From 1941 to 2011, three generations of the Hamer family eke out an existence in the Radnorshire hills. But this is not a tale of epic hardships and their brutalising effect on relationships, rather the beauty of land and humanity in symbiosis, observed with a crystal objectivity and delight in the detail of nature and personalities.
For months now there had been saplings on the abandoned hills, rising from the fern, the heather and the feg, with leaves like flags - declaring their species while still not an inch in height. There were wittans and hawthorns, but there were ash trees too, with oaks and hazels. They might have been lurking since the days of the forest, waiting for the sheep to at last depart before, tentatively, they began to remake the wilderness. The television reported that farming was dying, that it had ceased to be an industry and had become instead a life-support system, in which these Less Favoured Areas were an intolerable expense. For those looking for the root of things, well, here it was: these scrawny trees on Llanbedr Hill, riffling as far as Oliver could see, divesting the last of their withered leaves in their first successful autumn for five thousand years.