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Thousand eyeballs under hoods
Have you by the hair.
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.
 

~ George Meredith, The Woods of Westermain (1883)

I can imagine no more mysterious and mystical a place. Is it any wonder that so many tales of magical quests and dark adventure take place in these secretive, shadow-shrouded stands of ancient majesty? From fairy tale to fright-fest to full-fledged fantasy, the most dangerous evils tend to lurk in the misty, mossy, dense and dank depths of a forest.

When the world of The Dream Stewards began to take shape in my mind, at the heart of it was always an enchanted forest. I wanted to draw inspiration from reality wherever possible in order to ground my fantasy adventure with historically accurate roots. My research led me to a local historian who knew of just the place.

Located between what is now the town of Llanelli and Burry Port still stands a forest of ancient origins called Stradey Woods. At the bottom of the woods is a very old village called Pwll, named for a sacred pool that once existed there. Even today the woods are purported to be haunted, and often veiled with a white, misty fog – all of which adds to its unique mystery.

And as if that coincidence wasn’t magical enough, legend has it that Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh god of the Underworld and the Wild Hunt, had a palace deep in the heart of the woods. There are also stories of an underground tunnel that ran all the way to Glastonbury Tor, another haunt of Gwyn ap Nudd. And this is how Stradey Woods and its fantastical history became the inspiration for The White Woods, the home of The Dream Stewards.

Here is a glimpse into this magical place, by photographer Mike Richards:

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Many, many thanks to local resident and writer Lynne Lewis of Cornwall, who graciously lent me her knowledge of the history, geography, legend, and lore of the land. A fellow lover of the past, Lynne studied history and art at the University of London, and has authored many historical stories. Most recently, she completed a novel based on the life and career of Hans Holbein, court painter to King Henry VIII, entitled, “Dance of Death.”

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