In Hannah’s footsteps

It was an odd start to my holiday in Barnard Castle. The weather forecast was for an improving day so I set off in fair weather to do a walk at Dufton some 30 miles away. On the drive there the weather steadily went down hill and by the time I reached Appleby it was raining so much that I had the windscreen wipers on at full speed just to see where I was going. It wasn’t going to clear anytime soon so I did a U-turn and headed back to the caravan site where it was still fine. After a cup of coffee I set off again, but this time to Baldersdale which was only 10 miles away.

In 1973 I saw a documentary about Hannah Hauxwell; this made such an impression on me that I had to see for myself the farm and countryside that Hannah loved so much. It turned out to be a really interesting day. My route took my past what is shown on the map as Blackton YHA, however, this is now privately owned and has been renamed as Blackton Grange. As I arrived, the manageress had just driven up. Not knowing that it had changed ownership, I enquired if they had many guests and she then gave me a tour of the refurbished building. They only take bookings on an exclusive use basis and charge for the full 41 beds, irrespective of the number of occupants. Okay for corporate team building/away days but not for Ramblers groups. No doubt walkers on the Pennine Way mourn its passing.

My next stop was Low Birk Hat Farm (the one with the greenhouse). This was semi-derelict when Hannah lived there but it too has been renovated and restored to its former glory. It wasn’t clear to me whether it was being used for farming or as a country retreat. My route back to the car took me through Hannah’s meadows which are an SSSI and famed as an area of unimproved pasture land.

The following is a quote from Hannah – “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.”

The weather forecasters were almost right and the afternoon developed into a bright sunny day but not before one or two heavy morning showers.

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