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Led Zeppelin fan has her own bit of rock and roll history


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Ruth Dale is the proud resident of Bron-yr-Aur - a Welsh farm cottage where the famous band crafted their legendary acoustic gems


It's not exactly a Stairway To Heaven – more a long driveway that needs a lot of maintenance, leading 500ft up a steep hill.

But former Birmingham teacher Ruth Dale doesn’t mind the daily hard slog.

Not one little bit.

She’s the proud resident of Bron-yr-Aur, the Welsh former farmer’s cottage at the top of the slope dating back to around 1790 that later inspired a seismic shift in rock music.

The idyllic setting, and particularly its limitations, caused Led Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page and West Bromwich-born vocalist Robert Plant to turn down the volume for which they had become renowned, as they began crafting some legendary acoustic gems on tape while on retreat there in 1970, during a real purple patch of creativity.


“It’s such a special place – my heart lifts every time I come home,” said Ruth, who used to teach at Walmley Infant School in Sutton Coldfield, Westminster Primary in Handsworth, Park Hill Primary in Moseley and Anderton Park in Sparkbrook.

And now she and her family find themselves greeting respectful visitors, who come on pilgrimages from all over the world, to the garden of their unspoilt history-rich dwelling – as they prepare to write a book about the cottage.

Led Zep had no choice but to pipe down at Bron-yr-Aur, which overlooks the Dyfi Valley near Machynlleth, as it simply had no electricity.

Page and Plant, there with their partners, plus a couple of roadies to collect firewood and water, fell in love with the tumbledown place.

They found a new pastoral sound in the dramatic landscapes that they would later fuse with their awesome thunder, to legendary effect. Their stay is reflected directly in two songs: the misspelt hoedown Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, that would appear almost immediately on the band’s Led Zeppelin III record, and Page’s flowing solo instrumental Bron-Yr-Aur, that added an extra dimension to the already-kaleidoscopic 1975 double album Physical Graffiti.

Other low-volume classics That’s The Way, Tangerine and Friends were penned there, while work began within the stone walls on later anthems including Over The Hills And Far Away, The Rover and Down By The Seaside.

According to Zep biographer Mick Rock, the group’s most-revered masterpiece Stairway To Heaven also began to see the light of day there, amid the candles and Calor gas that substituted for modern power in the cottage.

It was Ruth’s father John, a Worcestershire-based vicar, who snapped up the property as a holiday cottage – for a song – just as he was about to enter theological college in 1972.

He was oblivious to the work of Led Zeppelin there two years earlier.

“My parents bought it without any knowledge of the band being here,” said Zep fan Ruth, who made the house her permanent residence two years ago with her husband and their six-year-old daughter.

“Mum and Dad just looked in an estate agent’s window in the Midlands and saw a cottage for sale in the area where they had been camping – and thought ‘maybe we should use our savings and buy that’. They paid the going rate for a remote property – nothing more.

“It would have been more rough and ready when Led Zeppelin were here than it has been throughout my life. My parents had to make it more comfortable, to make sure that the building was safe.

“Generally speaking, the layout would have been the same then. Certainly the windows are of the same aspect, with the same views.”

Ruth said the only big change has been an extension at the back of the house to accommodate green energy technology, including solar water-heating panels and small wind and water turbines.

“It’s a traditional stone-built Welsh cottage with a slate roof,” said Ruth, who gave up full-time teaching when her daughter was born.

“It has the original slate floors downstairs, and the original wooden beams in the ceiling and the roof. It has a tiny, tiny kitchen and only two bedrooms. An estate agent would say ‘it retains its original features’!

“My husband, who is a woodland manager, sought to carbon-offset his work which led to a deep interest in green living.

“We have a gas cooker and everything else is renewable.

“The property takes a lot of work and maintenance, and we have to make the access track possible to drive our very small car along. We don’t have an iron or a hairdryer and we choose not to have a TV – in this area that’s not uncommon.”

Fans are being asked to leave their reflections on visiting Bron-yr-Aur on a new Facebook page, ‘therealbronyraur’, set up by the owners.

“They can send us stories about why they came here and what the place means to them,” said Ruth, who started going to the cottage for holidays when she was just three weeks-old.

“If it ends up being anything good we might consider turning it into a coffee-table book one day.


“People who come up always want to share their stories about why they are here. The number of visitors varies, and it always has done over the years. It’s a respectful trickle of dedicated people, I would say. We’ve had someone up recently from America and another from New Zealand. It’s very remote and not signposted at all, so you would have to be a dedicated follower of the band and research it beforehand to find us.

“We don’t let people go inside the house from the point of view of privacy.

“My father lived here full-time for three years but now he lives in the valley in Machynlleth. He was worried that the fans’ interest could get out of hand, and didn’t expect to have strangers appearing in his garden.

“The garden’s now fenced and gated and we grow vegetables there. If we don’t go out to greet visitors, people walk as far as the gate and take photos, then head off – the coastal path goes not very far from here.

“If we see them, we invite them to sit in the garden on the bench and take in the view.

“Those who come here to be inspired by what inspired the band – those are the ones I have more time for.”

Although Ruth and family have had very few problems with Zep devotees, privacy has been further strengthened over the last month after one fan sought his own slice of heavy rock.

“Sadly we’ve had to move the rock at the bottom of the drive that had the house name on it, and put it within the premises,” she said.

“It looked like someone had tried to steal it. At the present time there’s no sign to show you’ve got here.

“Given the weight and size of the rock it was probably someone British. The people from around the world are hugely respectful and wouldn’t be able to transport it anyway.

“We might leave it without anything, which is sad. I think that Stairway To Heaven line ‘there’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure’ caused people of a certain ilk to think it was a great souvenir. Real fans will find us anyway. And friends who come, we give them detailed directions.”

Ruth now runs a children’s choir, named Tangerine after the aforementioned Zeppelin song.

Quoting the lyrics of that beautiful country-tinged ballad, she said: “To me it’s the living reflection of a dream here.”


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