Kicking the bar

Staying near Welshpool in Montgomeryshire for a few days, we drove over the Cambrian mountains the sixty miles through Llangurig and Devil’s Bridge to Abersytwyth. The journey on a sunny day was as stunning as ever.

It was the first time we’d been back to Aber for at least a dozen years. The town itself, once so neat and quietly respectable, full of “real” shops, seems to be rather run down. There are supermarkets now on the outskirts, and so the streets in the centre are too full of shabby “saver” shops: so much looks depressingly scruffy and ill-kempt. Our old house and its neighbours — once family homes lived in by university colleagues — seem to have sunk into multiple occupancy. All rather sad. (Was it just nostalgia setting us up for disappointment? In Agnelli’s, a rather good little Italian café/deli at the top of the town, we talked to the Milanese proprietor, and she spoke of how she’d seen Aber declining over the last ten years …)

For old times’ sake, we walked the length of the prom, and — as many generations of Aber people have done — “kicked the bar” (yes, kicked the railings at the end of the sea-front). And then we cheered ourselves up by driving up the coast to Machynlleth and back over the hills through Llanfair Caereinion to where we started, another sixty miles of some of the most beautiful countryside in the land. It isn’t for nothing that Montgomeryshire is called the Paradise of Wales.

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