Avid reader lives in converted library van in the heart of the Lake District after falling on hard times

Neville Longmire inside his unusual dwelling – an old mobile library van, which is parked in Elterwater

The library van at Elterwater

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

TWO men who have fallen on hard times have found solace in a converted library van in the heart of the Lake District.

Neville Longmire, a 58-year-old former social worker and engineer, and friend Russell, live in the fully-adapted van on the edges of the picturesque village of Elterwater.

Four years ago avid reader Mr Longmire left his Manchester house – and instead of buying another home decided to splash out £8,000 on the van.

“I had a rather large house but they wanted more money off me than I had,” he told the Gazette. “So it was a case of jumping before I was pushed.”

Since then, he has installed bunk beds, a log-burner and, despite having no electricity, insists he is ‘absolutely happy’ living in the white and green van.

His love of reading is also evident with dozens of books adorning the shelves.

Living off savings, he has stayed in places across the region – but has now settled in Elterwater because of the stunning views of the Langdales.

The van is fully taxed, MOT’d and roadworthy – but has been made into a cosy home for the unassuming pair.

Speaking of his surroundings, Mr Longmire said: “It’s just beautiful. It’s so quiet, there’s nobody living near apart from a few cottages.

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“A lot of the visitors have known me for years. I’ve become a bit of folklore and people are always asking how I am. And people in the village are also accepting of my lifestyle.

“I was going to go to the Far East but the doctor said if I go on a plane my deep vein thrombosis would kill me.”

Stricken down by severe illness, he was forced into hospital for lengthy spells.

Russell, who until as recently as late 2012 was working for the Lake District National Park Authority and living in nearby Chapel Stile, moved in to the van to look after it.

He was forced to leave his house as the bedroom tax hit hard. Staying put would have put him into crippling debt so he decided to leave, with only his clothes, dogs and ferrets with him.

“This way it is mutually beneficial for us both,” he said. “I have no money and my benefits have been stopped.”

When Mr Longmire was fit enough to leave hospital, he returned to his van and is now being nursed back to health by his friend.

“He is an invaluable help," he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to survive without him.

“He fetches water, bags of coal and wood and then saws it for the fire. He has a heart of gold and is a Godsend.”

Jean Birkett, who sits on Lakes Parish Council and lives in Chapel Stile, said: “They are not any bother. I just want them to be as happy as they can be.”

And a representative for the Lowther Estate, which owns the land, said: “We don’t have a view on it at the moment but would generally support the parish council.”

Comments (26)

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4:14pm Thu 13 Feb 14

shirtbox2003 says...

Do planning rules not apply to everyone,what would happen if after reading this article hundreds of people in mobile homes,caravans, tents etc decided to do the same.if he can afford tax,insurance and maintenance on the vehicle and live on savings then why did he find it difficult to remain in a house.we could all decide to drop out like this.so watch out mrs birkett and the lowther estate and parish council here we come.
Do planning rules not apply to everyone,what would happen if after reading this article hundreds of people in mobile homes,caravans, tents etc decided to do the same.if he can afford tax,insurance and maintenance on the vehicle and live on savings then why did he find it difficult to remain in a house.we could all decide to drop out like this.so watch out mrs birkett and the lowther estate and parish council here we come. shirtbox2003
  • Score: -5

5:54pm Thu 13 Feb 14

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

I've seen this truck at Elterwater and assumed that the mobile library was visiting. Shouldn't he at least paint out the 'Library' sign?
I've seen this truck at Elterwater and assumed that the mobile library was visiting. Shouldn't he at least paint out the 'Library' sign? Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: -4

7:48pm Thu 13 Feb 14

Moonbase says...

Interesting story this one, I've bookedmarked it and shall await the next chapter!!!
Interesting story this one, I've bookedmarked it and shall await the next chapter!!! Moonbase
  • Score: 6

8:09am Fri 14 Feb 14

dutchboyvw says...

Shirtbox2003: Jobsworth get a life!
Shirtbox2003: Jobsworth get a life! dutchboyvw
  • Score: -6

9:52am Fri 14 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

As an avid reader myself I sympathise with Mr Longmire, and would love a Library van of my own. I certainly wouldn't paint out the Library sign either, Milk, as I'd be proud of it. Perhaps they could even make a bit of a living as a subscription Library. It would be much better for everyone though if Library services were properly funded to run the Library vans as travelling libraries, and people could afford to live in the homes they choose.

