A family living completely off-grid in Cumbria claims that their only outgoing is council tax. Their home is just outside the small village of Gamblesby, where Barry Maurice and his partner Katus Young share gypsy wagons and a separate cabin with their two children, Madog and Malinki.
The electicity they use in their off-grid home is supplemented by solar panels but they have no TV or games consoles instead choosing to entertain themselves through outdoor activities or hobbies, such as reading. The children have a large playground outside and lots to explore, with den-building one of their favourite outdoor pursuits. Katus and Barry were both brought up in conventional homes but opted for this lifestyle at a fairly early age and have never had conventional 9-5 jobs.
Alongside Katus’ work as a folk singer, the family makes a living from renting out their collection of gypsy caravan homes, branded as Wanderlusts Gypsy Caravan Holidays. Most of what they make from these ventures is their own and the council tax bill of Â£89.70 a month is considerably less than the outgoings of most small families. They donâ€™t even need to pay a water bill as they harvest rain water and filter it to make it drinkable.
Barry Maurice admitted there were some sacrifices but it meant they didn’t ‘have to worry about money or time’. He said: “Other parents spend all their time working to earn money. We prefer to do things differently. We live in a beautiful place. The kids are free to run about. Itâ€™s so normal for me. I don’t live in this way in judgement of anyone, but I do think people should live in a more sustainable way.”
The family does live frugally, but are really happy and get to enjoy spending quality time together. They have lived like this since 2014 when they bought a 3.5 acre plot of land and decided to make it their off-grid home.
Barry built the cabin entirely by himself. There is an outdoor toilet that turns waste into compost and their shower is run off a solar-powered 12-volt system. The majority of cooked meals are created over an open fire, although they do have a cooker that uses gas canisters.
“We just pay council tax, bill-wise. We keep whatever we earn and then we invest that back into the things we do,” says Katus. She has created a garden that grows vegetables and herbs for cooking which supplement their grocery needs. She doesnâ€™t do a â€˜weekly shopâ€™ but gets what she needs to last a few days. She said that “food consumption and food waste are at a minimum as we live off what we need”.
The family does not have a fridge, instead choosing to use a cool box which stays outside and a larder type cupboard. “It’s a box that remains cool and in the shade. Milk, butter, cheese and any meat or fish stay fresh for a couple of days,” says Katus. Essentials are bought from the local shop and nearby farmer friends supply meat. Barry claims it is possible to escape the modern world and enjoy a peaceful life living off the land, and hopes his experience will encourage others to do the same.
People from all over the world, including Australia and Thailand, have come to experience their off-grid lifestyle. They have also helped found and fund-raise for the Wanderlusts Bai Conteh Music School in Gambia, West Africa.
There is no set routine except rising between 5am and 6am to cook breakfast, and Madog travels to the nearby bus stop on the families Shetland pony. The couple say they are content and happy with everything they need – although Katus did admit that she would quite like to have a hot water tap!
If you’re thinking of making a caravan into your permanent off-grid home, check with your local planning authority to ensure you don’t need permission.
For more conventional properties, ask a Property Surveying Chartered Surveyor for a building survey when you buy your new home.