Saturday, October 7, 2023

Friday - A Day For Doing Llareggub


In the slow blink of an eye, our mini break was at almost at an end.  Friday dawned sunny and bright and we loaded up the car, greeted the house keeper and for one last time, navigated the bumpy lane out of Stackpole.

In order to make the most of the late summer sun, we stopped at the coastal town of Saundersfoot for one last stroll on the beach...

...and what a beach!  Another day, another clean and tidy stretch of sand.





A walk to the other side of the harbour was rewarded by a less developed stretch of coastline - just stunning with the receding tide and endless skies.



Eek!  A giant jellyfish!


The annual New Year's Day swim is clearly already firmly on the agenda according to the town's posters.  Marketing might want to rethink the town's strategy.  Maybe they're trying to keep the numbers down?


After lunch, we resumed our journey home, but before long, I spotted a sign for Laugharne.  Laugharne had been on my list of "must see places" but after the car brakes debacle, it was side lined.  I hadn't realised that it such a short detour.  So, with a last minute, "Quick - Laugharne - left!" instruction, we were suddenly pootling along country lanes, flanked on either side by the lush, green fields and rolling hills of Carmarthenshire.

If you're not already aware, Laugharne was famously the home of Swansea born poet Dylan Thomas and inspiration for the town of Llareggub featured in Under Milk Wood.  "Llareggub" spelled backwards is "Bugger All."  

Dylan made the town his home, thanks to a generous benefactor (Margaret Taylor) purchasing the lease for him on the coastal property known as "The Boathouse."  He lived there from the late 1930s until his death at noon on 9th November 1953 following a suicidal drinking binge.  He was 39 years old.

We were intrigued to discover that there was a heritage trail around the village and so a fascinating couple of hours unfolded.  Sponteneity at its best.

We began at the end.  Parking at St Martin's church, we located Dylan's grave (shared with wife Caitlin) and marked by a simple wooden cross.  They're enjoying an impressive view don't you think?



With a snapshot of the Laugharne Heritage Trail information board as our guide, we headed on foot into the village Dylan referred to as "a timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town."


Certainly, this tin structure had a timeless quality.  Gareth badly wanted the sign.  In reality, it's not a garage at all, as we had incorrectly assumed, but the Tin Shed Museum, specialising in WW2 cameras and memorabilia, supplying TV and film productions, including Saving Private Ryan.  Sadly, it appeared firmly closed on the day of our visit.



It was hard to miss Brown's Hotel, another notable building included in the trail.  Brown's Hotel was one of Dylan's favourite watering holes.  Apparently he favoured the window seat for reading the morning papers, where he could observe passers by and gaze upon the fine Georgian houses, or perhaps catch up with his father, who lived just over the road.  

Georgian buildings are something of a rarity in this area of Wales, but once a useful train link to Carmarthen had been established, Georgians flocked to Laugharne and it developed something of a reputation as a spa town.


The Town Hall, built in 1747.

In 1950, Dylan wrote of his impressions of Laugharne to his good friend and patron, Margaret Taylor, wife of the historian, A.J.P. Taylor.  With the Town Hall in mind, he claimed "It's clock tells the time backwards."



Even a cursory glance down this quiet village's sleepier side streets makes it was easy to see why he might have formed this opinion.




A backwards look at Laugharne's main street from the castle walls.

Next up, the Grist, a large, triangular, open area once linking to the harbour and foreshore.  It's name most likely derives from a former corn or grist mill which stood at the mouth of the river.  The cross dates from 1911, but stands on a much older, probably medieval, stone base.



By now, the salty air was encircling us.  Another corner of Laugharne, another nod to its famous son...


...and another pleasing view.

This area of estuary was once a busy harbour, exporting goods around the world.  Now the Taf estuary is part of the Carmarthen Bay Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (for its saltmarsh vegetation and two species of migratory fish).




