When all the ice melts

Pan fydd yr holl iâ’n toddi, bydd y môr yn cyrraedd fan hyn
When all the ice melts, the sea will be up to here

when all the ice melts …

When all the ice on earth melts, the average level of the sea will be around 200 feet higher than it is now.

It will take thousands of years for the sea to deepen by 200 feet (which it will if the Earth’s temperature continues to increase). About five thousand years seems to be the timescale.

Five thousand years, you say? Way too big a stretch of time to think about. But there were people like you and me living five thousand years ago, with writing and money and organised religion and civil engineering and agriculture and  beautiful art.

Think of a 200-foot depth of water inching its way upwards, slowly, deepening relentlessly. I live beside the sea, and this is what I’ve been thinking about recently. Indeed, I live next to a large swathe of low-lying land that was sea 220 years ago, until the Cob was built across the Afon Glaslyn at Porthmadog.

cofiwch cantre’r gwaelod

In 2019 the Extinction Rebellion Cymru banner at the head of this post was positioned on the Cob. In the Welsh language ‘Cofiwch’ is the command ‘Remember’. Remember the  submerged land of Cantre’r Gwaelod, which, according to legend, is now under the waters of Cardigan Bay. The earliest version of this story is in the Medieval Black Book of Carmarthen – Cantre’r Gwaelod is a vivid and deep part of the Welsh psyche.

useful information

This is a useful interactive map to look at the result of different heights of sea level rise. For +200 feet, use a rise of 61 metres. And this article looks at ways of adapting to rising sea levels, with suggested further reading.

As at March 2022, both the Arctic and Antarctic are vastly warmer than they should be for the time of year, and in the Antarctic the 1,200 square kilometre Conger ice shelf has collapsed.

This  series of short BBC programmes/podcasts explores different tipping points in climate change, including in relation to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and ocean circulation.

my project

In autumn 2021, I started cycling and walking (and occasionally bussing it) to points near me where roads and public rights of way cross the 200-foot contour, and pinning up a Post-it note saying:

Pan fydd yr holl iâ’n toddi, bydd y môr yn cyrraedd fan hyn.
When all the ice melts, the sea will be up to here.

It is the thing I have been mostly writing lately. Over and over.

other art prompted by rising sea level

It turns out the same impetus that sends me out with Post-it notes and drawing pins has stimulated other pieces of art – on much grander scales. There is this one, in Còmhghall in Scotland, so I guess I should also say:

Nuair a leagh an deigh uile, bidh uisge na mara suas chun na h-àirde seo.

And there is also this one, The (Future) Wales Coast Path, which is taking place in Newport and Magor in South Wales throughout 2022.

the photos

All the photos below were taken in North Wales, grouped by the watercourse that will grow deeper with rising sea level. They are arranged east to west, with the 200′ point nearest the coast being the first photo in each group. The longer rivers are divided into sections.

The longest river is Afon Glaslyn, which rises on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). The 200′ contour of its catchment intersects with the highway/public footpath network in Nantgwynant,  near the start of the Watkin Path up Yr Wyddfa.

Tributaries to the main rivers are shown in the order that they join the main body of water. These are:

  • Nant yr Afon-oer and Afon Rhyd/Afon Caseg join Afon Glaslyn where it is currently tidal
  • Nanmor joins Afon Glaslyn in the stretch between Pont Croesor and Pont Aberglaslyn
  • Afon Colwyn joints Afon Glaslyn between Pont Aberglaslyn and Pont Bethania
  • Afon Prysor joins Afon Dwyryd where it is currently tidal
  • Afon Teigl joins Afon Dwyryd inland from Pont Maentwrog
Afon Dwyfor

Field drains, un-named on OS maps

Nant y Wyddan and Ffrwd y Brain


Afon Glaslyn – where currently tidal, up to Pont Croesor

Nant yr Afon-oer

Afon Rhyd or Afon Caseg

Afon Glaslyn – from Pont Croesor to Pont Aberglaslyn


Afon Glaslyn– Pont Aberglaslyn to Pont Bethania

Afon Colwyn

Afon Glaslyn – Nantgwynant inland from Pont Bethania

Afon Dwyryd – where currently tidal, up to Pont Maentwrog

Afon Prysor

Afon Dwyryd – inland from Pont Maentwrog

Afon Teigl

In each of these photos there’s a Post-it note pinned to something, saying the same thing:

Pan fydd yr holl iâ’n toddi, bydd y môr yn cyrraedd fan hyn.

When all the ice melts, the sea will be up to here.

All words and all images ©Susan Walton 2021 and 2022.

