Friends Far & Away, Redux

Friends Far and Away

Back in November 2006, I wrote a blog entry about a woman who quickly became one of my heroines, along with Margaret Mead. Here is that entry, for anyone who wasn’t here with me back then. I’ve included a 2-part video of Hannah and what it was like for her at her home, Low Birk Hatt Farm in Baldersdale, Durham, England (just north of Yorkshire).

Yorkshire Post article entitled “In pictures: Hannah Hauxwell at 85 takes a long look back on fame and hardship.”

The article linked above gives a shortened version of her incredible life, going from living, for most of her life, in the wilds of what was then the North Riding of Yorkshire (now Durham) to being “discovered” and slowly brought into the modern 20th century.

From my blog entry of 18 November 2006:

As for “friends far and away,” I can’t really call her an official “friend” because she doesn’t even know me! But I know her, at least I know a lot about her, and I have a huge affection for her.

Her name is Hannah Hauxwell and she lives in Durham in the North of England.

I’ve known of Hannah since 1989 when, whilst visiting in Yorkshire with another couple, we watched a show on the telly called “Too Long a Winter.” It was all about the hardships that the farmers had to go thru in the winters in the North Yorkshire and Durham area.

While making this TV documentary, Bob Langley, of Tyne Tees Television, stumbled upon a woman (Hannah) who was living alone on a very remote farm of about 80 acres, in Balderdale at Low Birk Hatt Farm.

It seemed that time had forgotten about Hannah, and she had lived there in that farmhouse since she was 3 years of age. She had no “mains, electricity, gas” hookups at all. She had no running water in her house. She took care of her land, mainly raising some cows. She would sell one cow a year, and would make an average of £280 a year. This was in the 1980s! She lived off of that. She had no frills in her life. But she had a marvelous personality and outlook on things. All her family had long since passed on, and she had been eeking out her living there in this wild, remote part of England for 46 years, when Mr. Langley “discovered” her there.

Once Hannah’s story was aired on British TV, she became an overnight celebrity of sorts. Eventually, she was asked to travel to London to join in the Women of the Year affair which included the Duchess of Gloucester, and all sorts of media and high mucky-mucks. The country, and the world, fell in love with Hannah. She stayed in the London Savoy hotel while there, and it was all so completely different from her normal life. In all her years, she had only once been away from home and that was for a hospital stay for an illness. Other than that, she’d spent her whole life out there at Low Birk Hatt working for her living.

See for yourself.

Hannah Hauxwell, Past & Present – Part 1 (11:23)

Hannah Hauxwell, Past & Present – Part 2: (11:06)

I was amazed and fell totally in love with Hannah. We found that she had written some books eventually, or had books written about her, and we managed to acquire and read most of them. She’s always been in my mind and in my heart, and I think of her quite often actually.

Then, 20 years after he filmed “Too Long a Winter”, Barry Cockcroft, who had become her co-writer and friend, went back to Baldersdale to see Hannah and check up on her. I guess some of her friends had been trying to talk her into “retiring” and selling the farm so she could move into a little cottage somewhere where she would be more comfortable (and warm in the winters!). She had postponed this decision for 20 years after becoming “famous” and went right back to her old lifestyle of hauling the water up from the stream or, in freezing weather, up from the reservoir near her home. She was now in her 60s and this life was getting harder and harder for her.

So Mr. Cockcroft made another television show called “A Winter Too Many” (51:41)

…about Hannah and about how she came to sell her long time home at Low Birk Hatt and move into a small cottage in a nearby village.

I had seen both of these films while visiting in England, once on the telly in 1989 and again when I found copies of them on video at a cottage we stayed in right there in Baldersdale in 2000. We weren’t far from Hannah, and we drove over to see her old farm, and indeed, we drove by her current cottage and got a snapshot of it. That was a huge thrill, because she has become a hero of mine. We’ve never met her, but she’s still living there, so I hear.

Anyway, my friend, Bill D. who lives in Yorkshire, told me recently about an advert he’d seen in a local paper about a DVD of the two Hannah Hauxwell movies that was being offered for sale.

I just HAD to have it!

Even though I knew that it would be on a DVD that wasn’t compatible with our American DVD players. I still had to have it, and I asked Bill to get it for me and send it, and we received it in the post just yesterday.

I had to look online for a DVD player that would play international DVDs, and I found one, ordered it, and had it all hooked up to Paul’s TV upstairs, just waiting for the Hannah shows to arrive.

We put it in and turned it on yesterday and it worked! We both sat there on the bed, mesmerized by the old film about the hard long cold winters in the North of England… and then there was the part about our Hannah, and we just watched and watched til the end of the two movies.

I know I will watch it many more times. It was so good to see Hannah again, in real life… going about her work there on the farm, and then finally living in her little cottage now.

I wish her health, peace, and a long life. I have some contacts who write to me when they hear any news about Hannah. Some of them actually are acquaintances of hers and talk to her regularly. She’s just a very special lady, and if anyone ever wants to read about her, try buying “Daughter of the Dales and that will get you hooked on Hannah too!




“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education.”

~~ Charlotte Bronte ~~

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8 Responses to Friends Far & Away, Redux

  1. I had a busy day yesterday and did not get to answer all of the blogs. This is going to take me awhile to read etc. I’ll be back!


  2. TopsyTurvy says:

    I don’t subscribe to blog notices but as of about 2 hours ago all the videos were in your post.


  3. Bex says:

    I am ready to throw out my laptop… and all computer-related stuff.

    I just clicked on my blog here and there are NO videos showing! at all! I had 4 of them here I think, where are they?

    AND, I never got the notify email that I did this blog, I usually get one myself just to be sure it goes out, but I have NEVER gotten one!

    Did all of you get notified of this blog today?

    I just changed over to IE from Firefox… now I am getting the videos but other things are weird. Is the world coming to an end or something? And I haven’t got the memo?


  4. sandy freel says:

    WOW…What a great lady and you have gave us so much info of her.
    Huge thanks


  5. Bonnie says:

    I ordered the book from Amazon. She was not only a woman of courage but an intelligent woman.


  6. TopsyTurvy says:

    She’s an amazing lady, isn’t she. I was so glad that when she couldn’t handle the farm anymore and had to leave that for a time her life was taken up in travel. Hopefully, that eased the ache for her somewhat.

    She’s 88 now. That last article was written in 2011.


  7. Susan Honthumb says:

    Very interesting stuff here. People amaze me. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Live Simply in order for others to simply live.”


  8. I am utterly charmed by Hannah, and so glad that you have shared this Bex! My Grandparents lived much as Hannah did, in that they did not have indoor plumbing until I was 18 years old, they heated with wood, hunted and fished and gardened for food, and my Grandmother cooked on a wood fired range her entire life. But it isn’t just the lifestyle, it is the woman herself, Hannah, who is so direct, honest, real, and utterly charming.


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