A couple who quit their jobs as vets and moved to Wales to live ‘off the grid’ now risk losing their carbon-neutral countryside home after neighbors bought an entire road to cut off access to them.
Matthew and Charis Watkinson uprooted their lives in Romford, Essex, in favor of a fresh start on a remote farmhouse in the Pembrokeshire countryside in 2016. Their escape from the frantic race to live independently is reminiscent of the sitcom of the 1970s The Good Life, which starred Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal as the couple who turned their home into an eco-friendly paradise.
Their self-sufficient farm, described by Mr Watkinson as “a glorified recycling junkyard”, includes a person-powered washing machine and a gas cooker that runs on horse manure. They also have a solar panel for electricity and a biodigester for gas, which means they only have to pay council tax.
Living on a zero-carbon farm has shielded the family from soaring energy prices and the cost of living crisis, while its remoteness has also provided a shield against the Covid pandemic.
Charis and Matthew Watkinson, pictured with their children Elsa and Billy, gave up their job as vets in Essex seven years ago and moved to Pembrokeshire, South Wales, where they built Beehive Farm
Their self-sufficient farm has been described by Mr Watkinson as ‘a glorified recycling junkyard’
But their new life is now threatened by nightmarish neighbors who seek to block access to their home.
A previously unregistered right of way, the path to their accommodation, has been purchased by a retired couple who are threatening to sue for trespassing and harassment.
Mr Watkinson has told MailOnline the row over access is a ‘personal vendetta’ and argues the retired neighbors have spent tens of thousands of pounds on an issue which ‘simply isn’t a cause valid”.
The couple, who have two young children Elsa and Billy, have been able to start living their green dream thanks to the Welsh government’s One Planet development policy.
The program allows families to build homes on greenbelt land as long as it runs carbon-free – a goal they must achieve within five years.
Mr Watkinson said: “We have been here for six years now. We now live a very sustainable, low impact lifestyle. We have been sheltered from rising energy prices, Covid and the cost of living crisis.
“We were very happy to be here. Home is a glorified recycling dump. We have a horse truck, a motorhome, but everything is perfectly functional.
“There was opposition when we first moved, but once we received planning permission we thought we would be left alone.
Matthew and Charis Watkinson with their children Elsa and Billy. The couple’s plans to live off the grid were put in jeopardy after their neighbors bought an unregistered right of way
They’re using an old car as a makeshift greenhouse, while nearby vegetable gardens are walled in with recycled tires
The interior of the Watkinsons’ home in Pembrokshire, which they now risk losing after seven years
From a one-person-powered washing machine to a gas stove that runs on horse manure, the couple and their two children have made everything at Beeview Farm self-sufficient
The home owned and built by the Watkinsons in Newport, Pembrokeshire, is zero carbon and fully self-contained
“We weren’t just being questioned about the plans, it was an attack on personality. We were hoping it would calm down, but it didn’t. Once we hit the five-year goal of being carbon neutral, we hoped it would prove our case, but it made it even worse.
“It is 100% a personal vendetta. They are a retired couple and have put together £10,000 for trails they don’t need plus whatever they have spent on legal advice. They are trying to kick us out of a low impact house. It does not mean anything. It is not a valid cause.
It is the latest in a series of headline-grabbing neighbor feuds, with a man facing a fine after showing his teeth and scolding his neighbours, while a group of southerners of Wales struggles to access a footpath leading into an ancient forest. after the new owners put up “private property” signs.
For the Watkinsons, the problem involves a historic footpath that has been used by the public for hundreds of years to access the popular Carningli Common.
The Watkinsons took the trails for granted, so they remain unregistered until they are bought off by their neighbors, who have long been against zero-carbon farming.
They now fear that their neighbors will erect signs and lock gates to prevent members of the public from using the trails and in doing so also prevent the family from accessing their home.
A sign already erected reads: ‘Use of this footpath between the public road and Carningli Common is with the voluntary consent of the landowner.
“The only access right on this trail to Castle Hill Fields (also known as Carningli Sylvan and Beeview Farm) is for agricultural use and not for access to housing.”
Charis Watkinson and his daughter Elsa with a flock of chickens they keep on their smallholding in Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Billy Watkinson waters herbs in garden rails at the family farm
The farm is completely self-sufficient (Pictured: Five-year-old Elsa walks past the solar panels used to provide electricity)
Due to their low-impact lifestyle and the fact that they left their jobs as veterinarians to settle in the area, the family’s only income is selling eggs from their many chickens and ducks and honey. of their bees.
That means they don’t have the funds to pay for a legal defense against any potential lawsuits.
Instead, they created a GoFundMe page to ask for generous donations for their cause.
Mr Watkinson added: “There’s a lot of support for us, but it’s just the age-old problem that those who are furious tend to have more energy.” We never know if we will be approached when we leave the farm.
“The impact could be devastating. If we don’t have access to our house, we will have to leave and start over.
“We’ll just have to start over. I don’t know what property prices look like at the moment, but it will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“It will be emotionally and financially devastating. It would just be the worst case scenario.
The family have so far raised over £6,500 towards a goal of £10,000, but have pledged that anything extra will be donated.