TO PAS­TURES NEW

Tired of the hustle and bus­tle? Reap the re­wards of the good life on a small­hold­ing

Daily Mail - - Property Mail - by Gra­ham Nor­wood

YoU don’t have to join cli­mate change protest group Ex­tinc­tion re­bel­lion to do your bit for the en­vi­ron­ment.

There are grow­ing num­bers chang­ing their life­styles and their homes to get closer to na­ture and give their fam­i­lies a taste of the coun­try­side.

In the jar­gon of es­tate agents they’re called Green­shifters — peo­ple who up sticks from the city, sell their prop­erty and move to a ru­ral lo­ca­tion, bag­ging

them­selves a beau­ti­ful home and a few acres of land on which to rear some an­i­mals and grow fam­ily fruit and veg­eta­bles. Some peo­ple have small­hold­ings as a hobby or oth­ers try to make a liv­ing from it — such as Steve Bates and Matt Brown who have land near Aldridge in the West Mid­lands.

They run a web­site ex­plain­ing ex­actly what a small­holder’s life is like (small­hold­ing.blog). In ad­di­tion to a range of an­i­mals, and crops from chill­ies to pump­kins, they have so­lar pan­els to pro­vide power.

‘our big­gest tip to any­one is to take it steady and ex­pect prob­lems. our land is in the mid­dle of nowhere with no neigh­bours, no gas, elec­tric or run­ning water, so ev­ery­thing we do has to have this taken into ac­count,’ Steve says.

‘When the sun’s out it’s fun and en­joy­able, but you have to re­mem­ber to take water on ev­ery sin­gle trip. In win­ter it’s pretty when it snows, but gets ex­tremely cold,’ he adds. down­sides in­clude oc­ca­sional ru­ral crime and dog at­tacks, but Steve says that they are al­ways out-weighed by the good times.

‘Goats giv­ing birth, bees pro­duc­ing honey, the chick­ens, ducks, geese and tur­keys all lay­ing eggs we can eat and bake nice cakes with. The hard work is worth it in the end.’

So if you want to fol­low suit, how do you do it?

Firstly, check a small­hold­ing is right for you. Speak to peo­ple who have al­ready made the move to the coun­try — many small­hold­ers have blogs with con­tact de­tails, and most are happy to help new con­verts. Bet­ter still, stay with one: sev­eral have rental cot­tages on the small­hold­ing and al­low vis­i­tors to help out.

At the Lint Mill in La­nark­shire (the­lint­mill.co.uk) pay­ing guests are en­cour­aged to do as much or lit­tle as they like on an or­ganic small­hold­ing, where there are horses, hens, ducks, pigs, geese, a pea­cock and a don­key.

Mean­while, in North­ern Ireland there is Lackan Cot­tage Farm ( lackan

cot­tage.co.uk), an off-grid cot­tage and con­verted horse­box where you can stay and witness the own­ers’ sus­tain­able grow-your-own life­style.

Se­condly, find the right prop­erty. If you’ r e con­vinced about the move, then it’s not enough to say you want ‘a house with land’ as you may want out­build­ings, easy road ac­cess, hills, pas­ture or wood­land, de­pend­ing on your am­bi­tions for the small­hold­ing.

‘Fif­teen years ago buy­ers wanted five acres with­out know­ing what to do with it: now buy­ers who want small amounts of land have a def­i­nite need — ponies, grow­ing things, or pri­vacy.

‘Peo­ple like the idea of slow food and fam­ily ac­tiv­ity so go in for grow­ing, brew­ing, cur­ing, smok­ing and pick­ling for a farm­ers mar­ket,’ says James Green­wood of Stacks Prop­erty Search ( stacks. co. uk) a buy­ing agency.

THIRDLY, learn the skills. hum­ble By Na­ture — a Mon­mouthshire farm set up by TV na­ture ex­pert Kate hum­ble and her husband Ludo Gra­ham back in 2011 — is one of many coun­try com­pa­nies across the UK of­fer­ing classes for in­ex­pe­ri­enced small­hold­ers.

They in­clude var­i­ous forms of an­i­mal hus­bandry from bee keep­ing to lamb­ing and even sheep shear­ing, plus ru­ral skills tu­ition —

hedge mak­ing, lay­ing a dry stone wall or cider-mak­ing, ( hum­ble by­na­ture.com). ‘We al­low peo­ple to come here to live out their fan­tasies or to learn what it’s like to keep their own an­i­mals,’ says Kate. ‘So if they have a bit of land and that’s what they want to do, they can go home and do it. If any­body leaves here with clean hands and noth­ing un­der their nails, we’ve failed them.’ Fourthly, re­mem­ber the red tape. head­ing to the coun­try doesn’t mean you can es­cape bu­reau­cracy. There’s help on­line to steer you through County Par­ish hold­ing num­bers re­quired for agri­cul­tural land, and for reg­is­ter­ing live­stock with the An­i­mal health Ve­teri­nary Lab­o­ra­to­ries Agency. These will help: de­fra.gov.uk, rpa.gov. uk and cla.org.uk. Fi­nally, sell your pro­duce: There are now more than 550 farm­ers’ mar­kets in Bri­tain, ac­cord­ing to the Fa r m re­tail As­so­ci­a­tion — and they’re still ex­pand­ing as the UK be­comes more in­ter­ested in its food prove­nance, (farma.org.uk).

Fresh start: A small­hold­ing in Ar­gyll, West Scot­land

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