New Quay / Y Cei Newydd
From here I can see everything that matters. In the mid-distance are three rows of house holding fast to the hillside, limpets of many tints – sugar almond pink, custard yellow, toothpaste mint green, apricot, lilac, hydrangea blue. There’s a dip in the centre where a passing giant trod on and sunk the rows. Pubs, fish and chip shops, cafes and souvenir stalls congregate there, behind one of New Quay’s three sandy beaches that reveal and hide themselves with the tides, next to the long, stone pier which arcs protectively around the harbour. Then, there’s the sweep of shrubby, stubby green, a wide, wild belt around the cliff-top. It serves as a barrier, for now, against coastal erosion and is home, most likely, to many creatures, but I only catch sight of the birds – blackbirds, robins, crows, house sparrows, chiffchaffs, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches. It’s the greenfinch that I can hear now, its upward whirr an unanswered question.
And, then, of course, there’s the sea. Now, in the slanting light of evening, under a sky of heavy, summer grey, the water is midnight blue shot through with black, edged in silver. I scan for dark shapes breaking the surface – the bottlenose dolphins that I came here to do research on. Some of the dolphins are resident to Cardigan Bay, most of the people here are not. New Quay has a long seafaring history, but its fishing industry has dwindled to a handful of boats. The present and future of this community depends for better or worse on tourism, and tourism depends on New Quay safeguarding what it has: an old-fashioned sea-side charm, limited development and an array of wildlife – dolphins, harbour porpoises, grey seals, gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, cormorants, common terns and the much maligned herring gulls. This is what I can see from this picnic bench on the hill above the beach. And I want to absorb it all. I want to take it with me when I have to go.