My little piece of heaven, courtesy of Manfred Mann

I am the proud owner of a small country estate in Wales, and all because of my lifelong interest in prog rock


They say you should judge a man by the company he keeps but I think a better way of assessing his character is by the music he listens to.

For example, I wouldn’t want to be associated with anyone who likes Spandau Ballet and I’m always suspicious of people who say they appreciate Bob Dylan.

Nailing my colours to the mast, I am a music dinosaur and don’t listen to much else on the radio except Planet Rock.

For the uninitiated, this station caters for middle-aged saddos like me who still want to hear the likes of Wishbone Ash and Barclay James Harvest.

Last week Rioja and I were tuned in and for the first time in years heard Launching Place – a track from The Good Earth by Manfred Mann’s Earthband which was released in 1975. I owned a copy once but lent it to someone at a student disco and never saw it again.

What was unique about The Good Earth was that it entitled every buyer to own the freehold interest in a square foot of land on a remote Welsh hillside.

The cover depicted a square foot of turf complete with wild flowers, snails and fungi. Each LP carried a seal with the message – ’The owner of this album is entitled to rights over one square foot of earth situated at Llanfrechfa in the County of Brechan, Wales, subject to registration by December 31 1975’.

Naturally, I registered and subsequently lost the LP. I thought no more of this until last week, when curiosity got the better of me.

The area of land in question is 1,000 feet above sea level on a remote moor, and when interviewed in 1995 Manfred Mann himself recalled that the band only paid a few hundred pounds for the plot, and that numerous prog rock fans did indeed register. So there you have it – I own a small country estate in Wales.

The property on the cover of Physical Graffiti can be found at 96-98 St Mark’s Place, New York City

On a related rock ’n’ roll theme, just about everyone of my age owns a copy of the album Physical Graffiti (pictured) released by Led Zeppelin in 1975.

The cover depicts a Victorian block of flats and being a surveyor, I have always wondered whether this was a real building or an illustration.

Last time I was in New York I went into a basement clothes shop called Physical Graffiti. On my way out I noticed a blow-up of the album cover on a wall and immediately recognised it as the building I was in the basement of.

The album is a double sleeve and it turns out Zeppelin wanted a symmetrical building on the cover.

The property the band chose can be found at 96-98 St Mark’s Place in New York City. The upper floors are still tenements in residential occupation just as they were when the block was photographed in 1974 by album designer Peter Corriston.

And you thought surveyors were dull.