Pike ascended into the media limelight through the spring and the summer of 2016, when the striking home he had himself built came under threat of being demolished: the legal owners of the land where he’d chosen to settle - The Woodland Trust of Merry Hill Forest, Watford – wanted him removed. A flurry of publications, including the BBC and Vice magazine, rushed to cover the proprietary plight of Pike – also known as the Watford Hermit – particularly because of his impressive creative skill which revealed itself in the crafted wooden spaces and fairy-tale design of what might have otherwise been a meagre mud hut.
It was hard too, as we found out, to call the young individual a squatter. Pike, who through a process of trial and error created his earthy, ethereal home, including features such as curved bed-post pillars, a bathing area with a layered water feature and a bench-encircled cooking shelter, is remarkably arrived in person though constantly in transit through life. “I wound up at Merry Hill Forest after being made homeless,” he elaborated, “but it was as much a conscious choice as a last resort. I was always different as a child, feeling there was something wrong with the system. I’d bunk off from school, for example, always running away from home and setting up tents where I was able because for me, there was more to life. I came out to nature and made a place for myself for a sense of freedom from the trappings of the modern world. For me the monetary system is a form of wage slavery. Out in my forest dwelling, I would meditate and do the chores that were required to keep my little enclosure running. It was wonderful in the summer – there was a tremendous sense of peace, with the greenery and the quiet, which helped me stay present.”
Tragically, on September 7th of last year, Pike was forcibly evicted from his four-year long Merry domicile, despite receiving much public fanfare and financial support in the form of a successful crowd-funding project. Bailiffs and policemen came to the scene to escort him away, where upon he was arrested and fined for the apparent ‘obstruction of a court official in the execution of his duty.’ It was “initially extremely distressing”, Pike stated, his architectural landmark of a home being irreversibly flattened into the ground, and relegated simply to the realms of fond memory. But a whole season on, and he has a found a way to negotiate the rhythms of normal routine again. Back at home with his mother and his old job at a warehouse, Pike told us: “I’m hoping to save up the money to one day construct my own self-sustaining eco-home, and use more technology in the project. I’m also playing the guitar at the moment - an instrument I began teaching myself at the Merry Hill – to keep my imagination alive. There are a lot of love songs and there’s a mix of rock and pop. I’ve written quite a bit and hope to pursue that in some capacity too." Thus as is his habit, Pike does not view the interim period as a loss, but rather a way to rejuvenate his wonderfully wandering feet. He has already been approached by BBC Three Counties Radio for his new-found musical talent. Though the headlines have talked of Pike and his subversive real estate as a critique on the London housing crisis, and even a masthead for the renegade left, it seems the man himself prefers a much more spiritual conclusion: “my motto is ‘Is-ness”, he finished. “That means simply being. I envision a society similar to socialism perhaps, but more distinctly an earth economy where we are all sharing and give back. We all have great ideas and gifts within us and they needn't be suppressed.” His activism being deeply personal then, Pike puts aside the distraction of theory politics, and speaks truly on behalf of people.
How long did your home take to build; what materials did you use and what did you do?
The home was an ongoing project which took a total of 4 years. The main structure itself, without the additional bathing and cooking area etc. took 6 months. The creative process was a learning curve – I had problems such as the walls leaning over to one side, and so had to make pillars and storage areas to support them. In this sense, nature taught me. I used clay, stones, wood and water as the basic building blocks.
Some typical activities included waking up at around 10 am - washing my face and brushing my teeth in the bathing area. I might then start a fire to eat: I’d have food, such as potatoes, or that I’d grown myself or collected from the local co-op where they discard a lot of vegetables. There were times both of happiness and hardship.
On the note of unequal societies etc. what’s a thought you’ve had on the developments of Trump, Brexit and the class politics being discussed now?
Honestly all politics and news seem repetitive to me. You shouldn’t be distracted by the smaller developments, though one individual can make a big change. There’s one big, overarching problem: super billionaires and the politicians who are ultimately controlled by them. I think most people are aware that there are a few who’re incredibly wealthy and many who must work hard with relatively little reward. We do live in a society with great technological advantages – solar panels and wind farms etc. - and so we should be living more comfortably too! We all need to wake up to that one big prerogative.
You read very widely and are an autodidact: who are some of your philosophical/economic heroes?
David Icke, who discusses conspiracy theories in an intelligent science-based way. There’s also Bruce Lee who teaches the message that under one sky we are all one family. But, as was catalysed by my time in the hand-crafted home, I believe more and more in my own convictions and introspection. We are, after all, one and interconnected.
Finally, tell us a bit about your background?
I was quite a bright child and believed in the divine. I have Buddhist, and maybe a bit of ancient relic Hindu, beliefs where I feel I was reincarnated here and that there are a lot of people like me. In terms of upbringing, my father was from England – now living in India – and my mother was from India. My father actually worked for the British government and worked with classified information such as UFO sightings etc. – maybe that pushed the limits of my open-mindedness too.
Follow Daniel on his YouTube channel, Daniel Pike - Watford Hermit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMn_BSgP7hgLRy8CELnClUw
Find Daniel's new tracks here: https://soundcloud.com/ah-acoustic-harmony