Single mum who lived off-grid in caravan makes £120K teaching people to forage

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
·6 min read
Diana Hamill Page lived in a caravan with her kids, but now teaches people how to forage. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
Diana Hamill Page lived in a caravan with her kids, but now teaches people how to forage. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

A single mum who lived off-grid in a caravan with her kids now makes £120K a year as a self-sufficiency coach.

Diana Hamill Page, 50, from North Yorkshire, spent five years raising her children Maya, 23, Noah, 21, and Matthias, 18, in a caravan teaching them how to forage, preserve fruit, use an air rifle and survive in nature.

The off-grid skills she developed have enabled her to now teach 60 people a week how to forage, make toiletries from natural ingredients and become fully self-reliant.

“After I had my first child, I was learning a lot about permaculture, which is based on understanding nature, and having kids made me passionate about their future," she explains.

“I wanted to future proof my kids. I needed to learn the skills we’d need in a power down situation, so I could save them.

“I feel like I needed to parent my children in way where they could contribute to our society.”

Read more: Nature makes children happier: How to encourage kids to spend time outside

Hamill Page believes it is possible to live off the land. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
Hamill Page believes it is possible to live off the land. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

The mum-of-three developed a taste for self-sufficiency as a child being raised by her scientist dad, Fred Page, and her army veteran grandad after her mum left the family home when she was a baby.

She says her dad “never bought anything” and made everything including soap and yoghurt, while she grew up without any central heating.

“I think this lifestyle started for me at birth,” she says. “I spent a lot of time in the back garden, where my dad used to grow things like sweetcorn, strawberries and rhubarb.

“Everything was made and mended too," she adds.

Watch: Get back to nature with foraging

In 1997, Hamill Page found herself drawn to “Doomsday thinking” which meant she feared everything from a civil war, to an economic collapse or some other kind of apocalypse, and she decided to abandon the Masters she was then taking in Criminology to teach her children how to be self-sufficient.

“This passion for prepping was born out of love for my children, as I wanted to make sure they could live well," she explains.

“I needed to be able to protect them, and I knew that it was possible to survive with very little."

Hamill Page with two of her children when they were young. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
Hamill Page with two of her children when they were young. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

By 2000, she was earning £80 a week for being her grandad’s carer and lived in a two-bed thatched cottage in Farndale, North Yorkshire.

But, according to Hamill Page the house was full of things they did not need, so she began to give away any items without at least two functions – meaning she parted with her toaster, kettle and many other items until she was left with just a bed, wardrobe and a sofa.

“Once I got rid of everything in the cottage I realised I didn’t need it,” she continues.

Read more: Mum and daughter foraging team make meals for free from food found in local forest

The caravan the mum lived in with her children for five years. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
The caravan the mum lived in with her children for five years. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

So in 2005 she decided to uproot her family and move into a 20ft caravan on a farm in the North Yorkshire Dales which cost her just £50 a month.

There, she taught her children how to forage, preserve fruit, use an air rifle and survive in nature.

"I just wanted to live in an environment which was conducive to their happiness," she explains.

“We had nature walks and ate the freshest and healthiest food.

“I had got rid of everything and I was on this journey of freeing myself and connecting with nature.”

Hamill Page and her three young children, then aged between 18 months and seven, all slept in one big double bed without heating or a TV and survived through the harsh winters by setting up fires and boiling water.

The mum did the family’s laundry in a nearby farmer’s washing machine and the kids showered once a week at their grandad’s house.

They had a bathing day, a swimming day, and would eat on paper plates so they could use them to light a fire.

Living off-grid in the remote countryside meant the family did not have a toilet, or hot running water and needed logs or to boil water for heat.

The mum-of-three also taught her children how to weave baskets. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
The mum-of-three also taught her children how to weave baskets. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

Hamill Page taught her children how to preserve fruit and they ate mostly home-made jams and chutneys – also learning skills like basket weaving, candle-making, and archery.

"Each day we would be out foraging, we’d go to the river and explore nature,” she says.

“I just wanted to make sure my children had all the tools they needed to survive."

The family also made their own soap and yoghurt and only went shopping occasionally.

“Everything you need is in nature and while it can be a more modest life, it’s the most fulfilling life you can live,” she says.

Read more: A beginner's guide to foraging

Hamill Page now works as a self-sufficiency coach. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)
Hamill Page now works as a self-sufficiency coach. (Natasha Holland Photography/PA Real Life)

With her children now adults – Maya has just finished her university course in Bloodstock Studies at the Royal Agricultural University, Noah is a mechanic and Matthias is studying his A-levels and still lives at home – Hamill Page's life has changed again.

She launched the Wild Harvest School in 2006 and now charges between £17.99 and £159 for courses she runs from a series of tepees pitched in the farmland surrounding her home.

While she has been living back in a house since 2010, she hopes to one day live off-grid again in the Dordogne region of France.

There she has invested £24K in a 50sq metre one-bed cabin, surrounded by four acres of land.

“Once I finish working and my children are old enough, I will go to France and live out my dreams off-grid,” she says.

In the meantime she's enjoying the life she has created for her and her children and hopes to share her knowledge of living off the land and survival techniques with as many people as possible.

“I’m so proud of my children, they are all living normal lives and do the things that everyone does, but my daughter and sons can sew, bake, and make anything,” she says.

"And now I hope through my coaching, that I can help as many people as I can learn how to survive in nature.”

Additional reporting PA Real Life.

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