Creative responses by students from the
School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University
Drawing on her visit to Planet’s office in the Old College on Aberystwyth’s seafront, Cardiff University student Megan Potterton imagines the myriad sounds, sights and seascapes which can be experienced from the promenade across different seasons, in the latest contribution to Planet Platform.
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I first visited Aberystwyth on a calm, although crisp, September afternoon. Pulling my scarf tighter around my neck, I stood on the promenade and looked out towards the sea. The waves lapped gently around the wooden pier that jutted out into the water and a cool breeze blew softly through my hair. There was a distinct sense of calm along the seafront today. Perhaps resting, or perhaps recovering from a busy summer season, the Aberystwyth I visited was peaceful, and strangely quiet. Today, a lone woman and her labrador were the only figures leaving footprints in the sand, while an elderly gentleman sat with his cap covering his eyes on a bench nearby. I was aware, however, that this was not always the scene to greet the town’s residents. As the most popular seaside holiday destination in west Wales, Aberystwyth had just reached the end of its busiest months of the year.
There was certainly a beauty in the emptiness of the seafront this afternoon, and I suddenly felt very lucky to be able to appreciate the town on one of the rare occasions that it was not full with visitors. It was undoubtable, however, that when the sun was shining and the sky a bright blue, Aberystwyth would completely come to life. As I walked along the seafront that particular day, it was not hard to imagine the beach below me packed full of families on their annual holiday to the coast. I could almost taste the fish and chips they would be eating for lunch, and the ice cream that would be in every child’s hand. I could hear the screams of people paddling in the bitter sea. I could see the thousands of sandcastles that were built each day, only to be knocked down when the tide came in each evening. The mere thought of the sunshine, the sand and the sea brought a smile to my face. Growing up in Devon, I was no stranger to the joys of spending summer days on the beach.
If I had visited in the winter of 2014, however, Aberystwyth’s beautiful seafront would be barely recognisable. The storms of that particular January catapulted this small town into chaos. Scenes of flooded homes and businesses, residents being evacuated and roads full of debris are images that Aberystwyth will find hard to forget. The events of that winter were a powerful reminder of the strength of the sea. Residents became powerless in the face of the relentless waves, and helplessly watched on as the storms destroyed their beloved promenade. It took millions of pounds and months of hard work to restore Aberystwyth and the surrounding Ceredigion coastline to what it once was, but through the resilience of the residents it was achievable. Today, when the sea was still and the air calm, it is hard to imagine that such damage was possible. It struck me that the unpredictable tendencies of nature are a concern along the coast path more than anywhere else in Wales. Although Aberystwyth’s residents can enjoy spectacular views that would not be found in areas further from the coast, they certainly paid a price for being quite so near to the sea in the storms of 2014.
Perhaps that is what I most enjoy about the Wales Coast Path; it is never the same from one moment to the next. Aberystwyth’s seafront is constantly changing, developing and adapting, meaning there is always a reason to return. From a roaring sea and a damaged town, to a beach full of holidaymakers and sunshine, to the empty promenade and gentle breeze today, I have drawn a simple conclusion: You will never visit the same Aberystwyth twice.
Megan Potterton is a third year undergraduate at Cardiff University. She is studying English Literature.
Further articles from Planet Platform:
Coed Hardd: A modern-day reflection on Gillian Clarke's Cardiff experience in the 1970s
Retracing Wales: Barry
Reflections on 'Welsh Keywords'
Flora and Fauna
Retracing Wales | Discover the Shape of a Nation