Boxing Day afternoon, 2018

Porthmadog 0
Bangor City 2

I’ve been to only two football games in my life: Manchester City v Queen’s Park Rangers sometime in the 1970s, and the final of the Inter-Quarries Cup in Blaenau Ffestiniog in the early 2000s. The former I was taken to by a friend’s family, along with all their kids; the latter I attended because I fancied one of the players in the – as it turned out – winning team.

On Boxing Day 2018 the team of my adopted home town were playing at home against the team from the mini-city where I did a lot of my growing up. Boxing Day being part of that midwinter/solstice/Saturnalia period when the world is a bit upside down, I decided to go on a whim. Loyalties on both sides, shall we say.

I was pleased to see there were quite a lot of women among the crowd, and even some quite small children. One little lad had a great time throughout the game, running up and down the concrete path behind supporters crowded next to the railing surrounding the pitch, pushing a toy pram with a baby doll in it while being chased by about four or five siblings, cousins or playmates of a similar age, all laughing wildly.

Knowing that some Bangor City supporters are boycotting home games because of the revelations of financial mismanagement by Bangor’s owners, when I bumped into a Bangor supporter I know slightly I asked him for his take on the boycott. Two reasons not to boycott, he said: one was that attending Bangor matches is one of the things three generations of his family do together – it’s part of their family glue. His other reason is that a true supporter supports their team through the bad times as well as the good. Pondering on this, I found myself a vantage point, within a miasma of vinegar coming from the refreshments hatch and next to a friend who is a long-time Porthmadog supporter. The game started.

It took me a few minutes to make a mental model in my head of what I was looking at. The goal nearest me was being defended by Porthmadog, which was why most of the Bangor supporters – once they’d filed out of the club’s bar into the foggy dampness – were crowded round that end. OK, got that. Still, for someone whose full knowledge of the rules of football is ‘the team that scores the most goals wins’, it was quite a mental challenge trying to follow what was going on up and down the field. Play appeared to be suspended suddenly and randomly.

Not long after starting to study all this, in a series of movements that seemed to have been choreographed, Bangor scored. I was watching something tenuous but possible if there are no false moves. It was like seeing a child climbing a tree, and praying that a thin branch doesn’t give way, and it doesn’t, and the next one doesn’t, and the child doesn’t lose their balance, or their grip, and you hold your breath, and the goal is attained.

I clapped, realised I was making no sound, removed my gloves, and clapped again. It had truly been a thing of beauty. Play went on: up and down, up and back and across. A player near us, Bangor’s number 10, seemed to always be in the right place at the right time and just a touch faster and smarter on the turn than the Porthmadog players in his vicinity. My Porthmadog-supporting friend chatted off and on to me and to the chap at his other elbow. I knew my boyfriend had played for Porthmadog in the 1970s, but my friend told me what sort of a player he’d been: like Bangor’s 10, he’d been ‘fast and tricky’. That figures, I thought: now that his legs are too old for the game, he has the same way with words.

Back on the field, the poor Bangor goalkeeper was injured and taken off before half time. When there is no injury involved, how does the referee know that a team wants to make a substitution? Telepathy?

Half time: time for a cup of something warming. Porthmadog’s club refreshments provided us with good-quality hot chocolate and nice tea; you can decide its strength and the amount of milk yourself. No putting-a-standard-amount-of-milk-straight-in-on-top-of-the-teabag here – oh, no! And milk from the local creamery to boot. Top brownie points on the hot beverages front, Port!

Right, now my brain has to do a complete 180˚ mental flip. We’re watching the Bangor goal, and the keen supporters have changed ends too. Every time the Bangor goalkeeper goes in to kick the ball from a stationary position to re-start play, the Porthmadog supporters behind him give a sort of oral drum roll, with a perfectly-timed crash on a real drum, or a shout,  right as the kick is taken. Very jolly and theatrical; I wonder if it’s just a Porthmadog thing, or whether other groups of supporters do the same.

As the cliffs of Creigiau Dre fade into foggy darkness, and the players start to have multiple shadows in the floodlights, Bangor score again. There’s not much time left for Porthmadog, and their players start to look weary. Another Bangor substitute starts to come on, then turns back, tugging at his wedding ring. Having handed it to someone in the little, low hut from which he’d just emerged, he runs on. It’s almost over. People turn to leave before the end: it’s too late for Porthmadog to draw now, they think. Before they started to trickle into the dusk, there were as many spectators at the game as there are words in this post: nine hundred and something.

Image and words ©Susan Walton 2018.

If you’d like to read proper blog posts about being a Bangor City supporter – a ‘Comrade’ – go to John Dexter Jones’ blog. Better still, buy his slim volume Four Seasons: a Bangor Football Concerto because John is making a donation from the sale of each book to Bangor’s Abbey Road mental health resource and information centre.