A 180 degree turn and you see the imposing Laugharne Castle ("...brown as owls" as Dylan described the walls) dominated the headland.  The castle was first established in 1116 by invading Normans and attacked and re-taken countless times by the Welsh.  Oliver Cromwell laid siege to the castle during the Civil War and the dents made by the Roundheads can still be seen today.



Fighting a losing battle against the intertidal mud, we retraced our steps and followed the path in front of the castle, snaking around the headland.

First glimpse of The Boathouse...


...and Dylan's writing hut.


We took to the steep steps built into the cliff and suddenly we were there, in Dylan's world...another space and time.


This was photographed with the camera pressed to the polycarbonate screen covering the doorway.  The public can't actually enter, but this was good enough for me.  I loved the screwed up pieces of paper on the floor under his desk, his jacket hanging over the chair and the postcards, photos and artworks pinned to the beams and walls.

Dylan's routine in brief.  Mornings were for crosswords, reading and letter writing.  Lunchtimes were for heavy drinking.  Miraculously, given the lunchtime sessions, work took place between the hours of 2 pm and 7 pm.  Dylan would allegedly read his work aloud repeatedly to test out and perfect the rhythms and rhymes.  

View from the writing hut


A short stroll along this elevated footpath and once again The Boat House was in our sights.


This spot in the west of Wales surely inspired these words from Dylan:

This day winding down now
As God speeded summer's end
In the torrent salmon sun,
In my seashaken house
On a breakneck of rocks...


The Boat House now houses a well stocked shop crammed with books of Dylan's work, a cafe and a gallery.  I picked up a paperback copy of The Dylan Thomas Omnibus and the tourist trap of a souvenir, a fridge magnet.  Forgive me!  I was drawn to this photo of Dylan and Caitlin, photographed in the former's natural habitat.


So there you have it!  Laugharne was an unexpected delight and left us thinking we should do bugger all more often!  

I'll leave you and our Welsh sojourn with some last words from the man himself, appropriately etched into a bench in the garden:-

The funny thing is, I find myself going back again and again.






8 comments:

  1. Oh, Claire, you've really been to all our favourite haunts - although funnily enough we never made it to Saundersfoot. Laugharne, though! As I'm a sucker for all things Dylan Thomas, and Under Milk Wood in particular, it goes without saying that we've visited Laugharne and The Boathouse more than once. Dylan's writing hut, his castle brown as owls, the estuary view, Brown's Hotel, Dylan and Caitlin's simple wooden crosses in the churchyard: how lovely to be transported back there by way of your post! Your photos are fabulous, and definitely do that lovely place justice. xxx

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    1. I might have guessed you had been. ;-) I'm glad you enjoyed revisiting! I'm guessing it's pretty much the same as you left it! xxx

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  2. Goodness me, what a blast from the past. When I was a child Mum & Dad used to rent a cottage and you could see Dylan Thomas's hunt from the kitchen window. My mum was poetry mad, something I failed to inherit.
    Laugharne looks absolutely magical and so peaceful and tranquil. That jellyfish gives me the heebie-jeebies, though! xxx

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    1. Fancy that! Sometimes I think that it a parent is passionately interested in something, it can put the kids off for life!
      My Mom loves poetry, but like you, I never did. It's something I've come to appreciate more as I've grown older.
      It was a fascinating place for sure. xxx

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  3. what a wonderful detour!
    i really enjoyed this trip on the traces of a poet i did not know (shame on me!)..... the tranquil town and the estuary nature views, complete with a crumbling mediaval castle, make for the perfect late summer experience - and i love the writing hut! it looks like my dream creative space :-D
    your photos transported me right into the place......
    thank you for taking us with you!
    xxxxx

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it!
      Apparently Roald Dahl visited Laugharne in the 1950s and like you, decided that Dylan's hut was his dream creative space. Roald's writing hut had the same layout and proportions as Dylan's. I know a little more about Roald's writing hut. I must get around to writing a post on that subject... xxx

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  4. Dylan's writing hut - simply beautiful! x

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