Saturday, 2 July 2011

Devon Family Living 'off Grid' and Facing Eviction!

Just imagine spending years of dreaming about living 'The Good Life' then one day it becomes a reality. You give up the rat race, suburban living, the big smoke, the hustle, the bustle. Living a life in a place where you become totally self sufficient, working the land, growing your own food, generating your own electricity, surrounded by orchards, hay meadows, and hedgerows...being at one with nature while your children grow up in peaceful, beautiful surroundings.

For a lot of us living a life 'off grid' is nothing more than just a dream but for one couple Stig and Dinah Mason it became a reality. They inherited £47,000 from an Aunt and instead of wasting the money on fast cars, luxury holidays or any other material indulgences they decided to completely change their lives and live the dream by leaving their council house in Hertfordshire and buying some land in Mid Devon.

According to The Mid Devon Gazette The Masons have worked damn hard transforming Muxbeare Orchard into an oasis of calm and self-sufficiency which when they purchased it in 2009 was a run down, overgrown and very neglected four acre plot . They now have a huge allotment, a polytunnel and greenhouses to grow their own food, chickens for eggs and an orchard that they planted up 14 new apple tree's.

Dinah Mason works during the day as a community care worker while husband Stig sends the kids off to school in the mornings and then works their land. I personally grow  a very small amount of food but growing enough to be self sufficient in fruit and veg would be a full time job in itself and bloody hard work but very rewarding and satisfying. To me this is the idyllic life and I can't help but admire them and what they are trying to achieve for their family.

The family have become very involved and active within their new local community...the children attending a local school, Dinah a cub leader and member of the PTFA and Stig is a chairman of the Willand Composting Scheme and also a member of the school’s PTFA, he sells eggs, produce, and is hoping to sell cider in the future but planning permission to live and work on the land was refused in 2009 which they are now appealing against.

They now have an eviction notice hanging over their heads as the local council are trying to 'boot' them of the land because it is Mid Devon District Council does not consider them to be conserving an agricultural area. One of the reasons that planning permission was rejected is based on a belief that the couple do not have a “sound enough business plan.”

John Clarke, planning enforcement officer, said: “To get planning permission to move onto agricultural land, you have to prove first there is a need for someone to live there, for example, to tend livestock and look after crops, and second, that the enterprise can provide living income for at least one worker. 

“Neither condition was met and therefore took the necessary action to protect the nature of the rural landscape and prevent unlawful habitation.”

I totally 'get' the need to have these laws to protect our rural landscapes but surely some exceptions can be made in circumstances like this? The Masons could be closely monitored and certain conditions could be put in place to prevent the land become ruined.

The council now expect the family to either face prison or give up their home and move into a B&B and receive benefits for rent and the children may even have to be pulled out of their school if they are forced to move out of area.

People from across the country have written to the council in support of the family and the local people fully support the Masons plight. Local resident Anne Wallington,  praises the Masons hard work in reclaiming what was “rapidly becoming derelict land.” Another resident David Thompson, said “they are trying to live up to the Government’s pledge to take better care of the environment and this is the last orchard in the vicinity of Willand.”

There is also an online petition here. Please take 2 minutes to sign it and support this family.
The Masons website is here and Facebook page here. 

So what do you think? Do you think this is fair, that the Masons should be removed from their land or do you think they should be allowed to remain and continue living their lives in peace?


  1. Hi there, thanks for taking the bother to blog our story! Just thought you might be interested in an update?
    We are currently residing in a tent on another patch of land not far from the orchard. The council have visited to decide whether we have complied with the order properly...which we probably havent....and it is now up too the solicitors to decide!
    Thanks for your support
    Dinah Mason

  2. Thank you so much for highlighting my friends plight. It really is a travesty of justice that they will be forced from their land and into a B+B. I must add that when asked about cooking/ eating arrangements in the B+B the Masons were told by a council official that most likely they would have to live off takeaways!! So much for healthy living!!! Thanks again. Tam Dudgeon

  3. Hi Dinah and Tam,

    A Friend of mine shared your story on her facebook wall and as I read my heart went out to you all. It is totally outrageous that you have worked so hard to provide a better life for your family and instead of giving you encouragement the government give you an eviction notice! Appalling!

    Thanks for the update and I will be following your story closely. I hope you and your family get the result you want and deserve and that you can return to your home asap x

  4. Fight for it. I could understand if you were digging up the land to build a house/mansion, but you are tending to it. They, obviously, have nothing better at the council to do than bug good folks like yourself. There is no understanding to what they are doing to you guys. Does the land not belong to you if you paid £47 grand for it? You are damned if you do and damned if you dont in this country. Petition No 10. If you took benefits they would moan too!!! Good luck to you and hope the ball lands in your court, if it does keep it any run away with it. :-)

  5. It is beyond belief that you can't live on your own land. Dinah and Stig are living the way people should. Being self sufficient, respecting nature, being active members of the local community. If they had a camper, and just moved off the land and slept in that in a layby, then moved back on in the morning, they would be fine. The law really is that stupid.

    Most of the rest of Europe can live in temporary accomodation on their own land, why can't we?

  6. They should be thought of as Eco Models not criminals! I hope they finally get justice! Love you guys!

  7. You can't have people, willy-nilly moving onto agricultural land to supply themselves with a roof over their head and something to eat. Agricultural land should be used for its proper purpose, growing crops that attract the highest subsidies, in economic sized fields easily tended by heavy machinery and devoid of wildlife that will spoil the crop. Profit has to be maximised to protect the landowning, farming community and these latter day diggers, hippies and other undesirables must be got rid of to protect the countryside. Much better that this family should live on benefits and this land should fall derelict......

    God, it's unbelievable, what better business plan is there than we can feed ourselves and house ourselves? Bloody councils and their blinkers? Nothing has changed since the English Revolution

  8. Thanks for your comments Guys. It is totally unbelievable, yet believable that the council would prefer the family to be living on benefits rather than continue to peacefully tend to their land.

    I'd totally understand if they were wrecking the place and the locals complaining but from what I have read the complete opposite is true and that is exactly why I felt passionate enough to blog about it.

    I truly hope they get to continue living on their land.

  9. This is the latest story on the family's situation:

  10. Thanks J...Much appreciated. I will tweet the update & share on facebook. Sending the family lots of positive energy for a happy outcome.



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