Deep in a wooded area near the University town of Lampeter, West Wales is an outdoor theatre. Around it, hidden in the woodland are figures of angels and wood spirits carved from the trees. In front of the stage are tiered seats that have been fashioned from the hilly natural slope of the wood.
To the right of the slowly decaying stage next to a poem written in the Welsh language is a poem by Dylan Thomas, Wales’s most famous poet. His poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ was written by Thomas in the knowledge of the death of his father. This is perhaps a fitting tribute to the theatre itself. Parts of the wooden stage have collapsed and other areas are beginning to rot away. It appears to have been some time since a performance was staged at this magical location.
Longwood Woodland Theatre started out as part of a community initiative in 2003. An area of woodland was purchased and run as a social enterprise. It became Wales’s first sustainable community woodland. Built as a zero-carbon project, it was constructed using timber from the local forest without cement or concrete. Two hundred volunteers took part in the enterprise from local rural communities where social exclusion can be a challenge to young people. One of the aims of the project was to restore non-native plantations to native broadleaf species. Since 2007, 10,000 trees have been planted.
There is limited information concerning how many plays or musicals were staged at the theatre, but it may have fallen into disuse during the Covid pandemic in 2020 where social distancing laws prevented any outdoor gatherings from taking place. Nature has now started to reclaim these spaces. Songs and performances are now only by birds such as Goldcrest and the rare Wood Warblers that nest here.
Know Before You Go
Access to the woodland theatre is via a footpath behind Lampeter Rugby club. The path ascends steeply into the wood. Follow the footpath into the woods staying away from the fenced off farm areas.
A nearby visitors centre also run by Longwood community offers educational experiences to local schools and visitors to the area. The art of bushcraft can be learned which includes safe fire building, woodland cooking along with local arts and crafts.