‘ve just spent a very enjoyable evening driving the moonlit backroads and highways of Herefordshire.
It wasn’t exactly the evening I had planned, ‘BAFTA Presents: Bruce Robinson in Conversation with Francine Stock’, which was a part of the Borderlines Film Festival, was the planned entertainment for the evening.
I’d printed out some directions from google and also had had a look online. I don’t have any of this modern sat-nav type technology and my phone is too archaic for the internet but with a map and a couple of AtoZ’s in the car I tend to get on just fine, we live in a country thats pretty good on signposts as it goes. I’d picked a route taking me through Leominster as it looked the simplest way to get to the venue whilst bypassing the Worcester to Hereford road and the ring road of Hereford. I thought this would be a simpler journey. Well, my plan went fine, the clouds looked a little biblical as I approached Tenbury, seeing signs mentioning the bridge through the town was still closed, I’d passed it the day before it was closed off in January so I really should’ve thought of this. Luckily it was the road after I needed.
Things did start to go wrong just after my directions read ‘Continue on to…’ (I should add I’d already had an island which had obviously been changed into a cross roads and a ‘turn right’ that was now just a right hand corner so my faith in my Google directions was waning) Anyway when I got to ‘turn right onto Brobury Ln’ I realised I possibly should had made more effort on pre planning. I’d left home with nearly two hours to spare, Google told me I’d need just over an hour. I found myself pulling over and digging the map out of the boot with half hour now to spare. Looking around where I was on the map I found another issue;
Moccas wasn’t on it. Anywhere. At all. Ah.
So I stumbled on, looking for either a sign or something familiar, I was only a mile or three away but driving around in an 11 year old car which was famous for its candlelight headlight levels I was pretty much lost in the dark. I turned around once and tried the other road. Then when I seemed to be about to enter Wales I figured I was certainly lost so I turned round again, and did something I very rarely would do but for such desperate times. I pulled in at the “Regent” petrol station by the roadside. Going inside it was a proper rural shop. I should add I’d never heard of the Regent chain and wikipedia tells me ‘1947 – Texaco merged its British operation with Trinidad Leaseholds under the name Regent; it gained full control of Regent in 1956, but the Regent brand remained in use until 1968-9.’ But this one it would seem is still running, or at least still branded.
I found the chap running the garage sorting through his weeks papers. He was a relaxed and methodical chap, I asked him If he knew where ‘Moccas’, was and he said he knew the name but wasn’t sure himself, not being local. He said to wait and wandered off, returning with a map from the pile he had for sale. It turned out to be much the same as my own, less mildewed stains on it maybe but the same lack of Moccas on page 14. He was happily dotting where I was on the map and trying to sketch possible directions on to it to retrace my steps to where it might be. I wondered if I was going to be expected to buy the map after he’d drawn a route on it but it went back on the pile at the end. I spotted a road I was looking for and we worked out the bridges to it – it was the River Wye that was causing the problems, or more so crossing it.
My choices were a toll bridge (80 pence apparently) which I’d already turned back from to enquire at the garage or else a single lane bridge further back the way I’d came which was where I had been looking for in the first place. and so I headed back, sorry I had neither the time nor the need to buy anything from the garage.
Back on the road I passed the Swann Inn on my right and turned right just after it, pleased that I was back on track. however, somehow, and I’m still unsure how, I had hit upon one of those Twilight zone/Children of the Corn type roads that will always lead you back to where you started no matter where you turn. I drove for a few miles, thought I should have turned the other way after the bridge and so headed the other way. then after a while I spotted a pub up ahead, it looked just the same as the pub I’d turned right after, only it was on the opposite roadside. But as I slowed down by the car park, somehow, I’d driven in a circle and come at it from the other way.
So I turned back, headed back down the road for the third time, pub on my right once again. drove on a mile further and took another lane. This started well, heading downhill toward the river, but then it split. One direction I found to be a dead end and the other? Well that went back to the main road. so, back on the ‘main’ B road, the next right, looks promising, down hill and then a BRIDGE! Over the Wye and onward down a single track road, then around a bend something large in the road. I stop and it turns to look at me. An owl sat in the middle of the road a couple of meters from my bumper. We both sat there for a few beats until I reached for my camera. The owl then effortlessly took off down the tunnel of tress in my headlights. Was lovely to see and even more so that I didn’t run it over.
So back on with the drive, passed some “Children Crossing” signs, I didn’t see any but it was 8pm on a Saturday night. Yes, 8pm, so I was now half hour late and figured if I just made it to the venue it would be something. I hate to give up on things and I knew I was close. I hit a crossroads of the road I was pretty sure was the one I was looking for. I headed one way and straight into roadworks. Drove on a while and didn’t see much so maybe the other way? A quick U turn and back. Wait again at the traffic lights. Theres no other cars about, I probably only saw a dozen cars the whole night, but a couple of minutes of red light and then back, passed the road I’d come out of and into a village. A sign!
I knew it didn’t look like the sign I’d seen on Google maps but figured it was maybe the back door, indeed the entrance lane looked to confirm this and the building looked just like the Village Hall I’d seen from Street view. However the sounds of Country and Western drifting about the packed car park suggested that this was not the venue I was looking for. The chap looked quite started as I came through the door. I don’t think it was my windswept looks but more my age, while I’m not as young as I seem to think I am, I still had a good 30 years on most of the attendees. I asked if he’d heard of Moccas Village Hall, but he wasn’t sure. I said I thought maybe it was further down the main road and he sort of agreed, saying it sounded familiar and yes, probably that was the way to go.
Turns out he was right. About another three miles down the road I passed a faded road sign for Moccas – it has to be said the road signs in this part of Herefordshire have mostly seen better days, and then, yes – the Village hall sign I’d looked up earlier came into view. I tore round it and toward the hall, it was now an hour into a timetabled performance of and hour and fifteen minutes but hell, I’d made it. At least I’d get to stick my head in or take a photo of the building as proof if nothing else.
Alas. Parking! The car park was rammed. All apart from one disabled space, and I’m such a worry-sport I couldn’t park in that, so I tore back up the road, found nowhere to park and so u-turned and came back, parking within a inch or two of the end car in the car park with my bonnet half in the hedge.
And so I crept in, and saw about the last ten minutes, which was as enjoyable as expected and made me wish I’d made it there on time.
I think its great that there are events like this outside of the ‘traditional’ venues and cities, apparently this years festival ‘has a special focus on life in the countryside’ and I suppose I certainly took part in that at least.
And if you are looking for Moccas with a standard 1:2500,000 roadmap then Preston on Wye is about as close as it will get you. Its just up from there a bit. Good luck, watch out for the owl.