Over 100 people celebrated the launch of Beneath Safer Skies (published by Merlin Unwin Books), with Anthea Toft atCardington Village Hall, a memoir of life as a child evacuee. We enjoyed a glass of wine and light refreshments whilst we listened to short readings from the book, accompanied by some war-time musical favourites sung by local singers. Anthea signed books and chatted to people afterwards. The book was so popular that we sold out before the end of the evening!

Anthea has lived in the Cardington area since 1976, first in Enchmarsh and then at the ‘Old Bakery’ Cardington and many people will be familiar with her work. She was born among the apple orchards and hop fields on the Kent-Sussex border. When war was declared the family found themselves in a very vulnerable position between London and the coast, rightly called ‘bomb alley’ and designated as the last stand before London in the case of the threatened invasion.

Fearing for her safety Anthea’s mother brought her up to the relative safety of Shropshire where they lived on a farm in the beautiful valley of Mainstone near Bishop’s Castle for several years. These years made a vivid impression on a small girl so far from home and her description of a lost way of rural life in Shropshire during the Second World War, with accompanying photographs, makes fascinating reading.

Eventually she went back to war-torn Kent to face nights in a shelter under the continual threat of ‘Doodlebugs’ and bombs. She trained and worked as a teacher and many years later she returned with her husband to work at Condover School for the blind and then to run a home and training centre for teenagers with special needs and fostered children on a smallholding above Cardington. The story of their adventures with the children and their growing numbers of animals will make another book one day!

Anthea now lives in Church Stretton and has at last found time to finish her book and write several others.

Anthea Toft: ‘Beneath Safer Skies’, 5th September 2014