Farm made famous as home of Daleswoman Hannah Hauxwell goes on the market
Present owners Ann and Robin Dant, who bought the 15 acre smallholding in Baldersdale, near Barnard Castle, from Miss Hauxwell in the late 1980s, have decided to retire and sell up.
Low Birk Hatt Farm is in a stunning location in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – sometimes dubbed ‘England’s last wilderness’. It overlooks Blackton Reservoir and lies beside the famed Pennine Way long distance walk.
The house comes onto the market for only the second time in its history. During the 1970s and 1980s, readers and viewers were captivated by the story of Miss Hauxwell, who lived at the property with no running water or electricity.
In 1988, Mr and Mrs Dant had been looking to realise their long-held ambition and buy a smallholding.
Ann Dant, 70, a retired practice nurse, said: “We had been looking for the right property with land for a long time. One Saturday I saw Low Birk Hatt advertised and the next day we set out to find it. Despite having no mains water supply, electricity in only part of the house, and the only access being a track owned by Northumbrian Water, we knew we had found what we had been looking for.”
The couple’s sealed bid for the house was accepted by Miss Hauxwell just before Christmas that year. After almost seven years of painstaking renovation, much of which was carried out by Mr Dant working alone at weekends and during holidays, the couple – who have two grown-up sons – moved in.
“I think it was then I realised what it was that I really loved about Low Birk Hatt,” said Ann, a farmers’ daughter. “The surrounding countryside is so beautiful – it is so peaceful and there is no traffic noise, no light pollution. When the moon is full, its reflection on the reservoir is a spectacular sight. The promise of spring is announced by the call of the curlew, a sound I will always associate with this place.”
Over the years, a new access road was created, a borehole sunk for water and a septic tank installed. Trees have been planted, all of the original outbuildings and dry stone walls have been renovated, and some modern farm buildings have been added.
Some of the farm’s traditional wild flower-rich hay meadows form part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and, together with adjacent fields owned by Durham Wildlife Trust, make up Hannah’s Meadow an area named after their former owner.
A year after moving in, the Dants began building up a small herd of pedigree Belted Galloway cattle. Over the years dozens of the rare breed animals have been reared at Low Birk Hatt, the distinctive white-belted animals becoming a familiar sight in their part of Baldersdale.
“The ‘Baldersdale Belties’ have given us a lot of pleasure, especially when a new calf arrives,” said Robin, 71, who was a potato specialist for crisp maker Walkers before taking early retirement.
“Our neighbouring farmers have been very supportive over the years, helping with invaluable holiday cover and hay making. We’ve also been very grateful for the help of UTASS (Upper Teasdale Agricultural Support Services) at Middleton-in-Teesdale.”
Robin Jessop said: “Low Birk Hatt Farm is one of the most idyllically-situated small farms to come onto the market in some time. It provides a purchaser with everything they could possibly need – a traditional farmhouse with spacious living accommodation, a range of farm buildings and 15 acres of land overlooking Blackton Reservoir.
“This is an extremely rare opportunity to acquire a very special property with a wonderful history that our vendors are now ready to pass on.”
Viewing is by appointment – www.robinjessop.co.uk or 01677 425950.