Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills” as Want to Read:
Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  73 reviews
Neil Ansell spent five years living between the back of beyond and the middle of nowhere, on his own, with no electricity, gas or water and effectively only the wildlife around him for company. His dilapidated cottage, rented for £100 per year, is so exposed to the elements that it appears to rain uphill, and so remote that you can walk for twenty miles west without seeing ...more
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published 2011 by Hamish Hamilton
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Deep Country, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Deep Country

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  372 ratings  ·  73 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most memorable nature/travel books I’ve ever read; a modern-day Walden. Ansell lived in primitive conditions in a cottage in the Welsh hills for five years. Solitude and surviving on life’s basics suited him, and putting in unlimited time and attention led to absolutely magical encounters with wildlife, especially corvids and birds of prey. His memoir is packed with beautiful lines as well as philosophical reflections on the nature of the self and the difference between isolation and ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Peace and quiet. Time to hear yourself think. No need for a clock. All things that sound pretty wonderful to me, and that are found in this lovely book. Neil Ansell spent five years in PenlanCottage in Wales, an extremely isolated location where you won't hear your neighbors argue or their car alarm going off. Instead, bird song and silence....bliss.

Let me say immediately that this book is not for everyone. There's no car chases, not really any suspense (unless you count the search for where mot
David Edmonds
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
I heard Neil Ansell discuss his book at Dartington's Ways with Words. What struck me about him was his absolute genuineness. This was not an experience undertaken to write a book, marred by forced comedy or earnestness or excessive enthusiasm. Nor is it a project as such. I liked his observations on birds and animals, compressed from five years experience. It is reminiscent of J A Baker's The Peregrine.
Aug 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books, and the medium of writing that they reach us through, are by their very definition products of culture. In the beginning, there was not the word, no matter how much we writers would like to believe that. Furthermore, writing is almost invariably the result of thought. Even the stream-of-consciousness techniques of the dadaists and surrealists reach us through the authors' minds, the only difference being that they don't give themselves time to examine the thoughts. We could say then that ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Everyone has a dream about getting away from it all, of leaving the rat race or the corporate grind, forgetting about deadlines and commitments, and focusing on no time scale shorter than the seasons. Neil Ansell managed to do it, living for five years off the grid deep in the Welsh hill country in a dilapidated 150 year old house. He had no electricity, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. Nor did he have a car, and it was a thirty minute hike each way to his mailbox, seven miles to the ne ...more
Huw Rhys
Dec 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book had been recommended to me by someone who knows that I enjoy disappearing into remote parts of the countryside to contemplate life from time to time. I'd bought the book a while back, and saved it up to read at the right time...

How disappointing can a book be?

Other than a few pages in the Epilogue, we get very little reflection from the author on how his retreat from the world changed or even affected him in any way.

We are told very little about the world outside the few hundred yards
J. Boo
Jan 10, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Precis by the author here:

"What I found was not what you might expect. You might think that such protracted solitude would lead to introspection, to self-examination, to a growing self-awareness. But not for me. What happened to me was that I began to forget myself [...]

I could have stayed forever; becoming, no doubt, steadily more reclusive and eccentric. I had the measure of this life now, it had long since ceased to feel like any kind of a challenge; t
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This was a beautiful, languid read, telling the story of Neil Ansell's five years living in isolation in the Welsh hills. It loosely cycles through the seasons, full of minutely observed anecdotes about birds, wildlife trivia and a smattering of local history. There are some glorious moments, like the time he opened his door to hare on his doorstep. The final chapter is quite brilliant as he reflects back on his experiences. But there was slightly too much bird life for me and not enough of the ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: united-kingdom, rural
I took the baggage of expectations into this book, which is why I didn't rate it higher; it was a fine book, and I suspect others could enjoy it more than me. I have no criticism of it save for disappointment that my expectations weren't met, and that's all.

I had hoped that this would give me insight into the nuts and bolts of homesteading, but aside from some tantalizing brushes with daily life and practical knowledge (cutting wood, making mushroom ketchup), this is more of a bird diary than an
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Rather alot about birds, and not enough about how Ansell actually survived, but was an ok read nevertheless.
Richard Fieldhouse
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's got birds in it. 5 years without East Enders. Brilliant.
Christine Dolan
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A man lives in an isolated cottage in Wales for 5 years, with no phone and no transport. Then he writes about it. His constant companions are the birds and other wild creatures that live in his locality. This book reads like an episode of Springwatch. I was totally absorbed by it, and I miss reading it now. So if you love nature, and want a tranquil read, then this is the book for you.

Available at my house for all Springwatch fans to borrow. I am now off to find a cottage in deepest Wales where
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
As the other reviews note, this is a book about nature, not a book about being alone. I recall three paragraphs of introspection. But it is a quite good book of nature writing, especially about birds.
Alan Parker
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book. Outdoing Thoreau in staying in one place, alone for long periods. No cheating this time. Follows a theme of the joys of looking at one limited piece of Nature in depth (see "The Fly trap, for instance). Neil Ansell's home patch is tiny - a corner of a Welsh hill farm and the reachable-on-foot moorland adjacent. So birds are often recognized as individuals and fine details of their behavior are lovingly noted.
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have to say this book turned out not to be what I had expected and in a way, not what I had hoped. I had been keen to find out more about Ansell's experience of escaping from the conventional world and spending five years living alone in a isolated stone cottage miles from anywhere. I guess like many people I have sometimes wished I could get away from it all and wondered what it might be like.
What led Ansell to make this choice and what did significant people in his family think when he decid
Apr 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Almost didn't make it through this one - the man loves birds and seems to remember everyone he sees.......But so glad to have pushed on through the ornithological detail. I would have liked more on what life was like in the cottage and the other people in the area - but I think that was the point, the birds and beasties were more important to Ansell than people. He has some interesting insights into the nature of 'self' drawn from his 5 years of solitude and a period of serious illness > 'we ...more
Sarah Goodwin
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a book about birds.

