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.
“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.”