How Permaculture Reconnects us with Nature

Tom Algie
Friday, 8th January 2016

Tom and Ann Algie left their mainstream lives and moved to southwest France to create a permaculture lifestyle. This is how permaculture inspired them.

We only have one life and I am glad I did a Permaculture course during mine.

Permaculture is brilliant and I really do believe that Permaculture or something very similar will provide the basis for our society on this planet. There are lots of positive things about Permaculture. There is a great magazine, loads of interesting people, books, courses and a small, solid membership. So why hasn't it really caught on in a big way? Most people who are sympathetic think that it is not for them because it doesn't fit their current lifestyle or the existing economic system. They think it's like an exclusive club, which might be great to be part of, but not for them at this moment. I propose that Permaculture can be for everyone, starting now! 

Our story

Seven years ago, persuaded by my wife Ann, I reluctantly attended a Permaculture course on the Isle of Man led by Rod Everret. At the time we were pretty mainstream; I owned a retail business and Ann worked part-time. We had a large mortgage and most of the money we earned went to pay bills and debts.

The Permaculture course was life changing and we came back with lots of ideas about how we could get everyone in our town involved in Permaculture. We went a bit enviro(mental) and even showed the films, An Inconvenient Truth and Age of Stupid. After three years trying to persuade everyone else to live in a different way we realised that change needed to start with ourselves, so we created our own vision and put it into action over the following four years.

We sold the business and our house, paid off the mortgage, and gave away most of our possessions. Then we bought a 30 year old campervan and set off for France where land was cheap and where we hoped the sun would shine a bit more often than it did in Settle, North Yorkshire!

Neither of us spoke French but within three months we had found and fallen in love with a piece of land and a small house that hadn't been lived in for over 50 years.


The campervan on site

We now enjoy living in a small space and we even like our compost toilet. There is no mains electricity but we manage with two solar panels. The house is 80% finished and we live on less than a quarter of our previous income. We have learned to grow and store more of our food and Ann recently helped set up a seed share in our local village called 'Seeds of Love'.


First job, create a compost toilet between two ash trees


The first plan of the house drawn in the sand at Robin Hood bay

What we have learned

We create our own reality through our beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and our behaviour. Although it can be difficult, it is possible to choose to change at any moment and to begin a new life which you love.


The garden

Until we actually did this for ourselves I was a bit skeptical. I had read lots of self development books about how to be 'successful' in the economic culture which exists now. We wanted to apply a similar process to creating 'success' in an alternative culture and be part of a new system. The latest developments in psychology, science and neuroscience led Ann and myself to a deeper understanding of the connectedness of all things.  

From this we developed a five day course called The One Course, which we run each May and October in South West France. It forms a three part journey to question unhelpful conditioning, enabling us to reflect and reconnect with the natural world. The first two days of the course enable you to remove the blinkers and see what has been holding you back. Then, a guided reflective day of mindfulness provides an opportunity to create a vision of your true purpose based on your rediscovered core values. The final two days are very practical, planning the next steps needed to make the changes you want.

To create the world you want, you need to start believing and acting as though the future you desire is actually happening. Then you can make changes in your own life to bring your new world into existence. It's not about focusing on problems in the wider world and feeling hopeless. It's about acknowledging how powerful you are as an individual connected to all things and what your own thoughts and actions can achieve. We only have one life and we really can make a significant difference, if we believe we can. So what would you do if you really loved yourself, those around you and the planet we are all connected to? Permaculture!  

For information visit 

Tom Algie is an entrepreneur, engineer and innovation specialist. In the 1980s and 90s he managed and directed several not for profit companies and led training courses based at the University of Teesside. In 2001 he created a retail business which he sold in 2012 and moved to Aveyron in France.

Further resources

Our range of Permaculture books, available through our online shop:

For more courses, including 'Introduction to Permaculture' and 'Permaculture Design' visit

Moving abroad for a more sustainable way of life

Working with not against natural forces - permaculture principle


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