An ex-soldier built a castle out of stone on the mountainside to help soldiers and other NHS personnel rebuild their mental health. 

Ex-lance corporal Mike Allen, 41, has hoisted 100 stones up a steep hill on Mynyddislwyn mountain, near Wattsville, Gwent in Wales, to build the fort over the past three years. 

Endex is the charity he established on the site. Endex supports veterans, as well as those with mental disorders, and has become a vital part of his charitable work since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This site sleeps six and features a fitness area, cooking areas and a huge chessboard. 

Mike was homeless at one time. He built a wood hideaway to deal with his PTSD and it became a news story. However, he wasn’t allowed to take down the structure by environmental bosses in 2018.

A year after his story was in print, the local landowner gave permission for him to create his wooden castle on stone. It would be a place for veteran-infant families to escape for some peace and quiet.

Ex-lance corporal Mike Allen (pictured with fort), 41, has hoisted 100 stones up a steep hill on Mynyddislwyn mountain, near Wattsville, Gwent in Wales, to build the fort over the past three years

Mike Allen, 41 (pictured with the fort), is an ex-lance corporal who has climbed 100 stone up the steep mountain on Mynydislwyn, in Wales.

Aerial shot shows the castle built into Mynyddislwyn mountain with Welsh flag detail

Aerial shot shows the castle built into Mynyddislwyn mountain with Welsh flag detail 

The fort is now home to his charity Endex, which supports the rehabilitation of veterans and others suffering with their mental health

Endex is his charity, and the fort now houses Endex. Endex supports veterans with mental illness as well as others.

Interior of the fort shows seating areas and astroturfed flooring

The interior of the fort features seating areas as well as astroturfed flooring 

Mike (pictured standing atop his fort), who was previously homeless, first hit the news when he built a wooden hideaway as a way of dealing with his PTSD - only to see it torn down by environment bosses in 2018 because he didn't have permission

Mike is seen standing at the top of his fort. Mike was previously homeless and first made headlines when he constructed a wooden hideaway to cope with his PTSD. It was later destroyed in 2018 by his environment bosses because Mike didn’t give permission.

So far, the team have received over 2,500 visits to their fort

The team has received more than 2,500 visits so far to their Fort.

The fort is now the base of Mike's mental health charity which supports anyone who needs help, including special needs children, military widows and stroke survivors

Mike’s mental healthcare charity, Mike’s Fort, is located in the fort. It supports all who need it, even military widows or stroke survivors.

Mike (pictured in service) served in Afghanistan for seven months and developed PTSD upon returning home

Mike, pictured during service, served seven months in Afghanistan and was diagnosed with PTSD after returning to the United States.

Now, it is his base for his mental health charity. This supports any person who has a special need including military widows, stroke survivors, and has been busier ever since Covid, and its lockdowns, began to wreak havoc on mental health.  

Mike commented, “The castle is constructed from more than 100 tonnes of stone I’ve collected.

“All the logs that I cut and carried on my shoulders – any trees damaged. 

After the main cabin was completed, I also added a wood-based gym and a bench to it.

“Five hours of construction equals five hours of gathering stone. The smallest steps made every day make the greatest difference.

“As it grew so did I. It’s helped me to understand the value of setting goals.”  

He said, “We have had over 2,500 visitors, including children with special needs and bereaved parents who came along to talk.”

“When people are going through hardships, they discover that engaging in some form of exercise can help them to get away from it. This allows them to tell their story until the end and not feel overwhelmed.

Mike began building his castle back in January 2019 - after a wooden cabin he had built was bulldozed for not having planning permission

Mike built his castle after an abandoned wooden cabin which he’d previously constructed was destroyed by bulldozers for lack of planning permission.

The site helps veterans and others by offering a peaceful retreat, as well as skills-based courses and qualifications

This site provides a tranquil retreat for veterans and other individuals, and also offers skills-based training and qualifications.

The castle has been visited by more families than ever since on the onset of Covid

Since the inception of Covid, more families have visited this castle than any other time. 

This site offers mental health coaching and employment as well as adventure training, animal care, family-oriented activities, and job opportunities.

Over 2,500 people have visited their Fort so far. 

Mike spent seven months in Afghanistan and said that it was more important to support troops than former soldiers.

He declared, “We’re in a mental illness crisis.

“With Covid-19 lockdowns having an enormous impact on the deteriorating mental health of many, our work is now more vital than ever.

“I was completely helpless and on the brink of death, but rebuilding my cabin helped me set small goals that I could accomplish every day.

‘I had no phone, no TV, no radio. Being surrounded by nature and being free from all external pressures helped me find myself once again. As the cabin grew so did my self-confidence.

“When I began to rebuild the second cabin many people and charities became interested in it.

