In her lifetime, Norah Hull has run farms, been a teacher and travelled the world. And now she can add turning 100 to her list of achievements.
To celebrate her birthday, granddaughter Clare threw a family party at her home in Denmead, where Norah now lives.
Norah received 50 cards, including one from the Queen sending congratulations for her 100th year.
But there was another cardwhich was Norah’s favourite.
‘I was very pleased to get the card from the Queen, but I was more impressed with the card I got picturing me with my great-great-granddaughter Lily when she was a baby. The oldest with the youngest,’ she jokes.
Norah – who was a farmer’s wife for much of her life – says her earliest memory is living on a farm as a child.
‘Sometimes the most exciting thing is having a cat on my lap; it isn’t big things necessarily,’Norah Hull, 100, from Denmead
She was born in Cornwall and then moved to Surrey a couple of years later before settling at Stubbs Farm in Binsted, Hampshire.
Norah studied a poultry and dairying course at the Hampshire County Farm Institute at Sparsholt, and at a reunion dance for the students she met her husband Sidney.
They married in 1937 and moved to Pound Farm in Cholsey near Oxford, where they lived until 1942 when they moved to Durleighmarsh Farm in Rogate.
During the war, Norah was in charge of running the farm.
This included overseeing land girls and students from Portsmouth Grammar School, who would stay with Norah and work during the harvest.
During this period Norah had three children – Daphne, John and Jenny.
‘My husband became chairman of the West Sussex branch of the National Farmers’ Union and he was away a lot.
‘Who had to see to this and that?’ she says, while pointing at herself.
Norah’s main memory of the war was working hard, but there was one dramatic occasion which has stayed in her mind.
‘One of the bombs our men fired from Harting Hill landed in the middle of our lawn, where several children were playing,’ she says.
‘It didn’t go off and no-one was hurt, but it left a great big hole and broke the telephone wire. Amazing, it really was.’
The last farm Norah lived and worked on was Lovedean Farm, part of the Hinton Daubney estate.
In 1960, Norah moved to Welbeck Avenue in Southampton, where she trained to be a teacher.
She lived minutes away from the university and put up mature students in her home.
Through them and her job as a tea lady on campus, Norah learned that the university organised trips to stay with families abroad and teach their children English. She visited Japan and India as part of this scheme.
‘When I was in New Dehli I was stood in a long line on asphalt, which was boiling hot as you can imagine,’ says Norah.
‘This voice said ‘‘will Mrs Hull please come to the front’’, and it was one of the students that had stayed with me in Southampton. It was lovely to see them.
‘I saw the Taj Mahal, but it was meeting the people and getting to understand them which I loved.’
To travel to Japan, it wasn’t a simple plane journey like today. Norah had to get a train to Berlin and then Warsaw before crossing Northern Russia. She then went by air to Vladivostok, and by boat to Tokyo.
‘I used to give talks at the WI meetings about it because it was such a journey,’ says Norah.
The 100-year-old taught for nine years before retiring to Hambledon to be near her family, where she was involved in the WI and wrote the nature notes for her parish magazine.
As well as her travels, Norah insists she looks forward to the small things in life.
‘Sometimes the most exciting thing is having a cat on my lap; it isn’t big things necessarily,’ she says.
So what is her secret to longevity?
‘I think one important thing is having a love of nature. I have dipped my fingers in so many pies – anything that was going on I was involved in.
‘That has really helped too.’