Express & Star

Pattingham grape-picker Ann still reaping harvest at 97

Dedicated volunteer Ann Hawkins celebrated her 97th birthday with a glass of her favourite wine – after she had finished the grape-picking!

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Cheers! 97-year-old volunteer Ann Hawkins celebrates another successful harvest with vineyards owner Martin Vickers

For some 20 years Ann has joined the team of volunteers who help harvest the grape across the 30 acres of the Halfpenny Green Vineyards.

With dozens of pickers turning out this year, the vineyard once again relied on their hard work for yet another successful harvest.

And widow Ann, from Pattingham, believes she is probably the oldest person in picking.

Ann celebrated her most recent birthday at the vineyard on Friday at the end of this season’s harvest party – with food, music songs and a glass or two of wine, of course.

See an interview with Ann here:

The retired teacher says she ‘absolutely loves’ helping out at Halfpenny Green and insists turning 97 is no different to any other age.

“I’ve been picking here for about 20 years, said Ann with a glass of her favourite Black Country Gold in front of her.

“I love the atmosphere, the company, the vines out in the open air, there’s something about this place.

“I’m 97 now so can’t do as much now but the owner Martin lets me do what I can.

“It’s feels no different than any other birthday to reach this age. I still enjoy life, I’m still walking.

“I play tennis as well but I’m not very good. I keep saying I should stop because I can’t run but they keep telling me to keep on going.”

A former teacher at Wolverhampton’s Newbridge Preparatory School, Ann used to live in Hertfordshire but was originally born in Vladivostok, Russia in 1920, close to the border to North Korea and China.

After her parents met briefly in the UK, her father wrote to her mother asking her to marry him.

He ended up being posted in Vladivostok and Ann’s mother made the 7,000 mile trip herself – the rest is history.

An annual tradition for the vineyard’s pickers is the ‘Picking Song’ written by one of the volunteers and performed.

Volunteer Karen writes a song with grape picking as the theme and together the group perform it at the end of the harvest.

Since Halfpenny was started by Martin Vickers more than 30 years ago, the vineyard’s pickers have grown year on year.

And after the tons of grapes they harvest together, they are ready for the odd bottle they get to take away with them. Ann said: “I think I’m the oldest picker not only in age but in picking. I come here every year and absolutely love it.

“There’s been more people picking this year than they’ve ever had.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. There were 25 pickers on the first day which is very unusual. I make lots of friends.

“Karen always makes up a ‘Picking Song’ and we sing it – she is very inventive. She makes up a brilliant song that we sing together.

“My husband died about 30 years ago so I’m used to living on my own. I still drive; I couldn’t come if I couldn’t drive. I hope I’m here next year; a year is a long time at my age.” Halfpenny finished its harvest early this year – thanks to several short heatwaves that fell at the right time at the start of summer.

Now the vines have been picked, work is under way to crush the grapes and the fermentation process has begun, ready for the wines to be bottled up and ready to drink in the not so distant future.

Owner of the business Martin was delighted with this year’s harvest, which finished early, and thanked Ann for her loyal contributions over the years.

“The word got round 20 years-ago about her coming to pick and she’s been coming ever since,” he added.

He said: “She’s almost the nucleus of the group, she’s the oldest member and everyone loves her to bits.

“This year she arrived one lunchtime with trainers and a tracksuit on and said “Sorry I didn’t come this morning, I was playing tennis!”

“I remember a few years ago she said she wouldn’t be in because she was flying to Azerbaijan. Her story is amazing.

“The harvest was great. It’s been a funny year. There was lots of little heatwaves coming at the right time, which is why we’ve finished early. It’s been really good and the process is under way in the winery.”

For more information on the Halfpenny Green Vineyards go to