The Wales Chronicles: Lush, Literary, Laugharne

I’m never quite sure how to react, being in the place where great men stood. What’s going to happen? It’s not like the Inspiration Fairy will swoop out of the corners and give me a good thwack.

Then again, there I was, at the desk of Dylan Thomas, the master wordsmith for whom death had no dominion. Through the window was the ancient, Arthurian landscape of Wales marching into the fields of glass of the River Taf. So I’m not saying that the fairy gave me a fat lip or anything, but boy, talk about an impact.

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Sir John’s Hill from Laugharne Castle

By the Sea

Laugharne looms large in the literary mind, but good luck finding it on a map. Catching the bus from Carmarthen, the largest town — and Merlin’s birthplace! — in the region, I very quickly found myself in a landscape so immune to time the Romans would have recognised every hill. And why not? They were the ones that planted the rolling green grid of hedgerows we see today.

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Believe it or not, Wales looks best in this weather.

And then I was in Laugharne. It was sunny, which in Wales means the rain comes from the south instead of the west, but here is the funny thing about Celtic countries: they look better when it rains. I don’t know if it is the glacier-ground hills, the otherworldly knottiness of the trees, or the awesome tides of the River Taf, but let in daylight and the magic vanishes. But when I took my position in the Norman-era ruins of Laugharne Castle to catch the clouds roll in low and heavy off Carmarthen Bay, my camera never worked so hard.

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Llanybri, on the far side of the Taf from Laugharne.

Across the river rose the black headlands of Llanybri, matched in mysterious ancientness by Sir Johns Hill behind me. The water was steel grey to mirror to a sky dark with stormgloom. This was what the world was like when it just formed; not blazing and assured, but still shaking off the dust of its chaotic birth. No wonder Dylan Thomas was so in touch with nature. It bowled over him every day.

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The desk of Dylan Thomas. Great words were written here.

 

Coming Back

I went to university in Carmarthen, and getting back to this stretch of southern Wales was somewhere between the return of the native and one of those weird stories you hear about pets who cross continents to get home. Wales just got under my skin.

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Laughnarne Castle.

But I didn’t go to the party scenes of Swansea (say it “Swan-See”) or Cardiff. I stuck to the villages and back roads. That’s where the magic lingers on. Just as Celtic lands look better wet — and who doesn’t? — Celts aren’t that great at making big cities. But they rock bumps on the log.

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The River Taf at low tide.

So I’m starting my blog off with this neck of the very deep woods. Thank you for reading!

 

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