Walking in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas
This year’s spring certainly made up for last year; a wonderful reminder of why we all do the hard slog over winter.
I have never seen so many bluebells as I did this spring; a sea of powder blue bells with a tinge of purple. Is there anything more beautiful?
In the right woodland, of course, there are other flowers that take over for a short amount of time – wood anemones, for example, carpet our coastal woodland at Cwm Tydu. They are a great indicator of ancient hedgerows and woodlands.
And so, with the ‘slow rounding of four seasons’ coasts’ the summer has arrived. As one of our sites is a stone’s throw from New Quay, I would be remiss not to mention Dylan Thomas in his centenary year.
His poem, 'Quite Early One Morning', perfectly encapsulates the aftermath of our winter storms. At the end of the valley, the ‘dolphin’d sea’ he writes about can be seen from the cliff tops, with constant sightings of bottlenose dolphins in the summer and Under Milk Wood’s ‘singing Dewi’ running down to Cwm Tydu beach.
Thomas may have written Fern Hill about a different location further south, but he must have been inspired by the huge Jurassic ferns in Byrlip woods.
My favourite poem is ‘Prologue’, which simply lists summer wildlife as a prologue to winter. It has such evocative language – ‘Seaward the salmon, sucked sun slips’; ‘Welsh and reverent rook’; ‘sing-song owls who moonbeam’.
Much of the wildlife Thomas writes about can be seen on our coastal land, including owls, sparrowhawks, sparrows and ‘singing birds’ in the sky; glow-worms and foxes in the scrub; swans, salmon and herons on the river; curlew, crabs, ‘gulls, pipers, cockles, and snails’ on the coast.
Sadly, his once ubiquitous gulls, sparrows, 'springful of larks’ and elms, are on our coast but under threat in many places. He mentions nightingale which is no longer present in Wales and the nightjars he name-checks are much less common.
Dylan Thomas’ poems help remind me how incredibly lucky we are as rangers to experience these special places on the coast. So, with the arrival of summer, it’s time to get out there and be inspired.