Don't be such killjoy, shirtbox, house prices and rents are so expensive for ordinary people in the Lakes that there is a good chance of people having to make alternative arrangements for where and how they live. If they are happy enough with their new arrangement, and it doesn't physically harm anyone else, so what? I think this alternative home will bring a bit of eccentric charm to Elterwater and wish both men the best of luck.
As an avid reader myself I sympathise with Mr Longmire, and would love a Library van of my own. I certainly wouldn't paint out the Library sign either, Milk, as I'd be proud of it. Perhaps they could even make a bit of a living as a subscription Library. It would be much better for everyone though if Library services were properly funded to run the Library vans as travelling libraries, and people could afford to live in the homes they choose. Don't be such killjoy, shirtbox, house prices and rents are so expensive for ordinary people in the Lakes that there is a good chance of people having to make alternative arrangements for where and how they live. If they are happy enough with their new arrangement, and it doesn't physically harm anyone else, so what? I think this alternative home will bring a bit of eccentric charm to Elterwater and wish both men the best of luck. jazzactivist
  • Score: -7

10:15am Fri 14 Feb 14

JuJuCumbria says...

What an eyesore!
What an eyesore! JuJuCumbria
  • Score: 5

10:51am Fri 14 Feb 14

shirtbox2003 says...

well well activist and dutchboy ,seems you condone breaking the law. as I said this person has deliberately made himself in this position.perhaps if you feel so strong about him you would let him park on your drives or outside your houses.he has to go.
well well activist and dutchboy ,seems you condone breaking the law. as I said this person has deliberately made himself in this position.perhaps if you feel so strong about him you would let him park on your drives or outside your houses.he has to go. shirtbox2003
  • Score: 3

11:49am Fri 14 Feb 14

Spotty Fish says...

How do the people of Elterwater feel about the van being there? If they don't mind, why should the rest of us? And judging from the quotes above they don't seem to mind.
Surely the most interesting thing about this is the fact the the governments "bedroom tax" has forced one of these men out of his home. I can only assume this is happening all over the country, and I'm sure not everyone is as lucky as these two , and ends up with somewhere warm and comfortable to sleep. It could happen to any one of us. Leave them alone I say.
How do the people of Elterwater feel about the van being there? If they don't mind, why should the rest of us? And judging from the quotes above they don't seem to mind. Surely the most interesting thing about this is the fact the the governments "bedroom tax" has forced one of these men out of his home. I can only assume this is happening all over the country, and I'm sure not everyone is as lucky as these two , and ends up with somewhere warm and comfortable to sleep. It could happen to any one of us. Leave them alone I say. Spotty Fish
  • Score: 14

3:29pm Fri 14 Feb 14

hogheaven says...

Well with all the publicity about him ,it does not leave the authorities that be ,much choice but to move him on, lest it sets a precedent.I am afraid the time as long on when we had choices , It will be a health and safety issue or some other mumbo jumbo planning law. Would I let him park on my drive of course not, but thats my choice.
Well with all the publicity about him ,it does not leave the authorities that be ,much choice but to move him on, lest it sets a precedent.I am afraid the time as long on when we had choices , It will be a health and safety issue or some other mumbo jumbo planning law. Would I let him park on my drive of course not, but thats my choice. hogheaven
  • Score: 1

5:21pm Fri 14 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

What an old misery you are about this, shirtbox. There is no need to be so ungenerous to someone worse off than yourself. They aren't hurting you, are they? Some laws deserve to be ignored when the economy is hard, or if planners prioritise expensive new builds and allow people to buy up land earmarked for housing over ordinary people needing homes. I don't have much of a driveway, but I have absolutely no objection to people living in moveable vehicles on private, public or land owned by publicly funded bodies such as the National Trust. In fact, I think the Council should be duty bound to provide places for people to live in alternative accommodation of their own choosing if the context in the area is such that they need it. I don't think a Library van can ever be an eyesore, Ju Ju
What an old misery you are about this, shirtbox. There is no need to be so ungenerous to someone worse off than yourself. They aren't hurting you, are they? Some laws deserve to be ignored when the economy is hard, or if planners prioritise expensive new builds and allow people to buy up land earmarked for housing over ordinary people needing homes. I don't have much of a driveway, but I have absolutely no objection to people living in moveable vehicles on private, public or land owned by publicly funded bodies such as the National Trust. In fact, I think the Council should be duty bound to provide places for people to live in alternative accommodation of their own choosing if the context in the area is such that they need it. I don't think a Library van can ever be an eyesore, Ju Ju jazzactivist
  • Score: -10

8:10pm Fri 14 Feb 14

Pete W. says...

