Caught by the River

Thankful Villages Vol. 3 #17 and #18

Darren Hayman | 15th October 2021

As we near the end of Darren Hayman’s enormous project, another double whammy. The seventeenth village from Thankful Villages Vol. 3 is Harley, Shropshire, and the eighteenth is Helperthorpe, Yorkshire.

Margaret in Harley sent me the memoirs of Hilda Preece as a suggestion for a song subject. Hilda lived in the village from 1904 to 1998. She tells stories of all night dance parties with gramophones in the barns.

She talks about climbing the “Jenny Wind” to the top of Wenlock Edge that looms over the village. The Jenny Wind is an old winched tramway used to haul limestone from the quarries at the top to the lime kilns at the bottom.

We search and can’t find it. The next day we try again and realised we’d missed it by a few metres. I sit down and sing. I can see the village of Harley. I can see all of it.

A Shropshire song, ‘The Wind Wind Blows’, is hidden in the ending.

Helperthorpe is a long straight line. Not like me.

I meander. There is a dried ditch by the side of the road that meanders slightly.

I have a new friend with me. Thom is making a documentary about me and my project but anyone who travels with me gets put to work. I send him into a house called ‘Redworms’ to interview Jim about the ‘Waters of Woe’. Jim plays a melodeon to Thom.

I am tired and slightly frazzled but the village comforts me and I go back to Arthur Mee’s words on the village. They are read by Tilli here. Arthur is my constant guide on these journeys. It was half his idea after all.

I find Chris and admire his roses. He tells me about the Gypsy Race, his name for Jim’s Waters of Woe. The water never returns.


Thankful Villages Vols. 1, 2 & 3 are out now.