and dolphins can be caught by those in tune with the sounds of disturbed waters. I can spot a solitary fishing boat in the distance, other than that there is no other sign of human presence.

The initial climb to the cliff top awakens the muscles of my thighs, fortunately every ascension I have encountered has been rewarded with views that far out way the burning heat that promises a lasting ache; this time is no exception. The weather was perfect that morning, the cold wind fierce and fresh carrying the scent of salt, the sun giving life to all the greens and blues you find on a country coastal path. The path is quite varied, some areas provide a clear walking route until you come across areas of erosion and vertical drops that require scrambling down. For my rest stops I chose to test the integrity of the cliffs edges and hang my feet over, pouring my coffee into my kuksa and feeling quite content. The combination of the wind and wooden drinking vessel means little time can be spent taking in the scenery if I wish to drink my coffee hot, and so I continued on, pausing for photographs and to admire the ravens appearing like shadows out of the cliffs.

The first sign of human habitation comes at the crossing of a beautiful white farm house that sits on the cliff and over looks the ocean. I feel almost like an intruder as I stumble over a little bridge to continue on the path ahead. There are occasional entry points spotted where I can descend to the pebble beach below. The waters are like ice and threaten to close in if I linger here to long. The ocean has an exceptional ability in claiming its territory, ensuring you are aware that you don’t belong between its waves and cliffs.

To avoid being swallowed by waves I scramble back to the cliff top and continue walking. I took my last coffee break on the boarder to Borth.  Albeit a beautiful town, I had no desire to be social with anyone but the ravens. The sun had began to gain strength and I would have to pack a few of my layers into my day sack for the return, wanting to continue walking over taking the bus back to Aberystwyth which is then only a short walk to Clarach. I decided to pass the camp site which now showed signs of life and take in the view of Aberystwyth from Constitution Hill; it seemed wasteful to neglect a descent to the beach and walk the pier that passes the ruined castle and ends the path. True ramblers must be thinking what a ridiculous route to go one way, turn back on yourself to go another and turn back again to your original destination; nothing of this landscape with it’s views can be considered wasteful though.

Now reacquainted with civilization again it came the time to rejoin my family and continue the day in a more social setting. There is always a slight hesitation to leave a rural landscapes in exchange for towns or city life but, until next time. I often wander where the future will see me roaming, although I want my legs to carry me to many oceans and mountains, there is a reason Wales is home.

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Nostalgia is found in the eyes of the youth that surround us, we just have to remember how to open our eyes again to their world.

As we get older it is a simple thing to forget those effortless smiles. The ones you make when you spot a robin in winter. The joy of getting away with jumping in puddles as your mother glares at the muddy watermarks that now decorate your coat, but it’s okay because you have your wellies on. Or finally succeeding in the approach of the ducks so that they take the bread directly from your nervous fingers.

As time rushes forward we forget to see the little things, our mind always minutes or even hours ahead on the days tasks to complete. It’s in these times I find a sentimental yearning to return home and rejoin the questionable notion that winter is the perfect season for the beach.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to this peculiar past time, only this time it is more my sister who is leading this adventure. My mother, of course there but slightly more reluctant these days. I am also slightly less excited to step out of the car into the rain, the wind so cold it burns your ears. But nevertheless we are being cheered on by the new generation of wild things.

 We have already gathered  we are close as every cherub like face warmed from the car heater has arisen to claim they can see the sea. When only the grey of the sky can reflect in the cold waters ahead I very much doubt they see anything, but I remember listening for the sound of seagulls to be the first to give claim to what my eyes never saw, and these little ones are smart. I listen for their strained song and sure enough they are waiting for our company to join them.

Once the sea truly is insight there’s little time wasted to begin the race to be the first to have their feet dance in the waves. I may no longer take part in this race but that simple smile is the warmest thing to surround me in this moment. My role now is to add to the collection of illusions that entertain the wild things and generate some level of heat in their bodies!

As the little ones search for shells with enviable enthusiasm, the once young join together to recall memories of similar days. I’m one to look forward in life but there is something to be said for reliving the past, for sharing moments through the generations no matter how bizarre the idea may be. You just have to trust in that simple joy again that you were once able to find in the smallest of things. Nostalgia is found in the eyes of the youth that surround us, we just have to remember how to open our eyes again to their world.

Sea of Gulls

 

It is not long before we are pulled back to the present, the exhaustion of keeping ones body moving every moment has set in for the wild things and new demands of fish and chips have to be met. Unfortunately we are that family. The ones you see throwing chips to a single bold seagull that approaches with a confidence that is slightly unnerving. In moments we know why and an entire flock descends upon us. Giggles shriek out of the little ones and we resume our adult roles and try to bring order to this invited chaos, not that any of it really matters. We are of course alone on this beach, it is winter after all.

 

 

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There’s a certain type of calm that follows the echo of waves crashing against rocks. The spray of water at your toes reminding you of the oceans fierceness as the cold wind penetrates your taunt skin to your very bones. These are not the exotic waters of tourist ridden beaches, these are the sands of Wales. This is my home.

As a child my mother disregarded the notion that summer was the time for the seaside. Along with my just as confused brother and sister, I would be packed into the car, the boot housing blankets, wellies, umbrellas and raincoats. The air tightened our lungs and our eyes reflected like glass the sharp coldness of winter. We did not have buckets and spades. Our games were finding the smoothest stone, collecting driftwood to dry out and decorate my mothers fireplace, and that endless search for the perfect shell.

dune fields

My mother would have us race through the sand dunes, our bodies disappearing and reappearing as we ran up and down the hills of the dunes, our laughter mingling with the whistle of the wind that danced through the somewhat unpleasantly sharp grass that grew sporadically out of the dunes. I’ve concluded with age that this was not for fun and simply a means to keeping us warm and distracted from the fact that we were the only ones populating the abandoned grey beach. I’m grateful for this illusion gifted from my mother.

The ability to find joy in an environment that does not give promise to immediate excitement or comfort is something I may have never discovered for myself if not rounded up and taken on  questionable adventures in my youth. Now, if you can’t see for rain and mist you will most likely find me walking in the sand feeling utterly free and reconnected with nature.

Of course Wales has it’s summers and this is also a fine time to visit the beautiful coastline of the country, but that scent of salt won’t consume your nostrils in the same way. You won’t hear the song of the birds being carried on the wind that gently stings your ears. You won’t feel that freedom of wandering, undisturbed, around the rock pools searching for hidden life. You won’t close your eyes and be taken on an adventure to an entirely new world that your imagination has the silence it needs to create, filling in every minute detail like an architect discovering his creation.

If it is cold, dark and dreary…pack up the car, and rediscover those abandoned beaches.

grey reflections