In 2009 the WHC hosted a bucolic May Bank Holiday show at The Barrels in Hereford. Headlining a great bill was John Jones, best known as front-man of The Oysterband. As well as folk music John is a great walker and that year he decided to combine his passions by forming The Reluctant Ramblers who would walk between gigs and it was this band that played the WHC show. Here's the blog I wrote way back in May 2009 about the gig and the following day's ramble. Halcyon days.
What a cracking few days. Sunday was one of those May days that you hope will never end, queue Roy Harper singing ‘One of those Days in England’. The sun shone and the day was spent under a clear blue sky, weeding the vegetable beds and planting out 90 sweetcorn plants. Adding to the pleasure was knowing that the next day was a Bank Holiday and a special one to boot, being the day of the Wild Hare Club’s annual bank holiday bonanza.
This year’s event was held in the backyard of Hereford’s finest boozer, The Barrels, and was the finest yet. Peter, the landlord, and Phil, the pub manager, have done something very special with the Barrels, for it is good not only for its beer - Butty Bach and Wye Valley bitter - but for providing a place where lots of different kinds of people feel at home and also and importantly for this blogger building a covered stage outside. Suffice to say that the weather held out and that all the performers played excellent sets. Small Engine Repair played with a deft economy, unusual in such young players. Smoke Fairies, Jessica and Katherine, entranced with their exquisite harmonies and intertwining guitars, while John Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers, several dates into their tour, hit their stride and had folk reeling round the yard. It’s hard to pick out a favourite moment of the day, Chopper stepping off the stage with his cello to play among the crowd perhaps, or hearing the band cover Joe Strummer’s 'Johnny Appleseed', a song made more pertinent by the fact that I have just read A World Without Bees, which was shocking even to this dyed-in-the-wool ecologist. In the end it was just the whole atmosphere of the gig, a really mixed crowd and a general feeling of good will.
If you’re reading this blog, then you will undoubtedly have picked up John and The Reluctant Ramblers are walking between gigs, the first leg of their tour eventually leading them to Wychwood Festival. Given I’ve the week off, it seemed churlish not to join them on a leg and so today, despite a lack of sleep, I met them and several of their friends in Hereford High Town and set off on down the road towards Ledbury.
Like John, I have a profound love of Herefordshire and, as I’ve remarked before, it has been looking especially glorious this spring. The meadows are full of buttercups and vetch. The rape fields are in full flower and the barley appears to be flowing like water as it is moved by the wind. The walk took in some of my favourite places, Mordiford and Common Hill, to name but two. The conversation ebbed and flowed along the way. As John remarked, "There’s always less talk on a hill". Often the talk was about music. Chopper and I for instance pondered the mystery of how come the US took to the Incredible String Band.
It’s well-known that walking is thirsty work and Ken noticed that peculiarly we had managed to walk for several hours without hitting a pub which is quite a feat in this county, or at least we’ve always found it is. Up ahead, we watched John, walking at quite a pace, clearly intent on getting to Ledbury on time and not intending to see the mission derailed by a pint of cider or two. Despite this, when we part company with the rest of the group to return home to Hereford, we are the reluctant non-ramblers, for the show tonight is bound to be another cracker.