2012: a big, big year for these tiny Norfolk communities

If Sue Malt ever tells you that nothing has ever happened in the place where she lives – and she might – don't believe a word of it. True, you don't move to the tiny, scattered, sister villages of Hoe and Worthing north of Dereham if you prefer to live life in the fast lane. But, actually, quite a lot has been happening there in recent years, and that's due in no small measure to the endeavours of Sue, a retired supply teacher, and her book designer husband, Dick.

What's more, a heck of a lot will take place in 2012, including the crowning of a queen, the Hoe Olympics and celebrations to mark the centenary of the Parish Room.

Sue and Dick have lived at Hoe for more than 30 years. To them it's a special place, indeed so special that they were eager to preserve its heritage for generations to come.

Going along to a history fair a few years back at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse inspired them to act.

Sue explained: 'We saw that various villages were collecting photos and came home thinking that, if we were going to create a similar record, it had got to be done soon or things would disappear forever.'

The Malts delved into various archives and circulated fliers among the 100 or so households quoting stories about people, events and calamities that had befallen Hoe and Worthing in days gone by.

They amassed photographic archives and collected together wedding reports, descriptions and images of coronation celebrations, floods and the 1987 hurricane – when stately old oaks were savaged or felled by the furious storm – and accounts of court proceedings: a thriving tannery at Worthing provided ample employment long ago for locals and also kept three taverns busy with thirsty, occasionally boisterous workers, some of whom found themselves up before the justices for drunkenness and uttering obscene language.

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In Sue's words; 'It brought all sorts of people from our past back to life.'

And when, in April 2010, they held an exhibition at the Parish Room, people flocked there. 'We had people in there for hours; people who had not met each other for decades turning up. It was packed all day and it was fabulous,' said Sue.

To coincide with the 2011 national census, they decided to create 'Snapshot' – a neatly-bound 112-page book comprising photographs of everyone standing outside their homes, maybe holding an item representing a hobby or passion. Nearly everyone at Hoe and Worthing agreed to take part, joined by some 67 of their pet dogs.

'People turned out for their pictures with their fishing rods, sewing machines, paintings, all sorts of things,' said Sue.

She and Dick looked after the Hoe end of the parish: David Knight and Adrian Hodge took care of Worthing.

Now, with 2012 upon us, more exciting things are in prospect.

As their 20th-century forebears had done for the coronations, weddings and jubilees of royalty past and present, the twin communities have already been busy planning a traditional celebration to mark the diamond jubilee of the Queen.

The Parish Room and a nearby field will be the focal points for the fun on Monday, June 4. Activities being lined up include a tug-of-war, an appearance by a fortune teller, and welly throwing, with the grand finale of a queen sitting on her throne presenting each child from Hoe and Worthing with a gift – possibly a souvenir coin. There'll be a bring-and-share buffet for all to enjoy.

A Jubilee Society has been formed, too, with the aim of offering talks given mainly by Hoe and Worthing people who have specialist knowledge of a subject. Dr Josephine Lloyd will give the first at the Parish Room on Tuesday, February 7 (7.30pm) on the 1771 foundation of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

To mark the Olympics, the communities are holding games of their own, the main difference being that these ones won't cost billions to stage.

Events, probably spread over a period rather than a specific day, could include darts and snooker – there's a table in the Parish Room – boules, tennis, mini-golf... oh, and what Sue calls 'Olympic jiving'.

So, the Parish Room will become Hoe and Worthing's answer to the Olympic complex in east London – a fitting accolade in its centenary year.

The original intention way back then had been to raise money to replace the collapsed parish church tower. When that proved unfeasible because of the state of the foundations, the money was put instead towards providing a parish room.

It opened in 1912 and over the years has provided the setting for Sunday schools, boys' and men's clubs, whist drives, dances (to music supplied by a radiogram in the 1930s) and village celebrations of all kinds.

The hall needs upgrading, and a longer-term aim is to reburbish it and add a new kitchen and toilets, say the Malts. Doubtless, with the kind of community spirit that has been shown already, that will happen one day.

With so much going on, perhaps it's just as well that nothing ever happens there...

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