The Wales Chronicles: The River Taf

The Bristol Channel is incredibly tidal; only the Bay of Fundy outdoes it. Consequently, when the tide comes in, it. Comes. In. Head for the hills, people, because in Wales, on the north coast of the channel, time and tide wait for no man. What was a broad expanse of beach at low tide is the seabed at high.

Laugharne is about a mile inland, but lying on the banks of the River Taf, its the same story. The river literally inflates. The village is more famous as the home of poet Dylan Thomas than for its multiple-personality river, and I can’t shake the feeling something is being missed because of that.

Looking up the Taf towards Laugharne.

Walking along the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk, winding through the forests of Sir John’s Hill, I had before me the vast panorama of the living tides of the Taf (say it “tav”). I was at the magical hour exactly between low and high tides. Still and placid, a mirror to the sky so faithful it could have been a part of it, the Taf froze in time. My camera wasn’t.

Looking across the Taf to the Llanybri headlands.

Sir John’s Hill, which Thomas transmogrified into the ever watchful Milk Wood, is the best place to see the river in all its mutable glory–just like Thomas did, when he took the exact same walk, and from the exact same lookout. That was heavy.

Flowing on to Carmarthen Bay.

It’s one of those views you can stare at for hours and see something different every seconds. At the same time, you can Zen out over the fact that the water and tides have been going on since the river first began to run. The foliage changes, empires came and went, and the river rolled on. At one point, I just stopped walking, and starting looking. What was supposed to be a half-hour walk became a two-hour long photo session.

See the gull in the lower left?

When the tide is low, the river splits and cords along its bed, creating a mosaic of every shade of blue (provided you have a blue sky in a country notorious for grey ones). Initially, I had come to walk in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas. I ended up finding a path of my own, one on a river made of the sky.

Thomas would have liked that, I think.



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