A woman ditched the hustle and bustle of London to move off-grid with her boyfriend.
Lauren Youngs, 28, met Mathew Plumb at Glastonbury in 2014 and was instantly fascinated by his lifestyle.
The 43-year-old woodcutter, from Abergavenny, north Monmouthshire, resides in 15 acres of woodland in a shepherd’s hut instead of a traditional house.
He has no wifi, bath, television of office space in the forest – but prefers living this way as he’s saved a fortune.
Mathew told WalesOnline: “It’s mental how much money you can save. I spend nothing on rent, zero on electric as we get all we need from solar panels, and about £25 every six weeks on propane gas. We have four pigs that I breed and 20 chickens we use for meat and eggs.”
After living here for two years alone with his three-year-old cat Baby, chickens and Kunekune pigs, he’s now happier than ever with Lauren by his side.
When Mathew isn’t chopping wood, hosting campers, or helping children at one of the local schools he is writing poetry – and that is how he met freelance artist Lauren.
She joked that Mathew “stalked” her and “lured” her to the forest.
“I’m a freelance artist and people often approach me to discuss ideas and Mathew had been following me on social media since we first met so he got in touch about working with him to illustrate his book,” she recalled. “I was in Hackney at the time in a cute little flat I shared with my best mate at the start of the pandemic.
“I always like to meet up with clients to gauge exactly what they want. We had some breakfast and he ended up staying the night – on the sofa. Baby was all over him which is strange because she can be nervous with people she’s new to.”
“She was sleeping on my head,” Mathew laughed.
Lauren continued: “Mathew then got me here on the pretence of doing an art walk and sculpture trail thing and I came here to stay a couple of weeks for that. In the end I stayed for two months.
“When I went back to London I hated it. I had to leave the flat really quickly because I lost my job as an event manager in the pandemic. It was a snap decision really.”
Originally from Bedford, Lauren has always been a stickler for the outdoors since growing up on her granddad’s fields where she spent many a weekend.
She has taken to the woodlands very well.
Asked if she has ever regretted the leap into the wilderness Lauren said: “I have thought ‘I wish I was back [in London]’ and I miss it all the time. But I prefer it here and I always try to focus on the lovely things that we can have here.”
The couple are pleased with how much money they’ve saved since going off-grid.
“Before I came here I thought about buying a house,” Mathew said.
“I had almost saved enough for a deposit on a small house in Merthyr, which was all I could afford at the time. Then it dawned on me: what am I going to do with a house? I cut trees for a living – that’s what I do and this is who I am. I want to do cool stuff. We couldn’t do everything we do here while trying to pay off a mortgage.”
Lauren said: “We would never have afforded to do what we do here and rent because this takes up hours and hours of our time. Mathew always has bookings with work. He does the cutting and I do the labour.”
Weekly outgoings for heating, electricity, water, and rent amount to less than £25 a month.
While he was tempted by “the modern world” Mathew knows he is now in the right place.
He said: “I think from my early 30s I realised I didn’t want to live a conventional life. Once I saw timber being milled up in a woodland I thought: ‘Why on Earth do people want to live in bricks?’ I imagine a future where people go back to living in a wooded land and mill timber on site and build sustainable, zero-impact homes.
“We want to start a family and for our kids to live a healthier and happier life than many people get in the modern world. More and more people are taking an interest in going off-grid. I think the pandemic has been a wake-up call.”
Despite the challenges of living without luxuries, and braving the cold, the couple are pleased with their unconventional lifestyle.
Lauren added: “We wake up at about 4am and the cockerels start going and then again at 6am. I get to sit and listen to the birds while Mathew makes me a cup of tea. What more could you ask for?”
You can follow the couple on Instagram @bleu_jean_ and @twometresplumb.