Currently the top story on the Daily Mail web site is a plug for off-grid living, featuring Emma Orbach who first came to prominence when she was described in my British book How to Live Off-Grid. The book is about my trip around the UK meeting off-grid dwellers, and the time I spent with Emma at Brith Dir Mawr in Wales is one of the most inspiring sections. She was lucky enough to be part of a group that bought a huge fertile piece of land and moved on in 1995, before the backlash against this way of living. you can see film of Emma and many other off-gridders at my YouTube channel.
As usual, the Mail coverage is fairly sarcastic, calling Emma “Mrs Bilbo Baggins,” but apart from the headline (which is pegged to the newly released movie The Hobbit), their story is fairly straightforward and draws heavily on the material in my book.
Emma and her fellow off-gridders had a peaceful life when they first moved onto the land but a survey plane chanced upon the ‘lost tribe’ and they were plunged into a decade-long battle .
Officials were unable to find any records, let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village surrounded by trees and bushes and insisted the eight grass-covered buildings should be demolished.
The community endured a decade of inquiries, court cases and a planning hearing before their fight, finally ended in victory in 2008, the year after my book was published. The roundhouses were given planning approval.
But by then Emma had divorced and the commune split into three entities, including hers. Each community is independent and they co-exist as neighbours in a more traditional style.
Explaining why she set up her own home just before 2000, Mrs Orbach said she felt a ‘very strong pull to live life even more simply’.
the Daily Mail traditionally hates people like Emma. So why have they given her such a heroic role in their paper today?
Is it because they know that their readers are yearning to escape and many would love to live this way themselves? The Mail is the third most successful English language newspaper web site in the world. They have carried a string of stories about people living off the grid over the past few months,and it is for a reason.
The story had attracted over 200 comments within a few hours of publication, and this post from a reader in the Home Counties was typical of the positive remarks: “Why try to make a silly `Bilbo Baggins` joke of her??
“We all know that its good to have a NHS, and various other Departments giving Social Support, but….To live a life that is yours. To be at no-ones beck and call. To make (and live with) your own achievements AND errors. To breathe the pure, and often cold, clean air on waking. To feel the hunger that gives full delight to the occasional feast….. she lives that way and THAT is what it must have been like to have been one of our ancestors here in Britain – Celt, Gael and Saxon…… They have all long gone now, BUT… they lived. And, yes, they had hardships and troubles of their own, but still they had an empathy with all around them. They rejoiced in a simple tune or story, and sang a song to a lark or a perfect sunset….. and she follows where they trod. I truly envy her…..”
Said another: “True way of simple life . Not ripped by corporate GREED.” And a third said: “Awesome inspiration! Thank you Emma … This is how I too long to live … and have had this dream for a long time … One day I will have my hobbit house!”
The negative comments, such as one comparing Emma to Worzel Gummidge, attracted very negative ratings from other readers, reinforcing the point that the off-grid lifestyle is now going mainstream.
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