Caught by the River

Thankful Villages Vol. 3 #11 and #12

Darren Hayman | 5th February 2020

As we near the finishing line on Darren Hayman’s gargantuan series, a double post. The eleventh village from Thankful Villages Vol. 3 is Toft, Cambridgeshire, and the twelfth is East Wittering, Sussex.

During my travels we lost one Thankful Village — it is believed possible that a soldier who died in the Great War could have come from Welbury on the first volume of Thankful Villages.

However one village has been added: Toft. Michael McCarthy worked tirelessly to prove what has long been local legend, that everyone returned to Toft alive from the first World War.

I went to Toft three times.

The first time Jake Tebbit showed me his paintings and Michael and Cynan sang to me in his kitchen.

The second time I sang for Michael and the rest of the village in the People’s Hall.

The third time I saw their May Day festival. My friend Emma danced round the May pole on the village green. Then we blessed the well and hugged the church on its 800th birthday.

Video directed by Abigail Forbes

The day before going to East Wittering I find a battered, ancient camera lens on the floor. It has a small lever that triggers a timer that makes a pleasing whirring noise when I put it near my ear.

Bored of the car we decide to reach a Thankful Village by public transport.

We take a couple of trains followed by a bus. The journey is slow but easy. Trains make me feel calm, even when they run late.

East Wittering is the biggest so far of all the Thankful Villages, with shops, pubs and restaurants. It has palm trees on its beach that are savaged by the wind. It doesn’t seem to know where it is.

I’m pleased to have company on this Thankful trip. 

Abi does all the filming and I sit on the beach looking through the lens and making East Wittering look smaller.

I make a tune out of clicks and whirs.

Thankful Villages Vols. 1 & 2 are out now on Rivertones. You can buy physical copies here, or listen on Spotify. Thankful Villages Volume 3 is also now available here.