“We had a long-distance relationship for four and a half years. My family and I used to stay in a holiday cottage on a farm in Devon. Then one summer when I was 16 the farmer’s son asked for my number. When we later came down to celebrate my father’s 50th birthday, James and I became closer and I decided to give long distance a go,” says Hannah.
“I would spend the week at home going to college, then I’d catch the train to Exeter on Saturday—it’s only three hours. We’d stay together and work on the farm or go out, and I’d travel back on Sunday. As soon as I learnt to drive things got easier,” declares Hannah, her rhythmic cadence and energetic tone clearly belonging to someone delighted by life.
“Every time we saw each other it took us a little while, but we’d fall in love again, and every time I left Devon it felt like a breakup. Leaving him got harder and harder. Coming down I sometimes imagined we were going to have the perfect weekend, but sometimes it was difficult to find time for us. At the time I didn’t understand why the farm had to come first and how much work it was.
“Sometimes we’d take a picnic on the tractor and find a good spot in a field. We would watch the sunset or look out to Dartmoor.
“James and I had spoken about moving in together, but it was still a big decision. I’d finished my upholstering course and quit my job and it suddenly felt like the perfect time to start a new chapter”.
“My mum and I moved all of my things in two days. It was a mother-daughter road trip! As we drove, we alternated between talking and singing along to Cold Play.”
“It was a big move and when we finally got everything out of the car and my mother left, I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I turned to James and said, ‘I wish I’d given her a bigger hug.’
“It was hard work especially in the winter, you get up at 4AM to milk and it’s pitch black. You do everything in the dark and most of the time it’s raining and cold. At times I got very lonely; James and I are best friends, but it’s not the same as having a best friend that is a girl,” says Hannah, her contagious warmth fading for a split second.
“We have a lot of fun on the farm together no matter the season. There is always lots of jobs to be done and in the winter we tie a sled up to the quad bike and race around the fields. James and I have several little ongoing competitions: like who can milk the fastest or who can pick up the most cloths used to clean the cows’ teats. There is also plenty of singing and dancing in the parlour and it’s a good time to catch up about our days.
“The dream is a little family; James and me, and a few feral farm kids.”