ALAN Bennett's 'Lady in the Van' reached celebrity status thanks to a widely acclaimed book and film about an elderly woman who camped on his drive in a dilapidated old van. Will the same level of fame be accorded Herefordshire's own 'Gentleman in the Van'?

Sculptor Bob Rowberry lives in relative comfort in an ancient but solid Mercedes-Benz van which came to rest in a slice of peaceful Welsh border woodland some time ago. His circumstances are different from the lifestyle of Mary Shepherd, an eccentric and at times irascible character played in the film by Maggie Smith.

Instead, 75-year-old Bob's 'peace and love' hippy charm has made him an accepted part of the Welsh border community. Next year the world will learn more about the much travelled Bob, who joined the legendary 1960s hippy trail and found himself beset with adventure.

In January, Jonathan Cape is to publish a book about Bob's peripatetic life- 'A Hero of High Times' written by his friend, writer and broadcaster Ian Marchant. If the accounts of his travels around Europe and the Middle East, during heady times when many took the great overland journey to India, Pakistan and Nepal, prove alluring, Bob's story may even make it to the big screen.

"I'm an outdoorsy soul, I spent my childhood in the open air," he says.

His story is peppered with lively anecdotes: holding a hat for Eric Clapton while he busked on the streets of London, or being rescued one night by actor Helena Bonham-Carter when he found himself locked out of a friend's house. Once while travelling in the Middle East, he was held by security men and beaten with rifle butts. The uniformed man who interrogated him just happened to be Saddam Hussein.

Today Bob is content with his peaceful location. The van, which serves as tiny kitchen, micro-managed metal workshop and bedchamber, is kept cosy with a locally-made woodburner and solar panels provide him with energy. Up to four robins pay regular calls.

Human visitors can expect a warming cup of tea, or a glass of excellent elderberry wine and some stimulating conversation on a wide range of issues. He scoffs at the wrangling about Brexit.

"I did lots of travelling before the Common Market and had no trouble at all," he says. "You just showed your passport; there was no problem on the borders." He fears for the incompetence of British politicians. "They just do exactly what their US masters want." He also feel strongly about food production and use of pesticides. "You just can't trust our food, water or air," he maintains. "This is why I'm getting more into gardening." An abundance of lettuce and potatoes illustrate his point.

"I got into this in the Sixties," Bob explains. "People were driving back and forth to Central Asia in vans and lorries. I liked this, it seemed a sensible way of life. You could have your own home for the price of an old van. If you didn't like it, you'd just start the bloody engine and move on!" Not as rootless as he had believed, Bob recently discovered that his ancestors were settled in Herefordshire centuries ago. By chance, visiting Kilpeck Church he was amazed to note an early 18th century grave bearing the family name. "I've come home!" he says.

If the forthcoming book does bring fame - and fortune - to Bob Rowberry, he may even allow one indulgence.

"I might buy a new van and go off travelling again!"