Taking refuge in the quietest corner of all

Old ways live on in the peaceful haven of New Radnor, writes Richard Smith
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The Independent Online
Each day, one local character in New Radnor leaves home and walks cheerily along the white line in the middle of the main street, all the way to the pub.

This potentially hazardous routine has been going on for years but no one is remotely surprised he remains unscathed.

If the Welsh Marches is a haven of tranquillity then New Radnor (population 400) can lay claim to being the epicentre of its peaceful existence.

Traffic jams occur just once a year when flocks of sheep are marched down Broad Street on their way for dipping. Adults seeking a lift to nearby Presteigne can usually hop on the school bus - provided there is space.

"When you feel lazy and have a letter to post you simply put it in your own letter box - with the money for a stamp - and the postman will take it for you," Eric Smith, 54, said.

Three years ago Mr Smith gave up his pounds 45,000-a-year job as a petroleum chemist manager in London and bought a semi-derelict 14th-century mill in New Radnor for pounds 80,000. Now he works as a self-employed carpenter and sells honey.

"We can walk five miles up the valley and see nothing but bunnies and buzzards. The move has taken my family into a time warp," he said. "I've taken an enormous drop in salary but it has not been a sacrifice. There is no way we would ever go back to living in Surrey."

Around 10,000 tourists visit New Radnor each year. Most are walkers who tramp up Mutton Drive to climb the Wimble in Radnor Forest, or to see the spectacular falls at Water-Breaks-Its-Neck.

The village is still mourning the closure of its bakery six months ago. But the grocery and butcher's store remains, along with a post office, hairdresser's salon - and paragliding shop.

"It's wonderful. I would never live anywhere else. We are all going out feet first," said John Cooper, 56, who bought The Stores with his wife 15 years ago.

New Radnor has not always had such a tranquil reputation. In 1401, Owain Glyndwr captured and beheaded a garrison of 60 men at the castle, which was later destroyed by Roundheads during the Civil War.

At one time New Radnor boasted its own MP and was the county town of Radnorshire, with a weekly market and five annual fairs.

The railway arrived in 1875 to provide a seaside link with Aberystwyth, but the last train left in 1951 and a bypass has kept traffic at bay since 1979.

Rose Garibo, 39, said: "There is very little vandalism and the crime rate is low, although, having said that, the school was broken into last night and they took all the food from the freezer."

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