Dylan Thomas - Mumbles and Gower Trail
We were going to camp for a fortnight in Rhossili, in a field above the sweeping five-mile beach’.
"Worm's Head" by Alfred Parkman, c. 1906
This is from Dylan’s story ‘Extraordinary Little Cough’. This village at the very tip of the Gower Peninsula was a favourite destination for Dylan; in the story, his friends, who had camped there previously, had returned,
‘brown and swearing, full of stories of ….dances round fires at midnight, elderly girls….. who sunbathed naked on rocks and singing in bed until dawn’.
As a young boy Dylan himself took a bus and camped with friends and once or twice he may even have walked the whole way across the common from the Uplands, as the two young men set out to do in the story ‘Who Do You Wish Was With Us?’ It is a landscape and seascape that permeates his early prose, especially the two stories mentioned above. Just out at sea is a strange shape described by Dylan as: ‘…..the great rock of the Worm’s Head…..At the end of the humped and serpentine body, more gulls that I had ever seen before cried over their new dead and the droppings of ages’.
This outcrop of rock, ‘the very promontory of depression’, is only accessible across a causeway during low tide. Dylan was fascinated by it, and attracted to it, even though he was prone to mistime his return and get cut off, as do the boys in ‘Who Do You Wish Was With Us’.
He would return to Rhossili throughout his life, with Caitlin, Vernon and their friend Wyn Lewis in 1941. Later again, in 1953, just before his final trip to America, he visited an old school friend Guido Heller who had taken over the Hotel. Dylan, at that point, somewhat bored by Laugharne, even contemplated moving to the village but swiftly dropped the idea when Guido explained that there was not a pub within striking distance!
There is a visitor centre here where you can learn much about the history, flora and fauna of the magnificent peninsula and check on the tide times for a safe walk out to the Worm and back! It is a long walk, and you will need to allow at least three hours to get there and back.
On your journey back towards Swansea you can stop at any one of the other beautiful bays that Gower has to offer. Dylan visited many and camped at a few.
‘The King Arthur’ at Reynoldston is a good place to stop for refreshment and just outside the village is ‘Fairy Hill’, a fine country hotel and restaurant.
You can return by retracing your way to the A4118, and back to Swansea through Upper Killay and down into the centre of the city, through the Uplands, where Dylan was born (see Dylan Thomas Trail (2) Uplands). Your round trip will be one of over 50 miles in total.