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After 40 years a-roving, the simple life still suits John

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

John Treagood, a familiar figure around Exeter with his horse and wagon. After 40 years on the road – and at the age of 76 – he still prefers the simple life PICTURES: Matt Austin

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As these striking new photos show, John Treagood has the face of a man who has been on the road for more than 40 years and seen a great deal.

Anyone who drives around the outskirts of Exeter, at Ide or Exminster, or even on the bypass near Countess Wear, will have seen John, his wagon pulled by his even-tempered Irish cob horse, Glidor.

Many will have driven past the little convoy or seen it parked up on a roundabout or waste patch, but few stop – and then only to snatch a photograph of a man who would rather be left alone.

Photographer Matt Austin spotted John making a fire outside his wagon and stopped. "There are a lot of photographers out here," said John – but with a smile on his craggy face.

John lectured in environmental studies in Yorkshire but turned his back on mainstream life 40 years ago when he went out for a walk and didn't stop. He walked to the Westcountry, bought a horse and wagon when he had saved enough money, and built a wagon based on a Kentish bow top design.

In a rare interview four years ago, John, now 76, said: "People come up to me all the time and say 'I wish had the guts to do what you've done'. But it doesn't take guts, just madness. "It's mad in my world and sane in their world. A recession doesn't affect our life."

Even though he is entitled as a pensioner, John does not take any state benefits, declaring: "It is immoral." He makes money doing odd jobs such as pruning hedges, while collecting water from streams and food from the landscape on his travels. In his van you might find a few pheasants hanging, and John eats and picks berries and vegetables along his way.

He drinks three pints of water a day to "rid himself of impurities", while old Glidor will sink ten of the 15 gallons of water he collects daily. He cuts up carrots and apples for his beloved equine friend.

John is rarely ill, but he did slip from his caravan in the frost recently, breaking his arm. But he didn't seek hospital treatment until three days after the incident, having walked four miles to a friend for help. He enjoys smoking but his only hint of modern life is an old wind-up radio, to listen to country and western music.

He paints his caravan each spring after checking for woodworm and says he will have it painted black when he needs "to let everyone know I have died".

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