How we live together: ‘People couldn’t believe I’d run off with the bearded hippy in the forest’

Camilla Palmer

Ian Pease, 48

I’ve been living and working at the National Trust’s Hatfield Forest since I was 25. You could blindfold me, put me anywhere in the forest and I’d know where I was. Selena, my sheepdog, comes with me every day. I couldn’t work the estate’s sheep without her.

Working and living on site makes this a way of life. Whatever time it is, I’m always on alert. I love sharing the space: our WoodFest event has evolved from me playing a squeezebox under a gazebo to a three-day celebration of the forest.

The day I take it for granted, it’s time to move on. It’s the little things – the changing light, the wind in the trees, seeing a barn owl, being out with Chelsea and the dogs – which make it a privilege to be here, even when it’s windy and I have to leave my supper and rush off to deal with something in the forest.

Chelsea Roberts, 48

We met working for the Trust. I was all hair extensions – a townie. I work in admin, and people couldn’t believe I’d run off with the bearded hippy in the forest. I couldn’t take him away from here. Ian’s rota means we have to be here at certain times; once, a cow got its head stuck in a tree and needed rescuing.

Related: How we live together: the off-grid couple

We make time to enjoy the space together. Last summer we went for a picnic – we took a wheelbarrow deep into the heart of the forest, where no one goes. It was perfect. We have people to stay a lot, as there’s so much to do.

It’s been my childhood dream to have as many animals as we do. We have three dogs, two cats, a flock of 20 sheep and a ram called Nigel. He’s handsome and tame, but he’s not welcome on the sofa.

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