If anyone else fancies a lifestyle change there's another library van for sale on eBay for £7995.
Though I think that by the time you get to Elterwater Common with it, Lowther Estates may have by then realised that they're missing a trick and installed a 'Pay and Display' parking meter.
If anyone else fancies a lifestyle change there's another library van for sale on eBay for £7995. Though I think that by the time you get to Elterwater Common with it, Lowther Estates may have by then realised that they're missing a trick and installed a 'Pay and Display' parking meter. Pete W.
  • Score: 9

9:30pm Fri 14 Feb 14

San_Emilion says...

I wonder whether the same generous consideration would be given to members of our travelling community even if they were avid readers with dozens of books & were unable to go to go to the far east because of DVT.
I think a dangerous precident is being set here not just for Elterwater but for any non pay & display area in the Lakes.
I wonder whether the same generous consideration would be given to members of our travelling community even if they were avid readers with dozens of books & were unable to go to go to the far east because of DVT. I think a dangerous precident is being set here not just for Elterwater but for any non pay & display area in the Lakes. San_Emilion
  • Score: 19

9:57pm Fri 14 Feb 14

PropMeUpWithTeabags says...

I've met him and spoken to him and his ferret. He's a lovely if not eccentric chap.
I've met him and spoken to him and his ferret. He's a lovely if not eccentric chap. PropMeUpWithTeabags
  • Score: -1

9:19am Sat 15 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

Can't believe that most people on here are so uncharitable! My guess is that this man has gone to the press in the hope of being offered a home that he can afford. It doesn't matter what gossip there is about him - everyone needs a home. Over time, his books will get damp from the condensation in the van, and it won't be an ideal home forever, even if it is a useful one now.

Not everything that is illegal is wrong - it all depends on the wider context.
You have to ask who benefits from laws, and whether those laws are still appropriate when the context changes. There is loads of open space around Elterwater, so it doesn't do any harm to the area to add one Library van. This is an educated man and his friend, and his case highlights the lack of genuinely affordable housing in the Lakes.
Can't believe that most people on here are so uncharitable! My guess is that this man has gone to the press in the hope of being offered a home that he can afford. It doesn't matter what gossip there is about him - everyone needs a home. Over time, his books will get damp from the condensation in the van, and it won't be an ideal home forever, even if it is a useful one now. Not everything that is illegal is wrong - it all depends on the wider context. You have to ask who benefits from laws, and whether those laws are still appropriate when the context changes. There is loads of open space around Elterwater, so it doesn't do any harm to the area to add one Library van. This is an educated man and his friend, and his case highlights the lack of genuinely affordable housing in the Lakes. jazzactivist
  • Score: -13

9:27am Sat 15 Feb 14

hogheaven says...

Cannot agree with Jazz "not everything that is illegal is wrong" if its illegal its wrong Letting him stay leaves it wide open for so called "travellers" to move in " and that would cause all sorts of problems.
Cannot agree with Jazz "not everything that is illegal is wrong" if its illegal its wrong Letting him stay leaves it wide open for so called "travellers" to move in " and that would cause all sorts of problems. hogheaven
  • Score: 8

