Sunday, 2 February 2014

Walk around Llyn Llech Owain - a favourite spot for Edward Thomas

You must forgive the prolonged interval since I last posted on this blog.  Unfortunately illness played a part, and I think I had quite over-egged the Edward Thomas cake by putting in so much reading and note-taking before I gave my talk last May.  Now my brain seems to be functioning more clearly, and I have some fresh books about Edward Thomas and his work, and I am gradually taking a deep breath and moving on.

Above is a photo of the area at the edge of Llyn Llech Owain at Gorslas in Carmarthenshire - a favourite walk of Edward Thomas's when he was staying in Ammanford.  Just out of sight to the right is the spring which fills the lake, and it is quite a determined gushing spring at that.  The legend which is associated with the lake is best told in Thomas's own words:

". . . and Llyn Llech Owen, and have wondered that only one legend should be remembered of those that have been born of all the gloom and the golden lilies and the plover that glories in its loneliness; for I stand in need of a legend when I come down to it through rolling heathery land, through bogs, among blanched and lichened crags, and the deep sea of heather, with a few flowers and many withered ones, of red and purple whin, of gorse and gorse-flower, and (amongst the gorse) a grey curling dead grass, which all together make the desolate colour of a "black mountain"; and when I see the water for ever waved except among the weeds in the centre, and see the water-lily leaves lifted and resembling a flock of wild-fowl, I cannot always be content to see it so remote, so entirely inhuman, and like a thing a poet might make to show a fool what solitude was, and as it remains with its one poor legend of a man who watered his horse at a well, and forgot to cover it with the stone, and riding away, saw the water swelling over the land from the well, and galloped back to stop it, and saw the lake thus created and bounded by the track of his horse's hooves; and thus it is a thing from the beginning of the world that has never exchanged a word with men, and now never will, since we have forgotten the language, though on some days the lake seems not to have forgotten it."

I couldn't resist climbing up this little incline, to see the view . . .  It reminded me very much of Canford Heath in Dorset, which I know quite well from years gone by.  Better view from the top though.

It is not at its most welcoming in winter.  Poor peaty soil supports only moor grass, heather and ling and gorse, and a few pine trees.  Since the time ET knew it, the area was planted up with conifer forests (by the Forestry Commission) but this has all been cleared now and improvements for wildlife are being made all the time.  Dormice boxes for one.


The Visitor Centre - which had underfloor heating, and was a nice place to sit and warm up out of the wind.

 Display board telling you something about the site now.

A little bit about the history of this area.

Some of the wild birds regularly seen here.

Some photos of the Dormice and the nesting boxes they are putting up.  The chew-holes in the Hazlenuts are characteristic.

I hope you can read this - some more of the history and archaeology of this area.

The sombre January landscape was lit fleetingly by sun.

I wonder what ET would make of it now?  I am sure he would appreciate the fact that it is now an SSSI, and that steps are being taken to balance the flora and fauna of the area, following the depredation of the Forest Commission plantings.  He would probably hate the "managed" and "controlled" aspects of it though and prefer it wild and unvisited as when he knew it.

Perhaps the last word could go to Walter de la Mare, a good friend of ET's, and whose poems were reviewed by the latter, this included "Sorcery", the first verse of which is here:

"What voice is that I hear
Crying across the pool?"
"It is the voice of Pan you hear,
Crying his sorceries shrill and clear,
In the twilight dim and cool."


  1. A really great and very informative post - I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your visit and, of course, links to Edward Thomas :)

    The visitor centre looks very impressive :)

    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  2. Thank you BB. I loved this post and felt I was walking along with you...and you felt you you were walking along with him no doubt.

    ET`s prose description has a lilt of the Welsh about it. I wonder if he picked up a lilt when he came to stay with his family in Ammanford?

  3. Hi, I came over from your other blog. "I stand in need of a legend", what powerful sentiments and I concur. I like the area you show and the visitor center.

  4. It is lovely to wander in other people's footsteps, very Welsh with its pale yellow grasslands....

  5. Thank you for all your comments.

    Thelma - he knew this place SO well, only looking rather differently then, I suspect, and it did feel like following in his footsteps.

    Terra - welcome, and I'm glad that you enjoyed the legend and the post.

    DW - I'm afraid the Welsh were rather . . . scathing . . . about his "Cockney" accent and mispronounced Welsh names! He did use certain Welsh words at home though, and loved to sing, so his Welshness was in his soul.

    R. Robin - glad you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.