Family enjoying the 'Good Life'

A SUTTON St Edmund family are living the 'Good Life' and loving it.

Just like Tom and Barbara from the 1970s sitcom classic The Good Life, Shane (42) and Emma Durston (35) have left city life behind and are happily tending their 12.5-acre smallholding.

Along with their 16-month-old son Finley, they have a whole menagerie of animals, including chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs and cattle.

They grow their own vegetables and produce their own meat, such as bacon, sausages and joints, from the animals. Shane even makes his own bio-diesel from waste vegetable oil.

They were recently featured on 'Escape to the Country' as a self-sufficient smallholding.

Shane is quick to say that although they produce a lot of their own food, they're not saints and still send out for the odd kebab and use supermarkets for things like sugar.

"We have all this lovely home-grown food, but sometimes you just fancy a takeaway," he said.

Neither Shane or Emma come from country backgrounds – Shane grew up in London and Emma comes from Blackpool. However, over time, they started thinking about keeping animals.

They started off with just a few chickens while they were living in Milton Keynes and their interest spiralled from there.

Now they really are living the 'Good Life'. Shane has put his IT business on hold and Emma, a property portfolio administrator for the National House-Building Council, works from home three days a week, travelling to Milton Keynes twice a week.

Shane said: "I originally put work on hold for a year so Finley would have both parents around. When he first smiled, I just thought if I'd still been working, I would've missed that. It went so well I decided to put my business into suspension."

A lot of work is involved in running the smallholding.

Shane joked: "It's said that when you take on something like this, you give up your 9-5 for a 5-9, and it's true."

Emma added: "You are busier day to day but it's a more relaxing kind of busy. You're not pressured."

They run a variety of courses from their home, from making bio-diesel to keeping chickens. They also sell some of their produce.

A big help for the couple was the Fenland Goatkeepers and Smallholders Club, who meet monthly in West Walton. The group is for anyone interested in smallholding, whether they have a few pigs or 1,000 head of cattle. People can also visit other smallholdings to see what others have achieved and it is a good forum to trade livestock.

Shane said: "They're like an extended family. It's a really good starting point."

They are now very involved in the club and have taken on several roles.

Shane said: "We wanted to give Finley a really nice environment to grow up in.

"The first proper word he said, after 'mummy' and 'daddy' of course, was 'out'. He just wants to be outside all the time.”

They are keen to highlight that most people can keep a few chickens in the garden for eggs or grow their own vegetables and the support is out there for those wanting to take it further.

For more information about smallholding, go to www.fgsc.org.uk or the Durston’s website www.durston.org.uk