John Treagood: 'Life on the road is the only life for me'
JOHN Treagood has the face of a man who has been on the road for more than 40 years and seen a great deal – and the face does not lie.
Anyone who drives around the outskirts of Exeter, out at Ide, or Exminster, or even on the bypass near Countess Wear, will have seen John, his elegant 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.
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"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 until he turned his back on mainstream life 40 years ago.
He went for a walk one day and didn't stop and never went back.
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.
Over Christmas and New Year, he usually parks up somewhere near Exeter.
Despite sub-zero temperatures, John, 76, says his life is getting better and better each year, as the rest of the "sane world" frets and panics.
"I don't care too much if the world is in meltdown. I don't listen to the news," he said.
"People come up to me all the time and say 'I wish had the guts to do what you have 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.
"I originally went travelling for a month to clear my head when I was lecturing in Leeds. I never stopped."
He says he doesn't feel the cold and feels Devon winters are mild – which is why he is here just now. 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 10 of the 15 gallons of water he collects daily.
He cuts up carrots and apples for his beloved and fine-looking 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 hints of modern life are an old wind-up radio, to listen to country and western music, and a mobile phone.
"A friend said I would need one for emergencies, but I haven't switched it on for six months."
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".