We’ve heard about van life and people living in RVs, tiny homes and sailboats. But a horse-drawn wagon? Yep, that’s exactly what one woman is doing as she roams the fertile fields of England.
I saw Stephanie Wiltshire and her set-up on a Facebook group dedicated to women who live the van life, and I couldn’t help but reach out to her to ask a few questions. What an unusual and interesting way to live!
Who are you and why are you living in a horse-drawn wagon?
I’m 28 years old and I’ve been traveling with my dog, ferret and horse for just under a month in my very small, 7 by 6 square foot horse drawn wagon. She is named Lady Di after a loving Grandma who passed away last year. The last wagon I lived in was my “transition wagon” and was a whopping 14 feet long. I built her and she was called Midnight Flit. We were together for three years. She was cheap and easy to build regardless of my limited woodworking skills.
What are the best and worst parts about traveling in a horse-drawn wagon?
I love living in the horse-drawn wagon due to the closeness to nature, the freedom from society’s constraints, the beauty of living each day as my own. I’ve fallen asleep to the sounds of the breeze traveling through owl’s feathers as it passes the canvas of my roof.'I love the closeness to nature and the freedom from society's constraints'Click To Tweet
I love opening my door to a new view, to my pony grazing nearby.
There are so many upsides to this way of life I don’t know how to start. All of them outweigh the lack of hot water and unlimited electricity. The helpfulness of strangers keeps surprising me. People from all walks of life stop to take the time to talk to me and tell me their story.
I find the cold winters the hardest. My wagon is toasty with its little burner and from the storm lanterns. But I love being outside, so the early dark nights make me feel a little bit down.
How do you fill your days when living in a horse-drawn wagon?
My days are filled to the brim with dog walks, a quick pony ride to the shop or pub, ferret cuddles, reading, writing, drawing, wood collecting, harness cleaning, wagon fixing and all sorts of things!
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On a traveling day I start early to give the pony time to cool off and dry off before the cold night hits. First, I tidy the wagon to make sure the dog is on his bed and that nothing will fall on him. Then my pony is groomed and harnessed and put in his shafts. Then, off we go! I try my best to find us the flattest routes so we aren’t surprised by nasty, steep surprises.
How do you care for your pony when you’re on the move?
Caring for my pony has been straight-forward so far. I keep her feet shod with thick, studded shoes to allow her to grip the road. When she isn’t traveling, I keep her barefoot as I feel its important to have her natural sometimes, too. I keep her at a healthy weight so a good wormer and plenty of fresh grass is necessary. If we’re gifted a bale of hay or two in winter I’ll give her that. But usually there’s enough grass, a constant water supply, plus a salt lick. People are nice enough to let me use their taps.
How do you make money while in the horse drawn wagon?
My outgoings are so low that I am still living off my savings that I created when I had a small gardening business. I am quite creative so when this starts to fun low I will create beautiful woolen peg-loomed rugs, hand-stamped dog tags and wood carvings.
How do people react to your horse drawn wagon?
I seem to get a mostly positive reaction from the public, however, I find the traffic on the roads is impatient and aggressive which can be scary. I can hear when people are on their phones as they don’t slow down until the last second, and this makes me angry.
What is your plan for the future?
My plans for the future involve creating a documentary called, An Ode to the Woman’s Abode. This sees me traveling to interview and photograph remarkable women in their converted vehicles, from fire engines, to buses, to vans to boats to horse carriages. I want to meet them all, understand how they cope alone, or raise a family.
I then hope to tour around in my wagon and project the images I take onto canvas at festivals or school talks to try to inspire people to live a smaller, slower alternative lifestyle.
My short-term plan is to make it to winter grazing!
You can follow along with Steph’s journey on her Facebook page: Ode to women’s abodes.
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