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Tales and trails: how the Dramatic Heart of Wales inspires local writers

November marks the start of the cosiest season; log fires are lit, frost makes the windows sparkle, and long evenings draw us into their cosy embrace as we hunker down for winter.

While we will always advocate for all-weather adventure activities – see our mountain biking blog for evidence – sometimes, nothing beats settling in with a good book and a cup of steaming hot chocolate.

The Dramatic Heart of Wales has inspired storytellers for generations; the landscape creates a natural stage, setting the scene for creative possibilities. Actors such as Richard Burton, Michael Sheen, and Anthony Hopkins have all called Port Talbot their homeland, and local storyteller Carl Gough delights visitors with engrossing tales rooted in the region.

Creative writers have been taking inspiration from the area’s rugged, contrasting surroundings for decades, and as November is National Novel Writing Month, we have turned our attention to the local writers who find inspiration in the Dramatic Heart of Wales.

Creating new worlds with E.L. Williams

Fantasy author E.L. Williams grew up in Neath, and escapes to the Dramatic Heart of Wales’ Afan Forest for creative inspiration. Having written two fantasy novels – The First Ethereal and The Blessing of Crows, both settings inspired by the region – the author encourages others to seek inspiration in the places they love the most.

“Although [my novels’ setting] Pont Nefoedd is a fictional place, whenever I’m writing about the mountains that surround the town, the Afan Forest is what I’m seeing,” the local writer says. “I wrote a lot of my first book while I was renovating  my holiday  let business Ty Hiraeth, in Afan Forest. I loved writing there as it’s so quiet and the landscape means I’m never short of inspiration.

“People say write what you know, but my advice would be to write what you love. If a place calls to you, then taking the time to explore it and get to know it is never wasted. Also, don’t be afraid to create your own locations using inspiration from different places – you’re allowed to make it up! World building is one of the most wonderful parts of writing.”


Celebrating literary heritage with Sally Roberts Jones

Sally Roberts Jones is a poet, novelist, biographer, critic, historian and bibliographer. Her poems weave community voices with local imagery, creating a colourful tapestry that celebrates the region’s rich culture.

Having lived in Neath Port Talbot for over five decades, Sally says, “I find not just the landscape but also the people and stories of Neddafan a source of inspiration; I came here almost by accident fifty plus years ago and I’ve never thought of moving since then.

“Of course the landscape is magnificent – I always say, those who look down from the
M4 see only grey roofs, but down here we look up at the mountains.
In earlier years my family and I used to go for long walks, so though I`m not quite so mobile now, I have a store of memories to draw on [for my writing] – Afan Argoed, Margam, Mynydd Dinas, Baglan, Briton Ferry, Neath town. As to stories, this must be one of the richest
places in Wales.”

To find your own creative inspiration, plan your visit to the Dramatic Heart of Wales today.

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