Aberystwyth, Ceredigion: A coastal walk pits me – and my hat – against the northerly winds that disturb everything in sight
The overnight storm has battered the landscape and torn the remaining leaves from the beech trees, with only a few small oaks maintaining a grip on their senescent foliage. Frost followed by heavy rain has reduced much of the leaf litter in the lane to a rutted mulch, which deadens the sound of my footfall as I head towards the coast.
Away from the dubious shelter of the hills, I realise just how strong the northerly wind still is, raising short, angry waves even in the sheltered waters at the mouth of the Afon Rheidol. Plumes of beech leaves swirl in the confluence of waters at the harbour mouth; a line of foam marks the margin of the salt water. In mid stream, a lone cormorant stands on a bank of shingle in apparent defiance, as the wind tugs at its plumage, iridescent in the late afternoon sunshine.
South of the harbour entrance, the bank of large cobbles at the back of the beach blocks some wind, but as I climb over its crest I am forced back by the raw pressure of the gale. Flecks of foam, torn from the confusion of breaking waves around the harbour wall, whip up like driven snow around the curve of the bay. Groups of seabirds fly low, tight to the water, seeking shelter upriver.
I clamber southward over the stones, a stronger gust nearly parting me from my hat, while banks of cloud send lines of shadow across the sea and split the sunshine into shards of light. The cliffs ahead of me begin to be outlined with mist and spray from the breaking waves. Heavier cloud, almost fully obscuring the sun, begins to drain colour from the scene – leaving the landscape feeling even colder.
Chilled to the bone, I take a final look across the bay, where the last band of light highlights the coast beyond Aberaeron, and turn back towards shelter. Heading directly into the wind, I bury my hands in my pockets and consider where I might find both beer and an open fire.
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