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Monday, 7 May, 2001, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Island beckons new tenants
Bardsey Island
Saints were buried on Bardsey Island, and it is now a nature reserve
A couple from East Sussex have beaten off around a thousand applicants for the job of farming one of north Wales's most remote conservation areas.

Former farmers David and Libby Barnden are to join the tiny commuity on Bardsey Island off the coast of the Lleyn Peninsula.

Bryn Terfel, opera star
Bryn Terfel: unofficial 'king' of Bardsey

Their only neighbours will be the island trust manager and his wife, a nun, and - for just six months of the year - a fisherman and his wife.

The Barndens hope to move into their 130-year-old farmhouse in the autumn, and will be responsible for farming the island and preserving its wildlife.

Forestry worker Mr Barnden - formerly a farmer in Dyfed - said he and his wife were looking forward to it immensely.

"It's going to be a challenge," he admitted. "But it's a challenge we are both ready for."

Commitment

The trustees of Bardsey Island - or Ynys Enlli in Welsh - began their search for suitable tenants in January, and received a flood of applications.

Applicants had to be willing to give up all the comforts and trappings of modern day life - and they had to be willing to commit the next 20 years of their lives to working and living on Bardsey.

They also had to be prepared to spend around 30,000 to buy a flock of sheep, a tractor - and fishing boat to travel to and from the mainland.

The money can be recouped by selling farm produce and running a cafe and bed and breakfast accommodation which attracts hundreds of tourists in the summer.

'Unspoiled'

Simon Glyn, director of the Bardsey Island Trust, said the rewards for those desperate to escape the rat-race would far outweigh the difficulties of living such a rural life. "There is so much there. The tranquillity and the peace are something else," Mr Glyn said.

"The beauty of the island is something I can't describe. It is totally unspoiled."

The Bardsey Island Trust bought the land in 1979, following a public appeal, and is responsible for its administration and upkeep.

Symbolic head

Once a place of pilgrimage and a legendary burial place of saints, it became a national nature reserve in 1986 and has ruins from a 13th century monastery tower.

Bardsey is steeped in history and even has its own "king" - the Welsh opera star Bryn Terfel - who agreed to be patron of the island's trust.

He is only the symbolic head of the island and does not wear the original crown - that sits in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The original, made of brass and tin, was last worn by King Love Pritchard, who died in 1927.

When he visited the mainland town of Pwllheli in 1925, he was welcomed by former Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, as an "overseas king".

The island even declared itself neutral in World War One after King Love was refused entry to the British forces.

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