We are beginning to understand that our coastline is not, in fact, a finite line. We have built defences of earth and stone, but as sea levels creep higher and storms intensify, we will have to acknowledge the impermanence of our familiar landscapes and make difficult decisions about whether land we have “reclaimed” is possible to keep defending, and how we want to live in our ever decreasing circle of space.
From 18th-20th August, I walked the route of the possible future coastline between Chepstow and Newport, based on sea level rise predictions for the not so distant future, and taking into account the topography of the land and the life expectancy of the sea defences. I am not suggesting this area will definitely be underwater in the future (the predictions are hugely complex), but that these places are impermanent; their existence dependent on the sea defences being maintained and enhanced.
I began where our current coast path also starts, and where I spent much of my childhood, at the mouth of the muddy Wye/Severn estuary with its vast and unforgiving tides. The route passes significantly inland at points, and I tried to imagine what it would be like if tidal flood regularly covered the expanse of land to my left, and to document the places passed, and some of places in-between the present and future coastlines. The line walked also happens to be roughly the shoreline of the interglacial period, 120 000 years ago, and throughout the walk I heard many stories of water covering these lands in the distant and more recent past.
The work that follows is a snapshot of the experience of the walk and the conversations that happened on the way, as well as some thoughts on what might happen next.
This project seeks to promote conversation and compassion. It does not have the answers, but instead invites questions: what shape do you want the future to be, and how will we adapt?
Click here to read The (Future) Wales Coast Path Walk Diary, an e-zine created by Alison during her walk.
The (Future) Wales Coast Path is an NTW Located Residency. Click here to find out more.