Yorkshire Post Interview on the Evolution of Wild Harvest School

You cannot get more living off-grid than a battered old caravan in a five-acre field with no heating, no toilet and no running hot water in a remote dale in the North York Moors, but that was how a single mum of three young children chose to live her life 15 years ago.


Di Hammill now lives at Boundary Farm between East Cottingwith and Melbourne in East Yorkshire where she has put the skills of self-reliance and living with nature, that she learned while in her old green caravan, to good use and runs Wild Harvest School of Self Reliance where others come to learn from her.

Di said that her unconventional upbringing, brought up by a hippy father and a grandfather who was a gunner in the army, at Marske-by-the-Sea, contributed to her decision to go native, but that it was the birth of her first child, Maya, that crystalised her vision.

 “We all live in different realms of ourselves and it was when I had my first baby and held her in my arms that I thought how am I going to look after her?


Di Hammill raised her three children off-grid in a caravan in the North York Moors
Di Hammill raised her three children off-grid in a caravan in the North York Moors

“At the time I was reading all about sustainability of the planet and subjects such as peak oil, how production would reach the point where we would all suffer reduction in resources.

“I had an overwhelming sense that I needed to futureproof us, going back to my dad’s background. I was quite aware, now that I had children, that the world was changing and wanted us to be ready, to have nothing and to learn to live simply, with very little. To develop skills rather than acquire things.

“I’d married, had my three children and had split up very quickly and wanted to raise my children rurally.”

Di said she had previously been busy doing up houses, buying and selling them, but left that behind for rented accommodation firstly in Moorsholm, then Farndale and Rosedale before moving nearer York for her children’s schooling.

Her skills include foraging and making beeswax candles
Her skills include foraging and making beeswax candles

“We lived in the caravan for about three years. I’d rented cottages but realised one day that I had become a ‘stuff manager’.

“My house was full of stuff that needed managing and it dawned on me that I had no attachment to any of it, so I got rid of it all or nearly all, anything that didn’t serve a purpose and once I’d done that I thought I didn’t need a house anymore.

 “I’d seen this caravan right up in the middle of nowhere in Farndale as I used to walk everywhere with the kids.


She now lives on a farm in the East Riding, where she teaches self-sufficiency classes
She now lives on a farm in the East Riding, where she teaches self-sufficiency classes

“It was just a battered old caravan, like a green sardine tin, but it was in a beautiful location and I went to see the farmer whose field it was in and asked whether it was his and whether I could rent it.

“It was so liberating. No bills for water or heating because we didn’t have any, but I did pay council tax! I had a car, to get around because I needed that to get the kids to the Steiner School in Danby but that was it.”

Di said her income came from a carer’s allowance for looking after both her paternal and maternal grandfathers and child allowance, but that she found that what was to become Wild Harvest began taking shape in her mind.

“Wild Harvest, as a concept, was on my mind when Maya was born because I was aware from meeting other mothers at toddler groups just how unskilled parents had become to provide for their own needs and those of their children.

She heated her caravan by collecting old cattle bedding to use as fuel
She heated her caravan by collecting old cattle bedding to use as fuel

“Recognising this massive dearth in the ability to be self-reliant I started writing my book that is now an e-book on the need and how to reskill, and what we should be reskilling in.

“While we were in the caravan I made loads of chutneys and jams from the damsons in the orchard that was next to our caravan. I’d go foraging.

“I’d sit on the caravan steps and weave baskets and make beeswax candles. I didn’t buy fuel for heating because I spent one year digging up old cattle trodden bedding in one of the farmer’s old barns that broke into sheets and stoked the wood burner.”

Di’s business instincts for Wild Harvest saw her selling her wares at local tourist centres in Danby and Sutton Bank; and ran Wild Food Walks for the North York Moors National Park and the Forestry Commission.

Di said it was her children’s education that forced her hand to move away from her beautiful North York Moors she adores, but that has led to her self-reliance school blossoming.

“The Steiner School was in danger of closing at Danby as there weren’t enough pupils and so we moved nearer to York where there was another.

“We lived in a tent the first two weeks and then eleven years ago, after a brief house rental near York, we found a cottage out here and three years later found this wonderful farm where we rent.

“The owner has very kindly let me grow Wild Harvest here. I now have Wild Harvest Tipis, so that people who come have some form of accommodation, but nobody comes without taking on the sustainability side.

“I bought my first tipi because those who were coming to experience and learn about self-reliance were camping in my garden.

 “They’d come to my classes during the day and were sopping wet from the poor weather one May-time and I felt so guilty.

“I teach foraging, we go on wild food walks; permaculture, basket weaving, archery as I’m a GB archery instructor, making soap out of wood ash, candle making, creating toothpaste out of clay and peppermint, making basic wild ointments, herbal teas, rag rugging and as I’m a black belt I could also teach a little self-defence with Taekwondo.

Di said that her six tipis and one timber building now accommodate 26.

“Sustainability and self reliance education is becoming ever more popular.”


Thanks for reading the Yorkshire Post article on Wild Harvest School. If you would like to help me keep teaching self-sufficiency please buy my book below, or join an online or attended course!

If you are in the US you can buy my book HERE

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.