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?