Growing your own food making do and mending things rather than buying new, we could learn a lot from Tom and Barbara from BBC’s The Good Life.

Thousands of people were inspired to live their own ‘good life’ after reading John Seymour’s book, Self Sufficiency.

Published in the sixties and seventies, he urged readers to return to a more traditional way of life and be less reliant on the outside world.

Amidst the cost-of-living crisis and climate change, we meet the south Essex residents keeping self-sufficiency and eco activism alive.

Echo: Nature's pantry - Tilly our foragingNature's pantry - Tilly our foraging (Image: Tilly Hogrebe.)

The natural landscape of south Essex is a veritable pantry to expert forager Tilly Hogrebe.

The founder of SOS Wild Food runs regular foraging walks in Leigh, Rochford, Hockley where people can learn how to collect food from nature safely.

“When you start foraging it makes you see your surroundings with fresh eyes,” said Tilly, who is from Southend.

There are some tips people should stick to if they want to stay safe.

“You want to avoid areas where there is high dog traffic and lots of car pollution. Also, stick to areas you know have not been spray with anti weed chemicals and on public ground, where you are legally allowed to forage,” she said.

“There is lots to pick in the winter months, green leaves, nettles And lots of Alexanders, Horse Parsley, which is part of the celery and carrot family. There is also samphire and wild garlic.”

All foragers stick adhere to rules about what you can pick and how much.

“The foraging rule is to take some but always leave enough and if there isn’t enough to start with leave it to give it a chance to grow,” explained Tilly.

“I show people on my courses what to spot when they are out walking and the signs to look out for, for an poisonous varieties. I check what I have foraged as I go and then go through it all again when I have washed it and about to cook it.”

Tilly grew up in Germany on the edge of a wood and spent many hours foraging as a girl.

“I have lovely memories of picking wild strawberries so small and flavoursome and raspberries and blackberries,” she said.

“Foraging makes you appreciate what you have and cherish it.

I preserve lots in sauerkraut, salads and my daughter enjoys the edible flowers as they look pretty and it is a nice way to decorate a cake.”

Echo: Waste less - Sam PittmanWaste less - Sam Pittman (Image: Sam Pittman)

A big part aspect of self sufficiency is not spending unnecessary money.

Sam Pitman has always been against waste, but she took her passion to the next level when she started the Eco Essex Facebook group in 2018, with fellow founder Hannah, to engage parents about issues online.

“As a mum with young kids I felt like there was a lot going on locally online. I wanted it to be a place for discussions, I had no expectations about it, but it grew and grew.”

Now the group has 4.6k members and is Essex wide.

The most popular group they have is Eco Essex Rehome, Reuse, Repurpose, which has 10k members.

“We wanted a place where people could give away random stuff for free which they would not necessarily place anywhere else. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and it is a great way to stop things going to landfill.”

Sam, who lives in Rochford, who has a seven-year-old and four year old twins, believes making small changes can make a big difference.

“As a parent you want the best for kids and there’s temptation to buy the latest new thing. Explain to children the reason you don’t buy new and they are usually fine about it. My daughter gets excited about getting £2 to spend in a charity shop and looking for exciting things,” she said.

“Don’t get bogged down by making all the changes. The biggest impact you can make is changing to a more ethical bank and have a couple of veggie meals a week.”

Over at mental health charity Trust Links Fiona Clapperton run the Eco Days there teaching people about reducing food waste.

Originally from South Africa, Fiona is a leading voice on how to improve our planet and educate people to grow their own food.

“There is a huge issue of climate change and food inequality. We are disconnected from food and where it comes from,” said Fiona.

“I help people with growing food so they are less dependent on big businesses and more self-reliant. Southend in Transition’s allotment a great example of this, they have a bartering system in place where people share the food they grow. We should all be thinking more like this.”

Echo: Planting trees - Graham Burnett works with authorities to plant more trees in urban areas Planting trees - Graham Burnett works with authorities to plant more trees in urban areas (Image: Graham Burnett)

Graham Burnett is the author of Forest Gardening, The Vegan Book of Permaculture, and Another Way amongst others. He works with authorities to idea plant fruit trees in community spaces.

“When you think back to the history of Southend, there used to be lots of small holdings and orchards here up until the fifties, when we ripped them down and built on them,” says Graham.

“Now we are showing there is another way to live. With more trees comes better food sustainability, health benefits we get from living near trees, more bio diversity and the chance to learn traditional skills like pruning.

Graham has launched a zine called Glomalin, fine out more at