How a Welsh seaside town became the location of my first job in journalism
Is there a town in which you want to combine a thriving university located just a short walk from beautiful beaches, plenty of independent cafes, good (and on a Saturday, free) bus services across the county and beyond, and the highest number of pubs per capita in the UK? Well then, you’re in luck. I’ve just described Aberystwyth; a town slap bang in the middle of the west coast of Wales.
My moving to this town was somewhat a blur. Last summer, I was scouting trainee journalism roles having completed my degree at Coventry University several months earlier. I had applied for dozens, and received little feedback. One job I applied for was a role at a local newspaper based in Aberystwyth, but for this job I was called for an interview. Great! An interview in the industry which I had wanted to be part of ever since I was writing match reports for my primary school football team (for whom I was the goalkeeper) to be printed in the school newsletter. I read up on the paper, the Cambrian News, and the town in which, if successful, I would be calling my new home.
Now, coming from the north east of England and not having a car, the west coast of Wales felt and looked a hefty journey. However, I was able to spend a couple of weeks with my girlfriend who lives in Gloucester. This broke up the journey, and it was one which I set off on from Gloucester train station at about 7am. Changing at Birmingham New Street Station, I scanned the departure boards for my second service, deep into the heart of Wales.
The journey is around three hours on rail, and it is potentially one of the most scenic in the UK. Leaving Birmingham and heading through Wolverhampton, the last stop in England is Shrewsbury.
After that, the train calls through several stations including Welshpool, Machynlleth and finally , Aberystwyth. It is after Machynlleth and the final thirty minutes of the journey where it really becomes picturesque. Vast open fields and coastline as far as the eye can see gives the impression of a world very different to that of the booming city of Birmingham.
That was in September, and up to March 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic I had spent six months in the town perched on the welsh coastline. As well as loving nearly every second of my job, I have had plenty of opportunities to get out and about in the town and further afield. I’m a fan of a hike, or at the very least a strong walk, and in this part of Wales you are spoilt for choice in this category. In the early weeks I challenged myself to walk part of the Cambrian Coastal Path. This was a four mile stretch up the coast to Borth, which is also the final train stop before Aberystwyth. It is a beautiful walk, with tricky slopes and rewarding scenery. You truly get a sense of standing on the edge of the world and frankly, its breathtaking.
The final decent into Borth is from a hilltop, but once again the views from all around are well worth the incline. The train station is tucked away behind a row of houses, and I don’t think I have ever been more relieved to sit down. It will be hard to avoid getting muddy, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
The beginning of this coast walk towards Borth is at the top of a hill, which is known as Constitution Hill. Reaching the top of this gives an amazing birds eye view of Aberystwyth and far out into the Irish Sea. I have made the walk several times, and it is usually windy. Ordinarily if I said it takes the breath away at this point, it would look cheesy. However, it literally is when you walk to the top of the hill on a windy day.
Down in the town, there are various small cafes, bakeries , restaurants and shops. On a weekend the centre is thriving; I hope that it will be again one day soon. It is a town which can be described as bustling, and this isn’t just because of the quaint and sometimes narrow streets.
The town, as mentioned earlier, boasts a top University, with thousands of students coming to live and study in Aberystwyth for most of the year. Although my student days are a not too distant memory, I have had some great experiences with Aber Uni students.
I was, and once normality returns hope to still be, a part of the university hiking group; which is open to all.
Having been on several hikes and around as many social nights, I can say that the Uni is home to some excellent people and that mid-Wales is where you will find some outstanding scenery. I could write a masters thesis size piece on the hiking locations in this part of the world, but I think I’ll leave that to the students.
This group, a long with a sports and fitness group called Vorsprung are so friendly and do such good work. They have made what may have been a daunting transition to some into a rewarding experience for me.
Aberystwyth may not be high up on many people’s lists of places to work, and to be honest it wasn’t up there on mine. This wasn’t out of ignorance, but more because of not associating it with where I could have my first graduate job. I moved to Aberystwyth to begin my career in a field which I am incredibly passionate about.
The fact that I work with amazing and friendly people and that the area of the country where the job is located is so beautiful are very fortunate bonuses. When things do return to some kind of normality, I look forward to seeing even more of what Aberystwyth and the wider west Wales area are hiding, waiting to be discovered.