I was not expecting this.

It hardly matters that Mr Ansell is living in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, he may as well be describing long walks he has taken from his terraced council house in any rural village or small town. I was led to believe that this would be a book akin to 'The Call of the Wild' - with practical details and a cohesive narrative of the experience the author had. In that I think the blurb and even the title of the book have set it up to fail, a

3 episodes

blurb - Neil Ansell is in search of solitude. He takes up home in a dilapidated cottage in a remote part of the Welsh countryside, on his own, with no electricity, gas or water. He has only wildlife around him for company as he makes the cottage habitable.

Written by Neil Ansell and abridged by Willa King, Deep Country is read by Matthew Gravelle. Reader/Matthew Gravelle, Producer/Emma Bodger for BBC Cymru

There is a whole sub-genre of books where the solitary life is sought and then w
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought this book would be right up my street but I was disappointed. This is less a book about losing oneself in the wild and more a book about birdwatching. It is possible to have a deep interest in the natural world without wanting to read almost exclusively about different species of birds! This massive bias aside the book does offer some nice recollections and even gets quite philosophical towards the end. A must read for bird lovers, less so for others.
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
It was an enjoyable read but I feel a little cheated as it wasn't what it described itself to be. I was hoping to hear what living alone in the Welsh Hills was like, about the struggles, the hardships the glorious moments and how it affected the writer but what I got was a book about birds. It was however very informative and a nice piece of nature writing.
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
A man seeks solitude in a remote part of Wales.

An interesting news have been recently published in Dailymail about this author, quite interesting to be read:

I thought I was going mad in the mountains... in fact it was thyroid disease
Thea Bennett
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I came to this after reading John Lewis-Stempel's Meadowland, which gave me a taste for nature writing, particularly about Wales. I have not just read Deep Country, I have read it four times in the space of one year. I know that part of Carmarthenshire, up in the Cambrian mountains. It was a joy to step out of the urban environment after a long, taxing day at work in front of a computer, pick up the book and be back in Wales with Neil Ansell. He took me to some of the wildest places in the mount ...more
Marcus Wilson
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Neil Ansell spent five years living alone in the back of beyond. With no electricity, gas or water, his only real company was the wildlife around him.

This book is his story of self discovery, he records his observations on the changing seasons, the habits of the bird life and other creatures, and his day to day struggles. The cottage he rented is dilapidated, and exposed to the elements, he could walk for mile upon mile and not encounter another human soul. As the years go by he felt himself di
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book, and found the idea of the plan of living alone in the hills intriguing. Reading about the nature and daily life of living in a little dilapidated cottage was a mental balm. I would have personally liked more details about the finer details, e.g. It's not until a good way through the book we find that there is no bathroom. Where does he do his laundry? Does the fire serve as dryer as well as heater? What did he eat? What were his thoughts on the days he had to break t ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine taking five years away from everyone and spending life with the natural surroundings, your nearest neighbour thirty to forty minutes away.

That is what Neil Ansell had done and this wonderful account of his encounters with various wildlife and living in a cottage with no water or electricity is just incredible, a piece of you are there writing.

A very compelling story that will draw you in.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful 2 days spent wandering the Welsh hills with Neil. A leisurely stroll of a book that makes you want to slow down, stop awhile by a stream and just watch. I wouldn't consider myself a birder by any stretch of the imagination but have always delighted in their presence, this book renewed my interest in learning more about who is who in my own woods.
Angela Puhalo
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mrs K M Fellows
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant account of living with nature

I have already recommended this book to a friend. An excellent read and very well written. If you love nature and birds you'll love this book.
Dan Coman
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed it, but tbh I was more interested in the human element of the story. The bits where he talked about his experience were great, the rest was just him talking about birds. Fine, but not quite what I was after.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
Literally just about birds.
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Green Group: This topic has been closed to new comments. Deep Country 3 10 Aug 09, 2013 10:01PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Nature Cure
  • Findings
  • Edgelands
  • Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach
  • The Green Road Into The Trees: An Exploration of England
  • The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals
  • Connemara: Listening to the Wind (Connemara Trilogy #1)
  • Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight
  • Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides
  • Wild: An Elemental Journey
  • Crow Country
  • The Living Mountain
  • Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
  • The Natural Navigator
  • The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology
  • Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary
  • Oak and Ash and Thorn: The Ancient Woodlands and New Forests of Britain
  • The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream
See similar books…
Neil Ansell is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer. He spent seven years with the BBC as a community affairs specialist, working predominantly in television but also in radio, and working in both news and current affairs as researcher, assistant producer and producer.
“One late-autumn day I opened the back door to fetch some water, and there was a young hare sat on my back step. Save for the twitching of its nose, it froze in position as if I had surprised it as it was about to knock. It was already the size of a full-grown rabbit, and its black-tipped ears were longer than any rabbit’s would ever be. I stood there and waited for it to flush. After a while I began to doubt that it would, and squatted down to its level for a closer look, eye to eye. It stared at me apparently unconcerned, chewing silently, with bulging eyes that were such a rich golden colour they were almost orange, with black depths like the keyhole of a door to another world.” 1 likes
“Even the garden birds that we watch with pleasure at our bird-feeders are in a state of conflict: safety or hunger. When the weather is at its worst, more and more birds throng to the table, because the alternative to facing their fear is starvation. It is easy to sentimentalize nature, to forget that the prevailing forces at work – besides the urge to hold a territory and find a mate – are hunger and fear.” 0 likes
More quotes…