4:35pm Sat 15 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

But it doesn't actually matter really, does it? It's none of anyone's business how and why they ended up in that situation, but they need some kind of permanent solution. Whether that is continuing to live in their van or being rehoused because it is unsuitable. If local people, other than the usual handful who moan about the potential loss on their investment homes, are happy enough with them living there just leave them alone. As for all the fears about 'travellers' moving in too, well it hasn't happened so far. My guess is that Elterwater isn't near enough to general facilities, but may well suit a couple who are reasonably self-sufficient. There is masses of space in the Lakes for a whole range of housing without it impacting on the look of the landscape, and a desperate need for genuinely affordable housing, but nothing much is being done about it. It's not for any of us who are fortunate to have homes, and some even more than one, to pass judgement and decide that someone is breaking the law when they are unfortunately homeless.
But it doesn't actually matter really, does it? It's none of anyone's business how and why they ended up in that situation, but they need some kind of permanent solution. Whether that is continuing to live in their van or being rehoused because it is unsuitable. If local people, other than the usual handful who moan about the potential loss on their investment homes, are happy enough with them living there just leave them alone. As for all the fears about 'travellers' moving in too, well it hasn't happened so far. My guess is that Elterwater isn't near enough to general facilities, but may well suit a couple who are reasonably self-sufficient. There is masses of space in the Lakes for a whole range of housing without it impacting on the look of the landscape, and a desperate need for genuinely affordable housing, but nothing much is being done about it. It's not for any of us who are fortunate to have homes, and some even more than one, to pass judgement and decide that someone is breaking the law when they are unfortunately homeless. jazzactivist
  • Score: -8

5:00pm Sun 16 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

Actually, the Law isn't always the Law' and not to be questioned, Shirtbox. Laws are created for a variety of reasons, and one of them is to protect the status quo. Many of our laws go back a couple of centuries, and planning laws were usually created to protect land, housing and views for the owners in times when there was constant work and lots of cheap housing nearby. When the context becomes unbalanced re: the economy, lack of affordable housing, lack of work etc some laws, and brutal officialdom, are no longer appropriate. You can either fight to change a law, or find ways of going around it if you believe that to be morally right. The latter usually relies on other people's compassion and common sense, as they see that the problem faced by an individual is symptomatic of one affecting lots of people. If more people start to do the same the law eventually has to be changed.

FYI, I used to live just along the road from two gypsy travellers. They were father and adult step son, and their house and land was fairly messy and they traded old cars and livestock. However, they were friendly, kind and helpful to everyone and, even the people who complained about their yard, felt sad when the dad died and the stepson moved away to live with other family. They left a gap in the village for sure.

We need to ask who would actually benefit from moving this man and his van on, and whose nose would be out of joint if he stays? My guess is that the only people to complain will be the wealthy residents, second homers, and tourists who want their surroundings to look quaint and don't want to see evidence of what the modern Lakes is like for many people who live here. And THAT's who your planning laws are really protecting.
Actually, the Law isn't always the Law' and not to be questioned, Shirtbox. Laws are created for a variety of reasons, and one of them is to protect the status quo. Many of our laws go back a couple of centuries, and planning laws were usually created to protect land, housing and views for the owners in times when there was constant work and lots of cheap housing nearby. When the context becomes unbalanced re: the economy, lack of affordable housing, lack of work etc some laws, and brutal officialdom, are no longer appropriate. You can either fight to change a law, or find ways of going around it if you believe that to be morally right. The latter usually relies on other people's compassion and common sense, as they see that the problem faced by an individual is symptomatic of one affecting lots of people. If more people start to do the same the law eventually has to be changed. FYI, I used to live just along the road from two gypsy travellers. They were father and adult step son, and their house and land was fairly messy and they traded old cars and livestock. However, they were friendly, kind and helpful to everyone and, even the people who complained about their yard, felt sad when the dad died and the stepson moved away to live with other family. They left a gap in the village for sure. We need to ask who would actually benefit from moving this man and his van on, and whose nose would be out of joint if he stays? My guess is that the only people to complain will be the wealthy residents, second homers, and tourists who want their surroundings to look quaint and don't want to see evidence of what the modern Lakes is like for many people who live here. And THAT's who your planning laws are really protecting. jazzactivist
  • Score: -5

3:47pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Keeping_it_real says...

