The trail will begin in Mumbles, the small fishing village just to the west of Swansea City Centre. The walk to Mumbles, some four miles around the bay, prompted the 19th century poet Walter Savage Landor (who work Dylan admired) to declare,
‘The gulf of Salerno….is much finer than Naples; but give me Swansea for scenery and climate.’
However you choose to get there, by car, on foot, or by bus, the journey to Mumbles takes you past several landmarks from Dylan’s life. On the right – the Patti Pavilion, built originally for Adelina Patti, the opera diva, and brought to Swansea from her mansion on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. Dylan mischievously renames it ‘Melba Pavilion’ in three of the stories in ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog’.
Across from here is St. Helen’s Cricket and Rugby Ground, where Dylan watched cricket and where, on the adjoining ‘bald and cindery’ recreation ground, he played the game with his friends. On the same ‘rec’, regular fairs and circuses would set up, and these are magically described in Dylan’s radio play ‘Holiday Memory’.
A little further along on the left is the Cenotaph and Promenade, which feature in ‘Return Journey’. Young Dylan tries his luck with a couple of local girls, who, playing hard to get, mock his school uniform and flirtatiously brand him: ‘Mr Cheeky with your cut-glass accent and your father’s trilby….’
Here too, Mumbles Railway, the first passenger railway in the world – (the service began in 1807) used to curl its way around the bay. It was first a horse drawn tram, then a steam train, and finally electrified.
It was always a real feature on the seafront, and very popular with both locals and visitors. It was closed down in 1960 and is still sadly missed. Dylan would certainly have enjoyed the ride, and he reminisces about it fondly to his friend, the grocer Bert Trick.
‘I think of me……walking past your shop to the trainstop, and rattling along to a beery and fleshy Oystermouth’.