Welcome to Edward Thomas Poetry Places. The blogs on this website identify the places that inspired the poems of Edward Thomas. This is a long term personal research project to identify these places building on the scholarship of others and drawing on published works and original sources. Combining the evidence of these sources, with the countryside that ET knew provides clues as to the sources of his poetic inspiration. The views that affected him, the paths that he chose, the walks that took him out of himself and his work, are all still out there. Though some have been compromised or transformed, much still remains as it was.
Edward Thomas country has sometimes been described as the hangers of East Hampshire and the South Downs. This was certainly his heartland but Edward Thomas country was much wider than this. Besides Hampshire and the South Downs it would also include Southern and mid-Wales, especially Carmarthenshire, Gloucestershire in particular around the Leadon valley and May Hill, Wiltshire, the North Downs, Ashdown Forest, the Ridgeway and Icknield Way and Essex including Epping Forest.
So this country, and a few outliers, is where ET drew inspiration for his poetry. His poetic mentor, Robert Frost, had encouraged him to use the prose he had written as the basis for his early poetry. ET had a vast range of material to draw on from both published works such as In Pursuit of Spring and the South Country and also unpublished writing, in particular his Field Note Books. There are eighty of these Field Note Books held in the Berg Collection in New York and ET used them to jot down his observations “in the field”. They include notes on wind and weather, views of landscapes and skyscapes, bird song, trees, underwood and flowers, farms and fields, ponds and streams, houses, churches and pubs. They describe walks and bike rides, interactions with people, especially other travellers. Occasionally they describe a mood. These field note books provide the building blocks to many of his poems, especially the early ones, and offer scope for new discoveries. Some have been well mined, others have hardly been touched.
Other rich seams are his letters to his wife Helen and friends such as Eleanor Farjeon, Gordon Bottomley and Robert Frost, all of whom he wrote often to about his burgeoning poetic output.
The blogs explore ET’s poems in the context of the locations that inspired him and also suggest ways of getting to know these places better. I hope it will enhance appreciation of some facets of ET’s poems and, as appreciation can be very personal, encourage people to make their own discoveries and reach their own conclusions. I hope it will also stimulate more people to get to know the countryside that inspired him. It’s still very much out there and in many instances has not received wider recognition and is too often passed by.
As he jotted down in his notebook what must be one of the most original rallying cries for the power of walking:
“Pen is mightier than the sword
But inferior to the walking stick” (FNB 67 on 13/12/1913)
About Nick Denton
I have been an enthusiast for Edward Thomas for much of my life. Living with my family in Petersfield, Hampshire for over twenty five year, I have got to know the countryside he and his family lived and walked in very well. Since my retirement I have been trying to identify locations of those ET poems that have not been identified so far, walking in his footsteps all over the South Country and Wales. I post regularly on Instagram at #edwardthomaspoetryplaces. A member of the Edward Thomas Fellowship, I gave a talk at their inaugural Edward Thomas Literary Festival in October 2020 about Edward Thomas’s places of inspiration - the talk can be found here: - https://youtu.be/QlioZ9DO-Hg