Solitude and loneliness
Hannah was born on a farm in 1926, in a part of the Teesdale area called Baldersdale, in Yorkshire. Although remote, during her youth Baldersdale was a thriving farming community, but like similar places everywhere, during and after WWII the population dwindled rapidly. The Hauxwells hung on, but the isolated lifestyle left Hannah a spinster, and after the death of her mother when Hannah was thirty-five, she ran her farm single-handed. She had few neighbours, no running water, well or electricity in the early 1970s when she was "discovered" by the late Barry Cockcroft of Yorkshire Television. He featured Hannah in a documentary about the hardships of Dales farmers called "Too Long a Winter". This film highlighted the challenges of hill farming in winter - a theme which runs through Hannah's story. But as well as the challenges of frozen water supplies and sheep buried in snow drifts, life in isolated glens in winter has a further difficulty. The increased isolation from friends and other communities alluded to in the song lyric above.
In the late 1980s, Hannah finally made the decision to sell her farm and move into a nearby village. The grace with which she made the change was a testament to her good sense and fortitude, although there was never any doubt that she would have preferred to stay on at her farm. Being a celebrity perhaps made this easier in some ways, but Hannah never seemed all that interested in that side of her life, and it was the sale of her farm and its furnishings that set her up in her new place. I recall hearing a radio interview with her a few years back, and she said that once the loose ends were tied up, she never went back to Baldersdale. There is sadness in that statement, and longing, and perhaps very great wisdom, too.
An excellent likeness of Hannah in her forties, painted by Caroline McClung.
I'm attached to the place because my family have lived here since my great-grandfather's time - no-one else has lived in this house since it was built, but our family. And the lovely countryside through the iron gate down the new road. I've often thought... It's my favourite walk, and I've stopped and looked, and I've thought that it's one thing - if I haven't money in my pocket, it's one thing nobody can rob me of. It's mine. It's mine for the taking.
The beauty - to me there's nowhere like it, never will be. And whatever I am, wherever I am, this is me. This is my life. And if there's a funny old person in years to come - a ghost walking up and down here - it'll be me. A big part of me, wherever I am, will be left here. That's me. There's nowhere else. There's nowhere like it.
- Hannah Hauxwell
Hannah Hauxwell died in January 2018, aged 91. Part of the land she farmed has been designated a nature reserve, called Hannah's Meadow, due to the species rich grassland created by generations of natural, chemical-free farming practices. You can also read her autiobiography called Seasons of my Life.