It is always thrilling to explore new coasts. Wales has made visiting their coast especially inviting with the completion in 2012 of a foot path along its 870 mile coastline. Our beaches are beautiful, but the coast of Wales is stunning in a completely different way. The Welsh coast is both dramatic and pastoral. It’s dotted with picturesque towns with pastel colored buildings, old churches and always at least one pub. At the end of a day of walking, travelers and locals alike meet at the pub for a pint, a meal and conversation.
My husband and I walked the coast in Pembrokeshire. Here the path hugs the edge of cliffs along the ocean. Far below craggy rocks jut out of clear blue water. We were always on the lookout for the bobbing heads of seals. Atlantic grey seals and Harbour seals come out on secluded beaches in large numbers in the fall to have pups. Between cliff tops and the sea, herring gulls, razorbills, kittiwakes and other birds etch out nesting sites. We walked in May, wildflower season, and the cliffs were blanketed with bluebells, gorse and campion. The path goes through fields divided by old, tangled hedgerows filled with chattering birds. We were careful to lock gates behind us and not let the sheep, cows and horses out when the path took us through their pastures The path drops down to sandy or rocky beaches and harbors with huge tidal ranges that leave boats landlocked at low tide. Traces of a long Welsh history were everywhere. Ruins of old water mills, lime kilns and coal mining operations were slowly being reclaimed and blended seamlessly into the landscape. The oldest signs of human habitation were chromlechs, or burial sites, dating from 3000bc.
Just like our beaches, on the Welsh beaches there was plastic too. Unlike the other things man had left behind, the pieces of bright rope, colored bottle caps and fragments of who knows what, were glaringly out of place. I came across David, a cheerful man who was picking up plastic from a beach, something he does three or four times a week. When I met him he was finishing for the day, and there wasn’t much in his bag. I commented on his mostly empty bag, and he chuckled and said the stiff east wind was piling it all on the shores of Ireland that day, and the folks there were very busy cleaning it up. According to David, there were many others like him who worked to rid the beach of plastic. Even on the most remote beaches, piles of collected plastic were staged beyond the tide’s reach, waiting for the beach’s keeper to make the steep, uphill trek to the closest garbage can. Like David and the many people I meet on our beaches using BlueTube, they are probably happy to help. It’s a small price to pay to keep the coast stunning.