Living off-grid in Wales, why would anybody do such a thing? Well, lots of reasons.
Now I’m undoubtedly biased being a Welshman myself, but I think it’s fair to say that Wales, as a country, is objectively pretty darn beautiful.
We’ve got rolling hills, dense old-growth forests, pristine A* beaches, wildlife, welshcakes .. you get the picture. We’ve got some stuff.
And what’s more, some of our most beautiful regions (in my humble opinion) are also the most rural, and therefore among the cheapest to choose from when shopping for your dream slice of off-grid life.
Whether it’s a forest, field or otherwise, you’ll have no trouble finding bargain parcels of land suitable for living off-grid in Wales.
We’re a largely rural country with a pretty small population, leaving plenty of land to go around.
And as if saving heaps of cash while living nestled among beautiful rolling hills wasn’t enough, Wales actually stands out as one of the most off-grid friendly countries in Western Europe, government policy-wise.
Our innovative One Planet Development programme allows for ecologically friendly buildings to bypass many traditionally sticky planning roadblocks, and build on plots otherwise impossible.
This is all contingent on a pretty exhaustive list of strict criteria of course – which we’ll be sure to cover in further details further along in this article – and so it should be.
Nobody wants droves of people turning their local greenbelts into housing estates.
However, living closer to nature, in naturally biodegradable homes while causing less damage to the environment through a healthier, greener lifestyle – Well that’s a dream everybody deserves to chase in my book.
So without further ado, let’s take a look.
What is Off-Grid living?
In essence, off-grid living is a lifestyle removed from the daily utilities many of us these days take for granted. It’s a process of building a self-sufficient lifestyle, to whatever extent you choose.
Some go all the way, generating their own power, recycling their own waste, growing their own food and collecting their own water. While others opt for a more hybrid approach, perhaps remaining connected to mains electricity but choosing to grow their own food, for example.
However far you go down the off-grid rabbit hole, living off-grid in Wales is certainly an option to consider.
Regardless of where you choose to call home however, you’ll need to think carefully about how exactly you plan on meeting the needs of yourself and if applicable, your family.
Below we’ve taken a quick look at the challenges associated with off-grid living, as well as some common solutions mouldable to even the tightest of budgets.
Take a look at our Full Guide to Self-Sufficient Off-Grid Water Harvesting here
If you end up living off-grid in Wales, water generally won’t be a problem. We’re a pretty drizzly country, with reliable rainfall to some extent across most months of the year.
Rainwater Collection systems are particularly useful in climates such as ours, a cheap and easy way to achieve water self-sufficiency in no time at all.
Boreholes or Wells are also a popular option. They can be costly depending on your site, and despite what you might think – aren’t particularly DIY friendly. Nevertheless; Boreholes are reliable, Safe and cost-efficient over the long-term. Certainly something to consider if you’re willing to spend a little money.
Annual Vegetables generally form the backbone of any self-sufficient food production system. Stables such as Potatoes, Leafy Greens and Beans cover most of your nutritional requirements, yield heavy crops and can be grown intensively in small areas.
Perennial Vegetables however are also something to consider, best used as a low-maintenance, supplementary addition to your higher yielding food sources. Crops such as Rhubarb, Asparagus and Babingtons Leek provide pretty heavy yields once established, require little maintenance outside of harvesting and add a little variety to the off-grid household’s diet.
Fruit & Nut Trees & Bushes are a favourite of ours here on our little homestead. Although they can take a little while to get up and running, once mature they yield comparatively huge yields while generally requiring little maintenance. Living off-grid in Wales, you’d be best served focusing on Heritage Welsh Cultivars of known productive crops in this climate, such as Apples, Plums, Hazelnuts and Gooseberries.
Livestock will often form at least a part of any off-grid household’s self-sufficient food production system. Chickens, Cows, Bees and Goats are popular for their respective eggs, milk and meat. How deep you go down this particular off-grid rabbit hole is entirely up to you of course, and will determine the time you’ll need to invest and responsibility you’ll have to shoulder. We’ve kept Chickens, Bees and Ducks, and found them to be hugely productive with relatively little drawback in terms of time-drain.
Finally, once you’ve gone through the trouble of planting, caring for and harvesting whatever food you’ve decided to produce on your slice of off-grid heaven – You’re going to want to Preserve at least some of it for leaner times. Fridges, freezers and larders are of course useful here as a first port of call. Beyond this however, think about less common approaches such as pickling, jamming and canning as useful pursuits in developing a truly hardy food production system.
Solar is the usual go-to for off-grid living around the globe, and despite our famous love of a cloudy day – this is no different when living off-grid in Wales. Prices for sourcing Solar panel systems have trended downwards for years now, making creating a truly off-grid power generation system cheaper and more achievable than ever. Feed in tariff schemes may be no more, but deals can be had if you’re willing to do a little DIY and utilise that excess energy production in alternative ways, such as running a workshop and setting up a home business.
