Gareth Huw Davies

Travel Blog

How Dylan found poetic inspiration above a Camarthenshire estuary

Towy Estuary, Carmarthenshire, close to Fern Hill, inspiration for Dylan Thomas’s poem of the same name.

“Jack Kerouac, all the beat poets, were obsessed by him. When he spoke at 92NY, he was about to finish without reciting a poem of his called Fern Hill, and the audience started to chant ‘Fern Hill! Fern Hill!’ It’s kind of staggering to think that a poet of his time would sell out this enormous space and have the audience chanting; that’s a ritual that’s only reserved for rock stars normally.”

This is Matthew Rhys, speaking to Guardian writer David Smith ( about Dylan Thomas, whom Rhys played in a dramatic reading of Dear Mr Thomas: a New Play For Voices, in the 92NY venue in New York this week (May 14th, 2024).

Published in 1945, Fern Hill is a joyful evocation of Dylan’s childhood holidays at the farm of the same name, on a hill above the river Towy (Tywi in Welsh), south of Carmarthen. It is, beyond dispute, one of his greatest poems and a classic of the 20th Century. (“A joyous celebration of childhood innocence” –

The farm was kept by Dylan’s Aunt Annie, his mother’s eldest sister, and her husband Jim. Today the location, just outside Llangain, is plainly visible from the main London to Carmarthen railway, which runs through Ferryside, on the opposite (east) bank of the Towy estuary. 

Ferryside is where artist Edward Morland Lewis was born and painted. About 10 years older than Thomas, he worked within sight of Thomas’s holiday haunts. As well as Fern Hill, they included Llansteffan, just over the water. Although he is far less known than Thomas, Lewis’s works, a number of them featuring the beach at Ferryside and views over the Tywi Estuary, can be considered a visual arts complement to the life, times and geographical inspiration of Dylan Thomas.

Thomas and Lewis may never have met, but their shared affection for this corner of Carmarthenshire is palpable.

Bankside brothers in art – where Welsh poet and painter found inspiration