Endex was formed by a team of talented and compassionate people.

His time spent in the Middle East was a highlight of his life.

“I had flashbacks, self destructive tendencies and depression. I also experienced homelessness, suicide thoughts, behaviours, and poverty.

“Even though my experience with starvation was for a long time, I came out of two years of being homeless with an appreciation for simple things and an understanding that suffering is something that cannot be explained in books.

Mike, who is writing a book about his experiences, admits he suffered with suicidal thoughts after serving in the Army

Mike wrote a book to share his experience. 

The fort has created a safe space for thousands of people suffering from mental health

For thousands of individuals suffering from depression, the fort provides a secure space.

Endex has helped everyone from NHS staff to military widows and special needs children

Endex helped everybody, from NHS employees to military widows to special-need children 

The castle includes mental health coaching, employment, adventure training, animal care opportunities and family oriented activities

It offers employment and adventure training as well as mental health counseling. There are also family-oriented activities such as coaching for mental health, job placements, therapy, support groups, and opportunities to care for animals.

Mike, who spent seven months in Afghanistan, said supporting troops and former soldiers is more important than ever

Mike, who was in Afghanistan for seven months, believes it is crucial to support troops and ex-soldiers.

Mike said hiking up to the castle helps mental health through exercise

Mike stated that hiking to the castle improves mental health.

Aerial shot shows the extensive work behind the castle

The extensive construction work is evident in this aerial photo 

A local land owner gave Mike permission to build his stone castle with a wooden roof as a safe space for struggling veterans like himself to get away for a peaceful break

Mike received permission from a land owner to create his wooden-roof stone castle as an escape for veteran veterans.

The castle has now been kitted out with exercise stations, cooking facilities and a dry-stone walling centre for former military personnel to come and unwind

Now, the castle is equipped with cooking and exercise equipment.

I found work, began private mental health treatment and was finally able to fully understand myself.

“I made progress. I started reconnecting with family and friends that I had previously shunned and was isolated from.

“I started to find direction, purpose.”

The castle has been unofficially guarded by local children since then.

Mike commented, “I see the castle through my Wattsville bedroom window. And I see that I am getting more visitors each day.” 

“Kids living in this area feel a sense ownership, and they take responsibility for it. They make sure that everyone leaves their trash behind.

“Everyone has shown respect for the place, and there have not been any accidents or damage.”

This area has been outfitted with exercise equipment, kitchen facilities and dry-stone walls to allow former military personnel to unwind. 

Mike was clear from the start that he wanted to make the castle a “therapeutic-based support program for veterans”. 

This promotes self-development, worthiness and belief, and is surrounded by people who are willing to listen, understand and offer encouragement to help one-self improve.

You can also take skills-based classes that will give you new qualifications.  

Mike explained that Mike believed the qualification would lead to employment opportunities in the outdoors, with less stress and more stability for those suffering from chronic health problems. 

“There was an increase in visitors during lockdown. Many of them were families.

“It’s given me inspiration to make my own goals, engage in nature and promote personal fitness while I had to walk up a hill to reach the Castle.

After the cabin in the Sirhowy Valley in South Wales was knocked down Mike worked with environment agency Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for permission to rebuild it as a facility for military veterans.

Mike said building the remote cabin-cum-castle helped him deal with his own demons

Mike stated that he was able to deal with his demons by building the cabin-cum castle.

Stunning photo shows how the castle often seems to sit above the clouds

Amazing photo of the castle appearing to hover above the clouds

Mike looks out at the stunning view from the top of his castle

Mike gazes out from his castle at the magnificent view 

Mike is currently writing a book that will reflect upon his experiences

Mike is writing a book about his life experiences.

An aerial photo shows the castle basked in sunlight, just behind rows of solar panels

Aerial photo of the castle, which is just behind rows upon rows of solar cells.

Mike's vision from the get go was to use the castle to offer a 'therapeutic-based support service for veterans'.

Mike was clear from the beginning that he wanted to utilize the castle as a support system for veterans.

The castle features a chessboard for families or friends to enjoy

For friends or families, the castle has a chessboard. 

Mike, who visited Afghanistan in 2011, said that it would be a “safe place to work for those suffering from PTSD.”

He said, “Sometimes it’s difficult to be with normal people. It can be tough to deal with that. But when we are with veterans or other people in the exact same situation, things get easier.”

According to him, the cabin was a way for him to deal with his demons.

He explained that after I left the army, he was suffering from serious mental problems and other issues. It was a long struggle that I had and it wasn’t working out.

“Things went downhill. I finally decided to go up the mountain and start building.

“The cabin was originally built as a shelter. But it has since become something very special. It healed me. It provided me with cover, clarity, and an appreciation of the surrounding landscape. 

Mike is writing a book about his life experiences.