<preform>Me And My Home: Home on the range</b></i></preform>

Patricia Wynn-Davies meets a caravan enthusiast who has found his 'paradise' in north Wales
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Swn y Gwynt, which means sound of the wind, is technically a static caravan, made of aluminium, and it looks a bit like a railway carriage - or maybe a small Welsh chapel - because of its domed roof. It's painted white and is 34ft by 11ft, with a sitting room, kitchen/diner, a medium-sized bedroom and a tiny, 6ft by 4ft second bedroom, and a bathroom.

Swn y Gwynt, which means sound of the wind, is technically a static caravan, made of aluminium, and it looks a bit like a railway carriage - or maybe a small Welsh chapel - because of its domed roof. It's painted white and is 34ft by 11ft, with a sitting room, kitchen/diner, a medium-sized bedroom and a tiny, 6ft by 4ft second bedroom, and a bathroom.

You do hear some remarks from folks on the footpath that runs behind: "Does anyone live in it?" "Where are the windows?" and the like. That's because the windows run mainly along the side that faces west, looking out at one of the most beautiful views in North Wales, stretching across the Alyn Valley and up to the highest point in the Clwydian Range, Moel Famau. Roughly speaking, this translates as "mother's mountain", but the word "moel" has a specific meaning in Welsh - it refers to a mountain that's "bald", or bare of vegetation, on the upper reaches. It's special and beautiful, and much loved by local people and visitors alike.

I discovered this particular spot 20 years ago. I was born and brought up in Wrexham - the Chicago of North Wales - but I was already familiar with the countryside a few miles to the north. I saw an advert in the Liverpool Echo saying: "Caravan with panoramic views; mains water and electricity." I went down one Friday night and found this blue-and-white caravan with a yellow roof, nestled against a wood on one side and with the promised view on the other. I went for it straight away. I shook hands with the chap and said "I'll take it."

Ten years ago, I swapped the original caravan for my current one, towing it on a low-loader from my house in Ellesmere Port. We started off at seven in the morning and got here at four in the afternoon. It was a hectic day, but the real struggle came at the end when we had to hitch up to a tractor to negotiate the last few hundred metres down a narrow winding lane. There's been a caravan here for 80 years. It's a licensed caravan site - licensed for just one caravan. You're not supposed to live in licensed caravan sites continuously, so I've always kept my house in Ellesmere Port, but this is where my heart is. People used to say I should get planning permission to put up a house here, but I wasn't bothered. It's a simple but satisfying life and I've got everything I need in the material sense, plus wonderful natural surroundings and strong friendships. In the sitting room, there's a mantelpiece and hearth with a wood-burning stove, a sofa and armchairs, and all the usual bits and pieces; the kitchen is big enough, at 10ft by 10ft, for a proper table and chairs. I've got most of the usual mod cons, although I heat the bath water in an old-style Burco electric boiler and I have to rely on rainwater if there's a big freeze in the winter.

I've built a terrace outside with railings around it, and from there the garden falls away downhill. There are lawned areas, which are tricky to mow because of the gradient; this isn't the kind of garden where you can choose where to plant things because the underlying terrain is rock (there's a limestone quarry nearby) - you just put things where there's a bit of available soil. It is a great walking area, though, with plenty of footpaths and forest trails, with wonderful sights and sounds. The adjoining wood is owned by the quarry, but it's now a designated butterfly sanctuary.

I've put my small corner of heaven together on a shoestring, using mostly recycled junk. I've got a second metal building next to the caravan, which serves as a storehouse-cum-workshop. At the entrance there's a five-bar gate, which is painted aquamarine. People ask what influenced me to use that colour, but the truth is I mixed together three different tins of the only paint I had at the time. I made the driveway from chippings sold off cheaply by roadworks contractors, and I picked up the wooden fence and the railings from scrap yards.

Whenever you're in the living room or the kitchen or the garden, you feel the presence of the mountain, which takes on different personas according to the light, the weather or the season. The heather on the lower slopes turns a rich purple colour in autumn, but because North Wales has its fair share of rain, the valley is always green. It is uplifting to live here in winter, despite the occasional soaking while chopping the firewood, and in mid-summer it's paradise, with constant sun from the morning to late in the evening when it finally sinks behind the mountain.

There's an abundance of bird-life - tits, pheasants, woodpeckers, the resident robin - and plenty of foxes, rabbits and badgers. Night-time is when you might spy the latter, of course, when you're driving back from somewhere and come face to face with one that gives a good stare into the headlights before ambling away. A marvellous sight."

Comments