Britain has the reputation for being an over-crowded country with a population much the same as France but with only one third of its area. These figures can mask the fact that much of the British population is located in cities and conurbations and as soon as you drive outside these you can find solitude a-plenty, even in counties like my own, East Sussex. However, Wales is a much less-populated region and if you hanker after the quiet life, that could be the place for you.
Neil Ansell had the opportunity to rent a dilapidated cottage deep in the hills of Mid-Wales, in countryside so remote that you could walk twenty miles in one direction without encountering another dwelling. What started as short-term let, turned out to be a five-year period of solitary living, far removed from the services we expect to find today – hot water from a tap, central heating and plumbing. The rent of £100 a year reflected the lack of services but failed to take account of the incredible beauty of the location and the land available to the tenant.
Neil has a great affinity with nature and things which would phase other people were causes of delight. I am not sure how I would feel about sharing my home with twenty of thirty bats for example. Even Neil however baulked at the spring-invasions of mice – fortunately the pretty field mouse variety rather than the disease carrying house mouse. The mice reduced Neil to hanging food in carrier bags from ham hooks embedded in the ceiling. The only way Neil could reduce the population of mice was to trap them and carry them across a river where he released them. No doubt killing them would have had no effect other than to make space for others.