Inspiration for 'Under Milk Wood' under threat

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The Independent Culture

"And some, like myself, just came, one day, for the day, and never left; got off the bus, and forgot to get on again."

Thus did Dylan Thomas describe the appeal of the Carmarthenshire seaside village of Laugharne, where he settled in an old boathouse to write Under Milk Wood.

The Boathouse has become the most prized cultural attraction in Laugharne, which claims to be the inspiration for the fictitious Llareggub in the poem. Now council officials have been forced to intervene to stop construction work that threatened to send rocks crashing on to it.

Carmarthenshire County Council has issued an enforcement notice to stop the work at the Ferry House, a few yards from the Boathouse, which has been turned into a heritage centre in Thomas's honour. Villagers in Laugharne feared that lorries travelling to the Ferry House on paths meant for walkers could undermine the sandstone cliffs, wrecking ancient and popular footpaths, as well as putting at risk a building that has become a shrine for Thomas devotees.

Fiona Owen, 65, whose grandparents lived in the building before Thomas moved there with his wife, Caitlin, in 1949, said they were worried about the state of the cliffs even then. "They would never drive down to the house. They parked the car in the village and used a bicycle. They were worried about the damage that could be done by traffic coming on the cliffs and they brought in anything heavy by boat because it was a cliff path, not a roadway," she said.

The work, which has enraged Laugharne's Civic Trust, was started by Eric Eynon, a businessman based in nearby Pendine who has bought the Ferry House. Bulldozers were seen digging into the cliff face and riverbanks along the footpath to the Ferry House over Easter. Some villagers complained to the council and police.

Miss Owen said the work and the possible implications for the Boathouse had "trampled over people's feelings. "The fear is that the cliff itself is not too stable as the rock is liable to crumble. If it did crumble it could come down right on top of his house," she said.

Mr Eynon has said the work is essential to shore up two areas of rock that have become dangerous, and ultimately stop the Ferry House falling into the sea. He said a geological survey had proved the rock was crumbling. A council spokesman said yesterday that Mr Eynon would have to seek planning permission for any more work. Thomas spent the last four years of his life in the Boathouse, writing in a garage.