Malcolm Applegate has worked as a gardener for 25 years, the Daily Mail reports. He enjoyed his life and his job until marrying his wife 13 years ago.
“First of all I met her in Eastbourne and I married her in Birmingham,” Applegate said. “For three years it was alright, we got on with one another and the gardening got too much for her. She said, ‘Why don’t we have more time together?’ I said, ‘How can I? I have been recommended to people.'”
Rather than legally separate from his wife, Applegate separated from her by location. Three years after his marriage, he headed to the “thick woodland” near Kingston, south west London to escape from her “controlling” behavior, according to the Daily Mail.
The journey from their their home in Birmingham to London reportedly took Applegate three weeks to complete. His bike had been stolen half way, prompting him to go the rest of the way on foot.
Applegate claims he lived with three other men at their makeshift camp, which was located next to an elderly care center where he worked as a gardener.
“They were just camping around with me because at the time I was working in the centre and we used to go there for a wash and a shower,” Applegate said. “No one knew we were there. It’s not well known — nobody would go in there.”
According to The Sun, Applegate decided to leave the woods after a fellow ‘runaway’ told him of a job at Emmaus Greenwich, a homeless shelter that helps people ‘rebuild their lives’ in Greenwich, south London.
Applegate reached out to his wife and sister after leaving the woods to let them know that he was still alive.
“It had been a decade years since I’d last seen her,” Applegate said of his sister, “and in that time she had been to all of the Salvation Army hostels in the South trying to find me. I think she assumed I was dead. I wrote her a letter once I was settled in Greenwich and she phoned me up, in floods of tears. We now have a great relationship again.”
The gardener now lives a happy life at Emmaus Greenwich, where he works odd jobs and raises money for homeless charities.
“My day-to-day involves working in the shop or driving the vans, I’m not fussy what jobs are given to me as long as I’m working… My recent walk through London raised almost £300 for Street Souls, not bad for a man in his sixties.”
Applegate added: “I’d like the people who donate to Emmaus to know that I am grateful for being given a second chance at life. I have a lovely room, I am able to work and I can still lead an active social life — I love it here — my life is officially back on track.”