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The couple who quit their high paid jobs to live off-grid

The couple who quit their high paid jobs to live off-grid

Charis and Matthew live a very different lifestyle to your average family


A family who escaped the “rat race” of the city to live completely off grid have revealed that their only bill left is council tax. Seven years ago, Essex vets Charis and Matthew Watkinson decided to drop everything and start afresh.

For the pair it was a big, and daunting idea – not least due to their lack of farming experience. But, now parents to Elsa, five, and 18-month-old Billy, the family of four have found a way to adapt to everything from their man-powered washing machine to their horse-poo powered cooking gas by using solely the land they live off.

Speaking from Beeview Farm in Pembrokeshire, Charis, 34, said: “We were in Essex when the London riots were going on and they got within a mile of us on the last night. “Then there was the Occupy London which was all about relying on consumerism and that affected us we did rely on shops. “We just figured we wanted to be able to look after ourselves and be a bit more self sufficient.” For the couple the idea continued to grow, prompted by some research into today’s climate crisis.

The Essex vet added: “Neither of us are from Wales but we knew about Newport as we had been camping here and loved the area. “I think by the time we handed in our notices I knew I needed to do it. As we were just locuming after we moved we didn’t have a job lined up so living without a stable plan was a big thing. But we were ready to get going. “Otherwise we would have bought [a house] – we almost had it that way with a mortgage and a job but we didn’t want to carry on with the rat race.
We almost did it without thinking about it.”

read more here…..



Images: Robert Melen

Images: Matthew and Charis Watkinson

Lammas Ecovillage

Lammas Ecovillage

The Lammas Project for Alternative Living

The Lammas project has been created to pioneer an alternative model for living on the land. It empowers people to explore what it is to live a one-planet lifestyle. It demonstrates that alternatives are possible here and now.

The project centres around the ecovillage at Tir y Gafel, in North Pembrokeshire, which has been designed using a model that can be replicated across Wales. It combines the traditional smallholding model with the latest innovations in environmental design, green technology and permaculture. The ecovillage was granted planning permission in 2009 by the Welsh Government and is currently part-way through the construction phase.  At its heart it consists of 9 smallholdings positioned around a Community Hub building, and it is supported by a range of peripheral projects and networks.



The concept for the Lammas ecovillage is that of a collective of eco-smallholdings working together to create and sustain a culture of land-based self-reliance. The project supports a permaculture approach to land management – in which human beings are considered an intrinsic part of the ecosystem. As a result the approach to environmental  management is one of stewardship for future generations rather than exploitation for short term gain.

The residents of the ecovillage have come from all walks of life and whilst some have experience of low-impact living and natural building, many have none. They have all purchased plots costing between £35,000 and £40,000, and have 5 years to establish their holdings. Water, woodland and electricity are managed collectively and the plots are largely dedicated to growing food, land-based businesses, growing biomass and processing organic waste. Land-based enterprises include fruit and vegetable production, livestock and bees, woodland and willow crafts, value-added food production, seed production, and permaculture (the farming of composting worms).

Under the planning conditions the project reports to the Council each year, setting out its progress against a series of performance indicators that include traffic generation, land-based productivity, and ecological foot-printing. The project is required to substantially meet its needs from the land and demonstrate positive environmental, social and economic benefit.

The ecovillage began construction in 2009/2010 and is currently midway through its set-up phase.

Law’s Woodland House

Law’s Woodland House

“Here is a house so ecologically sound, it breathes in time to the trees around it.”

Kevin McCloud

Built in 2001, the woodland house was the building that brought ‘roundwood timber framing’ to the public eye. Filmed for channel 4 for Grand Designs, the episode known as ‘the woodsman’s cottage’ was voted the public’s and presenter Kevin McCloud’s all time favourite Grand Design. Built from Sweet chestnut from Prickly Nut Wood, straw bales with lime and earth plasters and with the help of a merry crowd of volunteers the house emerged out of the woodland as if it had risen up amongst the coppice. As the years go by, the house is maturing beautifully in its woodland landscape and living up to it’s role as an adaptable family house.

The woodland house is possible to visit by booking onto one of my open days.

You can watch the Grand Designs episode here: Ben Law’s Woodland House on Grand Designs

Ben Law lives and works at Prickly Nut Wood in West Sussex, UK.

Apart from making a living from coppicing, he trains apprentices and runs courses on sustainable woodland management, eco-building and permaculture design. Ben also runs a few ticketed open days each year, to experience Prickly Nut Wood and visit the Woodland House.

Ben specialises in Roundwood Timber Framing and has developed specialist jointing techniques for the architectural style of building he creates. These, he passes on through his flagship Roundwood Timber Framing course. The building of his house was filmed for Channel 4’s Grand Designs program and was voted the most popular Grand Design ever by viewers.

Ben is also a prolific author having written six books. His latest book ‘Woodland Craft’ is a practical construction book of traditional and modern woodland crafts. Translations of ‘Woodland craft’ are available in French and German.

More on this stunning project and other news you’ll find here…