In the Sirhowy Valley of Wales, a man named Mikey Allen is building a castle. Allen served as a Lance Corporal with the British Army in Afghanistan. He was tasked with uncovering roadside bombs. Death was common.
Allen suffers from PTSD. At the end of his rope, needing solitude and an escape, Allen started to build a castle. He didn’t know what it would be at the time, but as time went on and his project kept him going, it turned into a foundation, then the beginnings of a castle.
At one point in his career, Allen witnessed an Afghan National Police Officer step on a mine set there by Taliban Militants.
Allen Said, “There was a big explosion. Me and my colleague went sideways skidding across the floor. The best way I can describe it is it looked like his legs had been stuck together with superglue. Just, all different directions. His torso was twisted sideways.”
Unfortunately, the man passed while being helicoptered back to camp.
This is sadly a common experience among many in the armed services and it specifically made Allen question everything including his own reality.
Back at home in Wales, Allen suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Allen said, “You come back and you feel a different person. Friends and family say you’re not the same. It’s like you’ve lost your soul.”
Due to PTSD and a severe back injury, Allen left the army and became addicted to drugs and alcohol and lost his marriage in the process.
Allen said, “I just kept eating painkillers, and eating them and eating them. And I hoped not to wake up.”
Allen continued saying, “I was homeless, I didn’t have any food, no money, no telephone.”
Allen retreated from society in search of solitude and purpose. Allen first built a wooden cabin in the forest.
Allen said, “There were some local people that were really, really helpful. They’d give me a cooked dinner. Sometimes a simple cup of tea and chocolate biscuit made all the difference between not giving up and giving up.”
However, one day he came home to find the cabin he took so long to build destroyed.
“It had been completely torn down by the authorities,” Allen said. “They were cutting the trees down in a year and they deemed it a fire hazard. So, my belongings — all my tools, my clothes, sleeping bag — was all gone.”
Allen was not alone however, a local family heard of Allen’s troubles and let him live on their land for free. They also told him he could use their land for his next project. It was through this generosity that Allen found a chance to truly start over.
Over the next few years, Allen began the grueling task of building his castle. Allen would carry 130 pounds of stone at a time, chopped and carried logs from a nearby forest, and began to also rebuild his life.
During this time, not only did Allen experience peace and a sense of purpose, he found love again.
Allen met a woman named Rachel Whiting. Rachel was not a novice when it came to trauma and loss. Her husband, who was also in the military had taken his life in 2011.
Whiting told CBS News, “Mike and I felt that we’d known each other forever the day we met. It was like meeting a best friend that I hadn’t seen in years. That’s how I felt when I met him. We’ve helped each other so much, in many ways.”
Rachel explains that the castle not only lifted Allen’s mood but helped her get through some dark moments as well and strengthened her relationship with Allen.
Allen’s personal recovery has now impacted many including other troubled veterans.
Allen said, “I came across the top of the mountain and there’s 30, 40 people, all big, happy smiling faces. Knowing how people were struggling during that lockdown and then to see so many happy faces, and waving to different families — that was a really special day.”
Allen founded a charity named Endex and has made many more people smile.
The castle has hosted yoga, meditation and fitness classes, along with mental health courses and skills training — including dry stone walling, the ancient technique Allen used to build his castle. Families who have children with special needs have also found support and guidance on the mountainside. And it’s all free of charge.
Allen reports that over 5,000 people have visited the castle from all over the world.
Allen plans to finish the castle in the upcoming months. He’d like more space for healing.