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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solitude and natural history - a beguiling combination
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,...
Published on 8 April 2011 by A Common Reader

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in nature with a man of mystery
This reminds me of observational books about nature written by Denys Watkins-Pitchford [aka 'BB'] in the 1960s. Very evocative, poetic writing about wildlife and the environment that takes you to another place. Personally, though, I'd have preferred more information about exactly what the author did during his five years in the wilds and the challenges of day-to-day life...
Published 17 months ago by Kirky


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Immerse yourself in nature with a man of mystery, 23 Jan 2013
This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
This reminds me of observational books about nature written by Denys Watkins-Pitchford [aka 'BB'] in the 1960s. Very evocative, poetic writing about wildlife and the environment that takes you to another place. Personally, though, I'd have preferred more information about exactly what the author did during his five years in the wilds and the challenges of day-to-day life in such extraordinary circumstances. He gives very little away about himself or his background - other than the two sentences on the very first page. [A 3-minute video on YouTube reveals more]. But perhaps I'm missing the point ...
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solitude and natural history - a beguiling combination, 8 April 2011
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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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.

Neil found that his life settled down into natural rhythms. He even developed his own rituals, such as seeing in the New Year from the summit of his hill or walking overnight into the hills at the Summer Solstice so he could watch the dawn from a mountain top. Five years of solitude was broken up by visits from friends, but Neil became accustomed to his way of life and found that he welcomed the return to quietness when they departed.

While it is interesting to read how Neil looked after himself, the major part of the book is a sort of extended nature diary - fascinating for anyone who loves the ebb and flow of the seasons and the changing wildlife that accompanies them. The hills of Wales are remarkable rich in wild-life of every description and Neil went out of his way to cultivate a relationship with it - maintaining a large number of nest boxes for example, which he patrolled regularly to check on the progress of his many bird families.

Neil already had an interest in "food for free" having lived in Sweden where "foraging in the wood in autumn is practically a national pastime". He gathered chanterelles, parasols and ceps, preserving them in olive oil with dill and coriander seeds. He made thirty jars of jam each year from berries found in the woods, and he gathered wild strawberries.

The solitary life was a phase which could not last forever. Neil is now a successful BBC journalist and lives with his family in the city of Brighton. He still returns to his Welsh cottage but things are not quite the same - in his epilogue he gives the impression of returning to the location of an earlier part of his life, now long gone.

Neil has recorded a video for Penguin Books with some footage of the cottage which lets us get a good idea of where he spent his five years with nature and self-sufficiency.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to be content on your own, 6 Feb 2013
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This is a great book describing Neil Ansell's life in the Welsh Hills. It is inspiring how, by becoming immersed in the local wildlife, particularly the birds, he seems so content being in his own company (although it is reassuring that he does have friends visiting and is in no way a social outcast). Whilst it certainly made me want to go and live in a similar way, it would have been nice to learn more about his wider experiences rather than having an overwhelming focus on birdlife. Although, perhaps this was such an important part of his life that it warranted the attention and from now on I will be watching the birds in my garden more carefully!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sublime, 21 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
Close the curtains, put another log on the fire, pour yourself a glass of red and sit back and enjoy. They say 'lose yourself in a book' and this is exactly what you can do with 'Deep Country'. The detailed descriptions of the weather, countryside and wildlife make you feel as though you are there. Highly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 9 May 2013
This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
A friend gave me this book, because she loved it and thought I might do so too. She was right. I usually go for plot-driven novels and fly through them, but this book is different, I just had to read it slowly, savouring every paragraph, not wanting it to end.
As I live in Wales myself, I was initially frustrated by the fact that he never tells you where he is/was exactly, even though I knew he wanted to keep it private and secret. I would also have loved some drawings or photos of the wildlife, landscapes or bits of the house, but then again, his words create the pictures, so I'm not complaining.
I'm not a bird-watcher as such but did not find his accounts of encounters with various birds boring at all. In fact, I think he may have made a fledgling bird-watcher of me: I seem to be scanning the sky for hawks rather often now.
A magical, beautifully written book that slows you down and opens your eyes and mind.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 30 April 2011
By 
Mr. Jeremy Brookes "bluebear" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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Having seen this book reviewed in The Guardian and then mentioned on Caught By The River, I knew it was a must-read. Beautifully evocative descriptions of the countryside, and in particular the wildlife, in the Welsh hills. This is a wildlife book - if from some of the reviews you're expecting a book about living remotely, as the author admits, he soon disappears from his narrative himself, to find himself writing about the wildlife that surrounds (and even lives within) the cottage. So don't expect a "lifestyle" book about rural living; this is nature writing, about the flora and fauna and within that, mostly about the birds that he comes to recognise around him.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The great escape we all dream of, 8 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
A really enjoyable read which feeds your dream of getting away from the hell of other people. A retreat from the cares of everyday life which is a real tonic.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep Country - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 18 Feb 2012
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Mr. B. P. Van-asten (London, England.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
Deep Country is the story of how Neil Ansell undertook a personal adventure to live alone in a remote cottage in the Welsh hills for five years. It is a fascinating tale of how he coped without gas, electricity or plumbing and how he became accustomed to the seasons and how his awareness became heightened to the changes around him. His observations of wildlife; the rituals of the woodland and the rhythms of the fields are wonderful descriptions of how beautiful the British countryside really is! Neil becomes engrossed by the daily activities of the birds he sees, such as the curlews, red kites, sparrowhawks and ravens; he becomes attached to the wanderings of the animals that live nearby, like the badgers and the hares, and even to the colony of bats in his roof space!
This magical and evocative book is a remarkable journey of a man who gradually becomes more and more at home with the woodland creatures and hardships of living alone with nature. Definitely essential reading!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but not fully fledged, 18 Jun 2011
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Ms. Ruth Pickvance (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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I was interested to read this book because I have spent months alone in a remote natural place; months, not years I am aware... and so was interested to know of Ansell's observations and reflections with him having taken the the experience to the 'extreme'. There are some beautifully observed incidents in this book and it is well written. There is no doubt that Ansell has observed the natural world very closely and has written about it tenderly. But a number of things troubled me - there are just too many tracts on birds- yes it is interesting and part of his experience, but the core of the book loses its way. I kept starting a new chapter and found myself wanting more than just bird sightings, bird observations and bird reflections. He seems to miss the 'human' element of the story: he touches on it but doesn't fully develop it. I find it fascinating what happens to the human mind and where it goes when you are totally alone. Also - the everyday living with no electricity, carrying fuel in, cutting wood - there's a whole perspective here which needs fleshing out more fully. It's a charming story and I enjoyed reading it and it stayed with me - but I simply felt that it wasn't developed as fully as it could have been. Perhaps Ansell felt that his own story wasn't the story - he makes the point that his mind went outwards. However, I wanted to know more and I was left with questions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book., 19 Jun 2014
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S. Butterworth (Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills (Paperback)
This book is one of my 'keep for all time' books, it's so beautifully written and calming. I'm never happier than when I'm out and about walking and at one with nature so for me this book was an extension of that. I loved the 'wildness' of the book, being in a cottage miles from anywhere observing nature and living freely. I find it difficult to describe how this book got into my very soul and through this book I was able to have a taster of what it would be like to live in the heart of the countryside with only the wild life for company. A truly remarkable book and one I am glad I found.
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Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills
Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills by Neil Ansell (Paperback - 2 Feb 2012)
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