A NEW survey shows nearly half the population dreams of living a rural life on a smallholding.

The NFU Mutual survey found 47 per cent of the population dream of escaping to the country to live the good life.

People dreaming of becoming smallholders said the main reasons are: living more sustainably or becoming self-sufficient (58 per cent); having a healthy life style (54per cent); a great way to spend retirement (50 per cent) and the opportunity to live in the countryside.

Other reasons for wanting a smallholder lifestyle include: a better way of life for my family (39 per cent); returning to countryside roots (27 per cent) and being able to combine their profession while running a smallholding (16 per cent).

However 44 per cent say they are unable to make their dreams come true because of the high costs involved in buying and setting up a smallholding.

Respondents also said they would be deterred because of: workload, pressure dividing time between smallholding and family life and having to learn new skills.

Their concerns were confirmed by existing smallholders, with only 24 per cent reporting that their land generates an income.

Chris Walsh, farming insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “It’s great to see that so many people yearn for a simple country lifestyle in our fast-paced 21st century world.

“With the New Year bringing a fresh opportunity to pursue dreams and make resolutions, the lure of the countryside seems to be front of mind for many.

“While the reality of smallholding lives up to the dream for many people, working the land has many challenges – particularly if you have no previous farming experience.”

Rosemary Champion, who runs a smallholding with her husband in Scotland and has attracted a wide following for her Accidental Smallholder blog, said: “Having responsibility for the stewardship of land is a big commitment in terms of time and money, so it should not be entered into lightly.”

NFU Mutual estimates there are approximately 45,000 smallholdings across the UK, ranging in size up to around 12 acres.

Smallholders with up to five acres tend to focus on growing fruit and vegetables, rearing poultry, keeping a horse or two and maintaining a piece of woodland.

Those with 5-10 acres tend to have more grassland for grazing livestock while smallholdings of 11 acres plus often run flocks of sheep, a few cattle, or a large vegetable growing area including polytunnels.