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This Common Uncommon: Rae Howells celebrates launch of her love-letter collection to West Cross Common

This Common Uncommon: Rae Howells celebrates launch of her love-letter collection to West Cross Common

The unexpected sightings of “star-nosed polecats” and Purple moor grass inspired Rae Howells’ wonderful new poetry collection, which she shares with us for an evening of passionate, community activism and a common value towards protecting and appreciating the marvels of the natural world. Rae also invites special guest, Susan Cole, the co-coordinator for the West Cross Common campaign to encourage us all to join in defending the land from a proposed housing development. 

Calling attention to the diverse wet heathland, This Common Uncommon is a response to the threat posed by the planned development of a housing estate. Welsh writer Rae Howells, talks at her book launch about the importance of protecting West Cross Common, how its beauty helped her collection of poetry flourish and to share with readers the magic of this “vanishingly rare habitat.” Her poems stress the connection she feels with the common, shining a light on the campaign to protect a beautiful piece of the natural world.

Rae Howells signing a copy of This Common Uncommon

Rae Howells is a poet, journalist, academic and lavender farmer from Swansea. Her first full poetry collection The language of bees was published in 2022, and was later shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year award in 2023. She is a poet in residence at the Llanelli Wetland Centre. For her launch of This Common Uncommon, Rae tells us the story about how she fell in love with West Cross Common during a lockdown walk. Her collection characterises the patch of heathland with powerful language and perspectives from the wildlife that rely on it to survive. Rae describes West Cross Common as “a battery for creative energy” and expresses her amazement at the many species of wildlife she encounters on her visits – a piece of the natural world that she continues to learn more about with every visit.

Rae holding a copy of This Common Uncommon with Susan (left) and Penny (right)

In This Common Uncommon, Rae dedicates a poem to Susan Cole and invites her to speak at her book launch about the important campaign, formed by concerned local residents wanting to protect the common. Both Susan and her campaign colleague Penny, openly invite guests to join the West Cross Common group on Facebook which details their campaign in full and includes the information on the housing development that’s threatening the land. Everyone is invited to attend the public enquiry. It will be held in the Village Hotel in Swansea, on August 6th at 10am. Susan and Penny hope that with enough people attending to ask questions and to protest the use of registered common land, they will be able to not just save West Cross Common, but draw a line in the sand for future developments threatening areas of natural land with a rich environmental history. 

Among witty poems of an adder visiting the local shops and an evocative poem about the common characterised as a mother, “Acre’s last gypsy” is dream-like and gives us a view into the history of West Cross Common. Rae writes in her introduction that “…many years ago, it was known as ‘Gypsy’s Acre’ because of the travellers who habitually set up their camps on it.” An audience member connects with the poem and its beautiful description of Mrs Hearn resting in the heathland and becoming one with its nature.

Thank you to Waterstones Swansea for hosting a lovely evening and thank you to Rae Howells for sharing her amazing new poetry collection This Common Uncommon. Be sure to get your copy and see for yourself how Rae has beautifully documented the biodiverse landscape of West Cross Common.


Matthew Cowles, Publishing Assistant