I've never been able to afford to live near or in the National Park, let alone so close to a Tarn or Lake. So I popped down to Elterwater this weekend to peruse the available "plots" and there are some amazing sites on which to setup home. Saw the Library van but to be honest i didnt fancy sharing the site - bit "common" really. But I found the perfect site just up the road and i plan to move there this weekend before anyone else pinches my plot. I Cannot wait!!! As a real ale drinker I was delighted to find three pubs would be on my doorstep, I would be on a bus route and have beutiful views.... Plus... No council tax, no utilities to pay, no battleing to find a parking space... Why did i not do this before?
I've never been able to afford to live near or in the National Park, let alone so close to a Tarn or Lake. So I popped down to Elterwater this weekend to peruse the available "plots" and there are some amazing sites on which to setup home. Saw the Library van but to be honest i didnt fancy sharing the site - bit "common" really. But I found the perfect site just up the road and i plan to move there this weekend before anyone else pinches my plot. I Cannot wait!!! As a real ale drinker I was delighted to find three pubs would be on my doorstep, I would be on a bus route and have beutiful views.... Plus... No council tax, no utilities to pay, no battleing to find a parking space... Why did i not do this before? Keeping_it_real
  • Score: 10

3:52pm Mon 17 Feb 14

hogheaven says...

Keeping_it_real wrote:
I've never been able to afford to live near or in the National Park, let alone so close to a Tarn or Lake. So I popped down to Elterwater this weekend to peruse the available "plots" and there are some amazing sites on which to setup home. Saw the Library van but to be honest i didnt fancy sharing the site - bit "common" really. But I found the perfect site just up the road and i plan to move there this weekend before anyone else pinches my plot. I Cannot wait!!! As a real ale drinker I was delighted to find three pubs would be on my doorstep, I would be on a bus route and have beutiful views.... Plus... No council tax, no utilities to pay, no battleing to find a parking space... Why did i not do this before?
Save me a space preferably with grazing for my horse.
[quote][p][bold]Keeping_it_real[/bold] wrote: I've never been able to afford to live near or in the National Park, let alone so close to a Tarn or Lake. So I popped down to Elterwater this weekend to peruse the available "plots" and there are some amazing sites on which to setup home. Saw the Library van but to be honest i didnt fancy sharing the site - bit "common" really. But I found the perfect site just up the road and i plan to move there this weekend before anyone else pinches my plot. I Cannot wait!!! As a real ale drinker I was delighted to find three pubs would be on my doorstep, I would be on a bus route and have beutiful views.... Plus... No council tax, no utilities to pay, no battleing to find a parking space... Why did i not do this before?[/p][/quote]Save me a space preferably with grazing for my horse. hogheaven
  • Score: 7

4:55pm Mon 17 Feb 14

hogheaven says...

shirtbox2003 wrote:
Good for you hogheaven.perhaps the more of us who drop out then we will become a minority persecuted group and then the councils will provide toilets and washing facilities with bins for our waste etc.I wonder where the two vagrants already there dispose of lifes essentials?Perhaps jazz helps out as he seems to talk plenty of it.lol.
Good question where do they get rid of their waste. Dont be too hard on Jazz she is too busy fighting the corner for the people who have nothing.Though I do wish she would stop having a go at "wealthy" people, its not their fault that they have acquired it, sometimes by even working for it! Maybe the taxes I pay help to pay for some of the of the less fortunate .Just paid my Electrician ,decorator and plumber ,i wonder where they spend my money?.
[quote][p][bold]shirtbox2003[/bold] wrote: Good for you hogheaven.perhaps the more of us who drop out then we will become a minority persecuted group and then the councils will provide toilets and washing facilities with bins for our waste etc.I wonder where the two vagrants already there dispose of lifes essentials?Perhaps jazz helps out as he seems to talk plenty of it.lol.[/p][/quote]Good question where do they get rid of their waste. Dont be too hard on Jazz she is too busy fighting the corner for the people who have nothing.Though I do wish she would stop having a go at "wealthy" people, its not their fault that they have acquired it, sometimes by even working for it! Maybe the taxes I pay help to pay for some of the of the less fortunate .Just paid my Electrician ,decorator and plumber ,i wonder where they spend my money?. hogheaven
  • Score: 2

8:36pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Lakeuk says...

Saw their van over a cold day over the Xmas period, smoke coming out of the chimney then notices Library written on the side, thought unusual but excellent use for an old van. Then went on my way not giving it a second thought.

At the end of the day it's no bodies business, they're on private land, the landowner currently doesn't have an issue to want them to take action.

