5 Cwmdonkin Drive

 

As the wind howls outside and the intermittent rain makes this year’s run-up to Christmas decidedly non-festive, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to venture outside purely for pleasure.

5 Cwmdonkin Drive, one time home of Dylan Thomas... and Harri Roberts
5 Cwmdonkin Drive, one time home of Dylan Thomas… and Harri Roberts

While lots has been happening in our lives lately, I have to admit we’ve not got an awful lot of hiking done in the past few weeks. And despite my passion for the great outdoors, I’m not half as keen to get out there in the middle of December.

I’m not a great lover of winter at the best of times. Getting up when it’s still dark, the need to have electric lights on from mid afternoon, the garden windblown and neglected… from November onwards, a dampness seems to settle upon Britain that doesn’t lift until February when our spirits are temporarily boasted with the promise of spring. Too soon we’re cruelly plunged back into winter, real winter this time, often with icy temperatures and heavy snow.

How long before scientists work out a way of getting those low pressure systems to occasionally avoid Britain?

I don’t do cosy… my family accuses me of having created a summer home with its lack of wallpaper, carpets, curtains (I prefer blinds) or even very much furniture. I prefer to replicate the wide open spaces I adore within my home with the result that any walls that can be removed are, our staircase is now open plan and furniture is kept to a minimum.

I really don’t know if I could live in a house where the decor hadn’t been updated for years and I couldn’t do anything about it. A house where the windows rattled so much you feared they might blow out at any time, or where the interior walls were so damp that slugs would come out of the old fireplace onto the carpets to play (slither?) at night.

As a post-graduate student in Swansea, Harri lived in a house just like that for two years – a house with a very famous address: 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, the childhood home of Dylan Thomas.

 

Perhaps one day another blue plaque will adorn the house
Perhaps one day another blue plaque will adorn the house

These days, of course, the poet’s former home has been completely refurbished and restored to its former glory, but back in 2001, the house had definitely seen better days.

The current owner, Geoff Haden, has lovingly restored Dylan Thomas’s family home, however he did take photographs of how it looked when he bought it, which was how it looked when Harri lived there.

Harri lived mostly in the upstairs rooms, although he and his former partner were able to use all the house if there were no readings or creative writing classes going on downstairs. 5 Cwmdonkin Drive was sometimes opened to the public and, on those occasions, if Harri needed a book from the shelf downstairs, he’d find himself mingling with Dylan Thomas fans.

Visitors had no choice but to imagine how the former student house, privately owned but leased to Swansea City Council, might have looked in the poet’s 1920s childhood; while the basic structure of the house remained unchanged, there were some ‘modern’ additions like the second first floor bathroom, adjacent to the original.

It seems a strange way to live, but Harri said he got used to sharing his kitchen with visitors.

‘Sometimes you’d come out of the front door and there’d be people taking photographs,’ he remembers.

It still happens now of course.

We visited the Uplands at the end of August while we were planning and walking the routes in our ebook Dylan’s Welsh Walks and I was one of those people standing on the opposite side of the road so that I could get the whole house and its blue plaque in my photograph.

 

Cwmdonkin Park where Dylan Thomas played as a child
Cwmdonkin Park where Dylan Thomas played as a child

Unfortunately, there was no time to go inside (you need to book a tour) but we did seize the opportunity to pop down to another of Dylan Thomas’s favourite childhood haunts, the beautiful Cwmdonkin Park.

Harri’s not the sentimental kind, but I think he’s rather proud that he once shared a home with Wales’s most famous poet… even if they did live there nearly 70 years apart.

 

'Dylan's Pencil' by tree sculptor Mark Folds
‘Dylan’s Pencil’ by tree sculptor Mark Folds

Dylan’s Welsh Walks features eight themed walks in and around the places Dylan Thomas called home. The ebook is available to download at SmashwordsAmazonApple iTunes and other online bookstores.

It is also available in multi-touch Made for iBooks format at Apple iTunes.

An app version (Dylan’s Walks) is available from: Apple iStoreGoogle PlayAmazon AppStore and Windows Phone Store.

One Response

  1. Hi Geoff. Thank you for your kind offer; I can assure you it’s one we will be accepting. It’s fantastic to see what you’ve done to Dylan Thomas’s former home as it was in such poor condition when Harri was living there. We’re currently in the middle of writing a book of castle walks in Gower and Swansea so, depending on the weather, we’ll be back in the area within the next month or so. It was lack of time that stopped us calling in on our last Swansea visit but we’ll plan our next day’s walking so we can visit you too. Thanks again. Tracy and Harri

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