Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills, by Neil Ansell, Hamish Hamilton, RRP£16.99, 224 pages
Neil Ansell spent five years living in a remote pocket of mid-Wales with nothing but the woodland creatures for company. Deep Country is his rather touching account of those years in exile.
Ansell hitchhiked from London to Penlan cottage, arriving in a different world to the one he had left: there were few other people, no electricity, no gas and no running water. Crusoe-like, he fixes up the house and learns the thousands of tiny idiosyncrasies that belong to his corner of the Cambrian Mountains sometimes called Wales’s “great green desert”. Though it appears sparse and windswept, Penlan Wood is revealed to us through Ansell’s observations as the home of all sorts of wildlife.
Ansell’s solitude isn’t a gateway to introspection. Through his charming and thoroughly detailed stories of run-ins with red kites, curlews, sparrowhawks, jays and ravens, we see him lose himself, his ego subsumed in the rhythms and rituals of life in the British wilderness.
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