He’s done it for a very special reason – By Lydia Stephens (Image: Joshua Rhys Photography)
A veteran has rebuilt his demolished stone cabin retreat in the Welsh countryside in the hope it will be a sanctuary for soldiers suffering with PTSD.
Mike Allen’s original cabin was bulldozed by forest officials , who said it was illegally built.
Mike described the original cabin as his home and sanctuary.
He said: “It was causing no harm to anyone and also curing me. I wouldn’t be alive today without it.”
The new cabin has been built at Mynyddislwyn near Blackwood in Caerphilly, on private land provided by local farmers.
After eight months of hard work, Mike, 38, has finally completed the new cabin, which will not only be a retreat for military veterans but a space for the local community to get together and learn about the surrounding environment.
“The cabin itself is going to be used by the whole community. We’re going to have classes there for children, mental health workshops, and training opportunities to learn about animal care, tree planting an dry stone walling,” added Mike.
Mike started rebuilding the cabin on December 30 2018, eager to get things started.
He said working in the cold winter months was hard but worth it now it has all paid off.
He spent the first few months spending around five hours a day collecting stones from across the mountain that were suitable to use for the cabin.
He did this for three months until he had a pile of stones large enough to build a new cabin.
Accompanied by the farmer’s dog Maisie, who Mike said follows him everywhere, he set about rebuilding the stone home from scratch with his bare hands.
Mike was joined by other veterans who helped him patch the walls together through the winter months and the rest of the summer.
The result is an idyllic stone cabin that blends in with the surrounding mountains, which will provide a sanctuary retreat for veterans and others in the community.
Now it is completed, Mike and a team of other people are planning events and classes mainly for veterans that will be held at the cabin.
“We have the land so we can do a lot of things,” Mike said.
“The cabin has become symbolic for me in a way, it is not just somewhere for me anymore, it is the beginning of something much more.
“More people have come on board, it has gone from one strength to another.
“We are very excited about what is happening next.”
The cabin’s main function is to provide a safe place for veterans in time of need.
Mike, having suffered with PTSD himself, knows the importance of having somewhere to go.
On his Afghanistan tour in 2011, he spent nearly seven months clearing bombs, witnessing people around him getting killed.
He left the Royal Welsh regiment in 2014 and suffered further heartache two years later when his mum died.
He believes the mental-health help for veterans is terrible, and does more damage than good.
Mike’s original cabin provided him with the tranquility he needed to help him heal.
A plan for the cabin has been developed with its key intentions being suicide prevention, improving mental health, education, employment poverty prevention, tackling isolation and providing family days for the local community.
The community group have an agreement with Natural Resources Wales to have tree planting projects and dry stone wall work in the new year – which will be supported by the Dry Stone Association of Wales.
If you would like to help Mike and the community group deliver these services to the community, you can donate here .For video and lots of great photos https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/ptsd-rambo-retreat-army-wales-16829277