What’s in a Name?

Did you know that a “dingle” is a “dell, or small wooded hollow”?

I decided to look this word up after seeing it twice in reference to a property in Cornish, New Hampshire. Carol Heath and her family donated a conservation easement on their property known as Fern Hill in December, but it was only after the closing that I learned the name Fern Hill comes not only from the long swath of ferns bordering the Heath’s driveway, but also from the beautiful Dylan Thomas poem of the same name. The beginning of that poem reads:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,

Fern Hill landowner, Carol Quimby Heath, stands with the Great Pine Tree.

Not knowing what “the dingle starry” meant, I wondered if it bore any relation to name of Dingleton Hill Road, the road Fern Hill has frontage on. After looking up the definition, I was immediately struck by its appropriateness. There is indeed a small wooded hollow between the eastward facing slopes of Dingleton Hill and the westward slopes of Fern Hill, as the land rises towards central New Hampshire. The Fern Hill property certainly lends itself to the feeling of stillness and mystery this word conveys. It is almost entirely wooded and includes features like the “Great Pine Tree,” a massive reminder of the trees the English Navy once sought in this area; the “bog,” an expansive wetland in the center of the property; as well as rocky outcroppings and winding woods roads.

It is no wonder then that the famed American sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens had such success attracting artists to the Cornish Art Colony during the “American Renaissance” around 1895. With its hills and valleys, the dark woods and idyllic open fields, a feeling of discovery and magic is created in this part of Cornish that leaves you wondering – just what is around this bend in the road? What lies beyond that hayfield? How far can you see from the top of this hill?

Now that Fern Hill has been protected forever, we know that a part of that wonder and magic will remain to inspire future artists and explorers. Perhaps they will feel as Dylan Thomas did: “…green and carefree, famous among the barns/About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home …”

James Thaxton
UVLT Conservation Project Manager

  • Vermont

    Beautiful spot. Is it open to hiking?