Passing Places on the Ceredigion Art Trail

   No.2 : Aberaeron featuring the Tourist Information Centre

The year is 1807.  Napoléon Bonaparte is master of much of Europe. The Royal Navy fights the First Battle at Copenhagen with Horatio Nelson leading the assault. The world's first gas streets lights are illuminated in Pall Mall, London. The British Parliament & United States Congress introduce Laws that are the beginning of the end of the Slave Trade.
 In Art J.M.W. Turner gives us "Sun Rising through Vapour, Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish" which is a very apt introduction to the beautiful Seaside Town of Aberaeron:

A man with great Vision, The Reverend Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne, receives approval by Special Act of Parliament in1807 for improvements to the harbour at Aberaeron using his own money. The Regency Houses around the harbour were built around 1830-55 & were the design of Architect Edward Haycock.  I think they would not look out of place in Cheltenham or Leamington Spa. The genius of this, I believe, is that although the land was sold off in lots the building design was retained. It is that conformity that has made Aberaeron such a special place. The bright colours & layout continue to inspire Artists & delight Holidaymakers to make Aberaeron "The Jewel of Cardigan Bay."
The harbour & Shipbuilding flourished until the coming of the Railways in the early 20th Century but the line, that was built to link the town with Aberystwyth & Carmarthen via Lampeter, terminated at Aberayron Station. It never reached the harbour, as had originally been planned, due to resistance of the Shipowners. The railway did later serve to bring evacuees from cities such as Liverpool & London in WW2 before carrying only freight for its last 14 years, finally closing this end section in the mid-Sixties. Note the obsolete Town name of Aberayron which you still find on some old minor road signs. 
Start walking at the north end of  the coast road by the Murco petrol station. Walk up Princess Avenue which becomes South Road. Almost immediately on your left is the local hospital which was built in 1839 as a Workhouse. Carrying on past the garage and take a look at sculptor David Mayer's 2005 Cob statue on your right. Continuing along you will find the sign indicating the site of the train terminus. This is now a builders merchants with the entrance road going over the river on the railway bridge. Cross over & trace the very pretty footpath along the left side of the river back towards the sea. Past 'Lover's Bridge'( pedestrian ) & follow the Aeron as it descends through a series of shallow weirs before passing under the coast road & into the harbour.

Before feasting on the delights of the Town Centre take a left turn behind the Anglican Holy Trinity Church where there is a small Craft Centre, Clos Pengarreg.
Turning back into the town centre note the green park area behind the bus stops on the coast road. This has become since last year a place of special importance to the County; "The park known as Square Field has been designated a Centenary Field. In gaining the Centenary Field status, the field will be protected in perpetuity to honour the memory of the millions who lost their lives in the First World War. Cae Canmlwyddiant Ceredigion Centenary Field – Cae Sgwâr / Square Field, Aberaeron is the first Centenary Field in Ceredigion.
Walk up Market Street, on the right is the Town Hall containing the County Council Offices and worth a peek inside at the old photos & the library. You may enjoy wandering around the side streets & spotting some of the house names chosen by the Ship Captains who lived there & sailed to trade in those far-flung destinations.

Coming to the inner harbour you will see that the water level is maintained, even at low tide, by a shelf at the entrance. Although built to keep craft afloat it has an unplanned bonus, it's a haven for crabs! Every child's delight through the generations is a crab line & bucket. I do wonder how many times have some of these crabs been hauled out of the water! Across the river is the Yacht Club & just like watching the birds migrate it is a sure sign of winter when a large crane comes dockside & hoists the vessels out of the water & onto the car park.

"Oh no! Not Again !"  Says the crab. 
Easy to find the TIC, look for the tall building on the north side of the dock, that's the Harbourmasters, now a Boutique Hotel. The TIC is almost next door. When you first arrive take a look at all the fish plaques on the front of the building. They depict the Town's History & were made by the local Community.  A fuller history lies inside in a special display. 
 This building was originally a general storehouse & thought to be one of the oldest buildings on the quay. It stored goods bought in by ship & had two floors. Later it was a mortuary downstairs until the 1950's. Cymdethas Aberaeron Society tells me that a regular visiting onion seller from Brittany stayed upstairs when in town (known locally as Sioni Winwns) and is remembered for teaching some local children Breton songs.
Let's peek inside:
Here you will examples of the work of the very best Local Artists plus maps, guides & fascinating facts about the area. 

The Centre is run by Cyngor Sir CEREDIGION County Council, let's meet key members of their team behind the welcoming smiles:

Trudy Jones moved to the area when young & lives in Talgarreg. She plays the organ in her local church & has a farming background. She used to milk goats & sell the milk. She has kept Black Welsh Sheep & Black Welsh Cattle, even learnt to shear the sheep. Trudy has a dog called Miss Nibs & a Welsh Cob called Meg, which is a good time to mention that Aberaeron hosts the Annual Festival of Welsh Ponies & Cobs. She tells me that she was also a school cook for 13 years, loves walking & loves living in Ceredigion.
In her 17 years at TIC, what has changed? Trudy says it's more colourful, has more visitors & now has tourists all year round. The coastal path, in particular, has grown in popularity & they are frequently asked questions about the walk.
The teams all pull together to lay out the displays & are fluent in Welsh & English.
The exhibits are changed on a regular basis so always worth checking out the "Artist of the Month."
Aberaeron has several annual festivals & a Parade. All are extremely popular & it's worth planning well ahead to sort out your accommodation.
Rhian Evans hails from Newcastle Emlyn area & lives in the small village of Betws Ifan. She is Grannie to Gruff & Gwenlli Ifan. She is on her second stint working in Ceredigion TIC's , 15 years, then a break & now 5 years at Aberaeron Centre.
So what does Rhian get asked?  "What time can we feed the dolphins!" She explains tactfully that these dolphins are wild creatures. Rhian is a keen rower & a member for the last 5 years of Clwb Rhwyfo Llangrannog Rowing Club. She competes in league racing in Celtic Longboats & will undertake the Celtic challenge in May '19 which is a 90-mile race from Arklow in Ireland to Aberystwyth. The event is being filmed this year by the BBC for the 'Our Lives' Series.
She asked me to mention the work of the Welsh Rowing Association, link below.
Rhian played & enjoys watching Welsh Rugby. Favourite player: Gareth Davies. She also loves skiing in France & Italy. Ideally would like to spend 6 months of year skiing & 6 months rowing.

In conclusion  - Aberaeron Tourist Information Centre
The Centre provides useful information but it is more than that, much more It provides a place for families to be exposed to a diverse amount of fascinating & varied forms of Art. When that wide eyed-child enters clinging onto a crab bucket they can see the work of genuinely gifted locally based Artists. Some of these children will be inspired to take their paint books and plasticine & will become the next generation of designers/producers/crafters/painters. In the future, when their latest version of the iPhone is a finger implant, they may look back on their visit to Aberaeron TIC & cite that as a key influence. 

Best Bit:  It's hard to ignore the Fish & Chips and the Honey Ice Cream.  But do go & say Hi! to the Staff in the TIC.
By the way:  The Act approving gas lighting for Aberaeron was in 1866.

Words & Photos by Paul. Painting by Dawn. Both at Dawn's Happy Paintings www.tynantuchaf.com
Copyright: Paul Flude