This sort of thing is more popular in the Lakes than people think
Saw their van over a cold day over the Xmas period, smoke coming out of the chimney then notices Library written on the side, thought unusual but excellent use for an old van. Then went on my way not giving it a second thought. At the end of the day it's no bodies business, they're on private land, the landowner currently doesn't have an issue to want them to take action. This sort of thing is more popular in the Lakes than people think Lakeuk
  • Score: 2

8:43pm Mon 17 Feb 14

furthersouth says...

where do they perform their ablutions? Hopefully not on Elterwater Common
where do they perform their ablutions? Hopefully not on Elterwater Common furthersouth
  • Score: 2

11:41pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Eric58 says...

Shirtbox, what law is being broken exactly?
Shirtbox, what law is being broken exactly? Eric58
  • Score: 0

6:38pm Tue 18 Feb 14

furthersouth says...

if you find the book charting the story of Millican Dalton who lived in a cave up Grange way, he would retire to the Lakes during the summer, live in the cave and get up to all sorts of adventures and live life to the full on and off Derwent Water and surrounding crags and fells. Many people see him as an inspirational character, including myself, but that was a good few years ago and attitudes have changed somewhat. if someone chose that lifestyle in these times, they would undoubtedly be condemned. Good luck fellas, do it while you can.
if you find the book charting the story of Millican Dalton who lived in a cave up Grange way, he would retire to the Lakes during the summer, live in the cave and get up to all sorts of adventures and live life to the full on and off Derwent Water and surrounding crags and fells. Many people see him as an inspirational character, including myself, but that was a good few years ago and attitudes have changed somewhat. if someone chose that lifestyle in these times, they would undoubtedly be condemned. Good luck fellas, do it while you can. furthersouth
  • Score: 1

10:18am Wed 19 Feb 14

jazzactivist says...

At last - some more compassionate comments on here. Millican Dalton sounds like an interesting person, furthersouth. Nowadays, people are so harsh in their condemnation of anyone who wants to live a different lifestyle - it's as if they can't bear the thought that they have done everything they were told and tied themselves to the grind stone when other people choose a different way of life and can get the same results in a different way.

I don't agree with wealth at the expense of other people's poverty, Hogheaven, and certainly not lazy wealth from inheritance or investment while other people struggle to survive. Most people work hard for most of their lives, and pay their taxes, but not everyone achieves the same level of comfort. That isn't because they don't work hard enough, or have the same abilities, but because they don't have the same opportunities or things happen in their lives that create hurdles. Poverty and disadvantage can happen to anyone at any time, as is shown in this article. None of us know what is round the corner for us, and the least those better off can do is be thankful that it isn't them and be compassionate and thoughtful towards those who are worse off and cut them some slack. I hope these two men enjoy living at Elterwater for as long as they want, and then manage to find more solid housing and appropriate income when they feel they need it. It's no hassle to me as a home-owning, hard working, tax payer.
At last - some more compassionate comments on here. Millican Dalton sounds like an interesting person, furthersouth. Nowadays, people are so harsh in their condemnation of anyone who wants to live a different lifestyle - it's as if they can't bear the thought that they have done everything they were told and tied themselves to the grind stone when other people choose a different way of life and can get the same results in a different way. I don't agree with wealth at the expense of other people's poverty, Hogheaven, and certainly not lazy wealth from inheritance or investment while other people struggle to survive. Most people work hard for most of their lives, and pay their taxes, but not everyone achieves the same level of comfort. That isn't because they don't work hard enough, or have the same abilities, but because they don't have the same opportunities or things happen in their lives that create hurdles. Poverty and disadvantage can happen to anyone at any time, as is shown in this article. None of us know what is round the corner for us, and the least those better off can do is be thankful that it isn't them and be compassionate and thoughtful towards those who are worse off and cut them some slack. I hope these two men enjoy living at Elterwater for as long as they want, and then manage to find more solid housing and appropriate income when they feel they need it. It's no hassle to me as a home-owning, hard working, tax payer. jazzactivist
  • Score: 0

5:04pm Wed 19 Feb 14

furthersouth says...

http://www.keswick.o
rg/explore/history-c
ulture/millican-dalt
on/
http://www.keswick.o rg/explore/history-c ulture/millican-dalt on/ furthersouth
  • Score: 0

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