If you like travel books, Neil Ansell’s Deep Country – Five Years in the Welsh Hills, is beautifully written and makes for great reading when you’re relaxing in your campervan or motorhome.
This review is written by Hobo Trudi, who scores it 9/10.
Read on to find out why…
Making dreams a reality
So many of us dream of rural living and escaping the rat-race to live a life of freedom and idyllic tranquillity. It’s one of the reasons we got our van.
The TV show ‘Escape to the Country‘ also tries to fulfil this need in us.
We imagine ourselves in a perpetual summer evening; songbirds serenading us as we breathe in the smell of freshly mown hay and drink our slightly chilled wine. No beeping phone alerts, no passing traffic, no 6am alarm.
Is this real life though? Well, Neil Ansell lived that life in the Welsh hills for five years.
He escaped the 9 to 5 – as so many of us dream of doing – but he did so because he had the basic survival skills that most of us have lost.
Indeed, even though it sounds idyllic, ‘Five Years in the Welsh Hills’ would, to most modern folks feel like a prison, potentially even a death sentence, and not the freedom we’d hoped for.
Let’s explore this more closely…
No telephones, no electricity, no running water, no local shop, no transport.
Lighting for Neil was by paraffin lamps. His running water? A stream.
Food had to be carried miles from the nearest shop or foraged when it was available, then preserved. Cooking was via the old-fashioned way – a fire, with logs chopped by hand, too!
In his own words…
I was snowed in for nearly six weeks that winter. Each day I would dig a path out to my woodpile and chop wood. It was good to keep myself active and, as they say, a log fire warms you twice: once when you chop the logs and again when you burn them.
But ‘Deep Country’ is not a book about hardships…
Deep Country might seem to be about harsh reality but it’s a reality Neil Ansell obviously has a love and mastery of. His knowledge of nature and how to truly live in it is humbling.
He writes of wild-camping after hiking further than most of us would bike, and of enjoying the wilderness without having to bother the mountain rescue team…or undertaker!
It seems that technology and modern life has robbed us of the skills to live in our world without assistance.
Maybe we have lost those skills as we set our sights, instead, on the newest, the fastest, the most convenient, time-saving gadgets? But at what cost?
As comfortable as your favourite walking boots
Deep Country is a joy to read…
The writing style is as comfortable as a favourite pair of walking boots. It informs in that special way, leaving your mind satiated but still hungry for more.
The astute observations of the Welsh countryside and wildlife would grace any authoritative book. Indeed, it is the creatures’ habits and traits that such books often miss. And yet, in Deep Country they are dovetailed in just like a fireside chat in your front room.
His affinity with birds must come from many years of watching…really watching.
I didn’t have to wait long. A hawk burst over the top of the wood with quick, flicked-back wingbeats and set off in pursuit of the fleeing pigeons. This rowing motion of the wings is distinctive, and immediately separates hawk from falcon, with even the briefest of glimpses.
Reviving the human spirit
It’s clear that Neil Ansell got out of his head. I’m not talking drugs here! He got out of his own ‘stories’ and connected up with nature and life itself.
Maybe living a solitary life gives you the space to notice such minutiae?
Perhaps being away from unnatural distractions takes your consciousness away from yourself and towards a higher plane where you’re able to ‘see’ with all of the senses?
Maybe solitary or more natural living revives the human spirit where we can reconnect with the universe and dance with it once more?
We believe that might be the case.
The ideas in Deep Country underpin our values at motorhome hobos. It’s great holiday reading but Neil’s philosophy and love of nature will, hopefully, go home with you.
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