Wind turbines usually come in second place when people get to planning their off-grid power production system. Bought off the shelf they generally make less economic sense than their sun-worshipping alternative, however depending on your position and local landscape – They could well prove to be the best option of the bunch. What’s more, Wind turbines are not impossible to DIY, with plenty of free plans available online these days using easy to source, cheap equipment. A great supplementary source of power generation if nothing else.
A less common but equally useful route to off-grid energy – Biogas systems provide a no fuss way to turn organic waste such as food scraps into gas suitable for both cooking and heating purposes. Not suited to meeting all the energy demands of a household without some serious investment, but perfect as an addition to a well-rounded, diverse off-grid energy production system.
And last but not least, everybody’s favourite – Wood. Humble, versatile, renewable and free (with a bit of foresight!), growing and coppicing your own slice of woodland can meet a huge range of your off-grid household’s needs. With regards to energy production; Heating & Cooking fall pretty squarely within a wood-burners remit, and should (in our opinion) be a part of any off-grid households diverse energy production system.
High up the list of reasons to consider living off-grid in Wales has to be the potential for low-cost living. Achieving many if not all of your essential needs from your off-grid home inevitably trims those monthly bills right down.
However, even for the most hardcore among the self-sufficient, having at least a little income trickling in can only be a good thing, allowing you repair, upgrade and expand your activities as needed.
Luckily for those of pursuing a self-sufficient lifestyle, there are ample opportunities to make money Freelancing these days, with a huge variety of jobs you can take on flexibly from the comfort of your own home. Expertise in a relevant area is always handy of course but far from a prerequisite. And of course expertise (and a larger paycheck) can always be learned along the way.
Alternatively, income streams can be built into your off-grid setup with a little foresight, allowing you to earn a living Off The Land. Beehives, Livestock, Orchards, Market Gardens – The options are endless, and could allow you to live the dream in touch with nature, while freeing you from the Monday morning commute.
Why Live Off Grid In Wales?
Affordable Natural Beauty
Wales is a beautiful country. If you don’t believe me, take a trip along the Gower Peninsula, over the Brecon Beacons, into Portmeirion or any of the thousands of beautiful nooks and crannies this country has to offer – And you’ll find out for yourself!
And what’s more, both housing and land prices are by-and-large, quite affordable – especially in more remote areas best suited to off-grid living.
Arable land can be snapped up for less than £5000 an acre, with low-quality grassland and forestry sites sometimes even cheaper – especially when sold as large plots.
World beating scenery at bargain prices? What’s not to love.
One Planet Development Scheme
Looking past the beauty and affordability on offer, living off-grid in Wales is made infinitely more attractive by the innovative One Planet Development scheme.
Set up by the Welsh Assembly to promote and encourage a more ecologically conscious way of living, One Planet Development gives an alternative entry point to building and living off-grid in Wales, completely legally in the eyes of the law – Conditional to a few ground rules, of course.
These ground rules are pretty thorough, and you should be sure to Read Up In Full if you’re considering pursuing this further. In my opinion however, these stipulations are by-and-large in line with the off-grid lifestyle to begin with, and should be seen more as guide rails rather than deadlines.
In brief, the rules state that you should:
- Have a light touch on the environment – positively enhancing the environment where ever possible through activities on the site.
- Be land based – the development must provide for the minimum needs of residents in terms of food, income, energy and waste assimilation in no more than five years.
- Have a low ecological footprint – the development must have an initial ecological footprint of 2.4 global hectares per person or less with a clear potential to move to 1.88 global hectares per person over time – these are the Ecological Footprint Analysis benchmarks for all One Planet Development (para 2.11).
- Have very low carbon buildings – these are stringent requirements, requiring that buildings are low in carbon in both construction and use.
- Be defined and controlled by a binding management plan which is reviewed and updated every five years.
- Be bound by a clear statement that the development will be the sole residence for the proposed occupants.
Of course this is just a brief overview – Full planning application requirements go much further in depth, but in my opinion they are pretty realistic, common sense requirements for open countryside habitation.
So, it’s possible! And not only is it possible, but many have already set off down this exact path. Communities such as Lammas have been able to establish themsevles since the projects commencement, and are more than happy to share their experiences moving towards off-grid living to anyone interested.
All in all, living off-grid in Wales is an attractive proposition for anybody seeking a self-sufficient lifestyle. Land is cheap and beautiful, you’re never too far away from a reasonably sized town or city, given the size of our country.
And last but not least – The government has been actively encouraging people to pursue a more ecologically friendly lifestyle through initiatives such as the One Planet Development Scheme, a far cry from the usual bureaucratic nightmare of building an off-grid lifestyle.
Not a bad option when all things are considered I’d say. But then again, as I’ve said – I am a tad biased.
- The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers
- Practical Self-sufficiency: The complete guide to sustainable living today
- Step-by-Step Projects for Self-Sufficiency: Grow Edibles * Raise Animals * Live Off the Grid * DIY
So there we have it – All the wonderful reasons to consider living off-grid in Wales.
As always thanks for checking us out, I hope this has all been useful for you. Please feel free to sign up to our newsletter just below to be kept in the loop of all things Ecogeek going forward.
Have a great day.