Country diary: spring sunshine heralds a trip to the beach

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion: The tranquil sea echoes the uneven blue of the sky, and small wavelets break in elegant crescents on the shoreline

Aday of sunshine, after the striking reversals of the weather in recent weeks, is something to be celebrated. Turning my back on the hills, I set out to walk to the coast a few miles distant. Following days of cold, grey cloud, the injection of colour from the open sky was revelatory – the swelling buds and early catkins giving a hint that maybe, just maybe, winter was on the wane.

Cresting the hill above Aberystwyth opened up a panoramic view across the breadth of Cardigan Bay. I skirted the town along seldom used paths and reached the sea just below the impressive mass of Constitution Hill. What little wind that remained from the storm was blowing offshore, leaving the sea tranquil and echoing the uneven blue of the sky. Small wavelets, surging and breaking in elegant crescents on the shoreline, reflected the wider story of the conditions far out to sea.

Above the surf-shaped beach of wet cobbles and shingle, the cliffs outlined the ancient, troubled geology of the region. Rocks laid down as muddy sediment under warm, Silurian seas have been crushed and distorted by subsequent movement. Almost vertical planes of rock stand sheer, sunshine highlighting the minerals arrayed within their structure, while arches of twisted strata speak of monumental forces acting over long ages of time.

A column of cloud edged over the sun, cutting the more vibrant colours, and suddenly the scene was returned to winter monotony. I walked south, past the wave-cut rocks where stalwart Victorians took up sea-bathing. Planed almost flat by erosion, they emerge just proud of the beach like the fragmented spines of some ancient beings – which, in a sense, I suppose they are.

Having reached my goal, I faced the long drag back uphill. Just before the landscape reabsorbed the view to the south I turned and looked down the coast – as I have so often in recent weeks. Increasingly pale and faint as the distance increased, a series of headlands marked out where rural communities lie tight to the shoreline. At the limit of vision, I thought I could just make out the promontory beyond which much of my closest family – unvisited for months because of the pandemic – remains out of reach.

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