On a recent holiday in the Lake District, my husband and I stayed in a cottage in a small hamlet. Our temporary home was heated via a wood burning stove and water came from a local bore hole. Our landlord was a third generation sheep farmer tapping into the UK holiday industry by sympathetically refurbishing outbuildings and sheds.
His latest work included a shed with solar panels to generate his own electricity as well as a wood burning stove powered by his own woodland stocks.
Not only is it refreshing to meet someone who, although appreciating Wi-Fi and Freeview avoids being embroiled in what us Hertfordshire folk term the Rat Race. He is happy reconditioning old motors such as VW camper vans and looking after a few sheep with a small pack of well-trained refuge border collies.
The dichotomy as I see it, is to make habitable a small shack for his own use, on his own land, in an area where no-one else lives for a good couple of miles government approved. Involving the council’s building planner to ensure stairs treads and head height are the same as every other property in the country, whether or not the buildings have been used by previous generations in what we townies call ‘original character’. This makes me think that our modern life has made it very difficult for anyone to live a simple and unassuming existence, content and at one with the landscape.
As someone who dreams of a home powered from renewable energy, recycling waste back to the land, grey water harvesting and living off local produce, an approach encouraged by the government as it attempts to meet its carbon reduction commitments through renewable energy incentives and travel to work schemes, I am dismayed by how our modern existence is glamorizing eco living but stifling those who truly are living an eco-life.