I awoke to an email letting me know that the gales offshore were subsiding, and that there was a chance of a boat trip out to South Bishop and Smalls the following afternoon. This was doubtless excellent news, although it left me with a dilemma. I could spend the day undoing the progress I had made yesterday. I could press on, aiming to stop somewhere convenient on the coastal bus route. Or I could stay put here in Fishguard, and get a bus back to St David’s in the morning.
No option struck me as having merit over the others, although I worried about my state of mind if I remained here, alone, with the whole day to myself. And what if I stayed here, only to find that the boat trip was cancelled tomorrow? I really wished Greg and Elin were here to make the decision for me.
After much soul searching, I opted to press on to Aberaeron, via the harbour lighthouse at New Quay, about fifty miles north. From there, I could get a bus back to Fishguard, then another to St David’s, if the boat trip looked like it was on.
I remember the climb out of Fishguard, and the final descent alongside Cardigan Bay into New Quay, almost five hours later, but almost nothing of the forty miles in between. Electing to take the most direct route, along the main A487, my only goal was to get the miles behind me.
As I had done so many times before, I focused on counting from one to eight, in time with each rotation of the pedals, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, and then back to the start. Around Cardigan, the road became a dual carriageway, where a pavement offered me some protection. The rest of the way, I did almost the opposite of what the Highway Code suggests, and kept to the narrow roughly-edged strip of road beyond the solid white line.
I discovered that New Quay was delightful. It reminded me a little of St Ives, though smaller, more genteel and with many fewer people milling about. Originally a fishing port, shipbuilding thrived here in the mid-nineteenth century, following the construction of the breakwater in 1835. A few years later, in 1839, a tapered stone tower was built at the end of it, showing a fixed white light through a window at the top. Both pier and tower had to be rebuilt after heavy storms in 1859.
At some time after this second tower was washed away, in 1937, it was replaced with the current polycarbonate navigation light, mounted on a wooden post. It carries a memorial plaque for locals lost in the two world wars.
No matter how attractive, I chose to press on towards Aberaeron as quickly as I could. With the sun out, children on the beach, and couples wandering aimlessly through the streets, I allowed my mind to wander. If I let myself, pretty much anything I saw seemed capable of upsetting me. I smelled freshly cut grass, which precipitated guilt and anxiety about the state of the lawns at home. A Labrador at his owner’s side, glad to be outdoors, reminded me of Willow, my own Labrador, and of how much I missed him. A queue at an ice cream van. An empty school playground. A camper van pulling into a car park. Everything my eyes took in seem to point to my own selfishness, and neglect of the people I love. However unpleasant the A487, at least it demanded my total concentration.
Another hour, and I had reached Aberaeron. Despite my state of mind, I acknowledged just what a remarkably pretty place it is. Once a modest fishing port, Aberaeron prospered from the early 1800s, following the development of the harbour and the arrival of the railway. Shipbuilding also flourished, with more than sixty sailing vessels being built between 1810 and 1870. The architecture is Georgian, with a principal square of elegant Regency houses and buildings grouped around the harbour itself.
My day ended a little more positively. I booked a room at The Monachty, a decent and friendly pub that backs on to the harbour. I sat outside, enjoying a couple of pints of Brains Bitter (‘Traditional, honest ale!’), and phoned Greg and Elin, who were confident that tomorrow’s boat trip was on.