I spent yesterday driving the lanes south of Hereford in search of scouted red phone boxes. With the aid of an old O.S. map and a fairly recent satnav, I located the six boxes we’d had our eye on for the project. Mind you, I fell victim to that oldest rustic joke, the turned-around signpost at Lower Maescoed, which resulted in a scenic tour.
I began at Vowchurch, where the phone box leans like a friendly drunk, and exchanged hands for £1. The village has repainted it and gilded its crown. It’s lapped in affection. I climbed in, on a distinct slope, and wrote:
‘Only wires and spidery writing
this box, tip-tilted into the hedge and under
the church wall.
Yes, I bought it for a pound’
(which someone in the village told us they did).
I had to double back to find the phone box at Monnington Mile (don’t ask), but here it is, sheltering near the gates of medieval Monnington Court. In comparison with Vowchurch’s box, this one feels poor and derelict, and a little out of place in surroundings whose architecture harks back to the feudal. I hauled open the door and read the notice inside:
‘Our information shows that this phone box has had very little use over a significant period of time. 01/09/16’.
‘dead leaves hiss under the opening door.
from the box you see the apple orchard over
the road, baubled with mistletoe.
cobwebs in your hair.
a robin sweet in the cold.‘
Next came Abbey Dore, the day dark and cold by then. Another weary phone box, leaning a little and flaking magnificently. I had to tug the door open against the build-up of grass. I wrote:
‘half-forgotten down a green lane, green moss
on the slates behind it.
TELEPHONE it whispers, its lettering fading.
A pigeon coos.’
On down the muddy lanes to Ewyas Harold, and by the Dulas Brook, a phonebox. I really couldn’t get into this one, due to the mighty object it was housing. I wrote:
‘between bus stop and chip shop, cast
in Glasgow at the Saracen Foundry
this box is now broom cupboard,
holds the outdoor parasol for the shop.’
Apparently many of the K6 boxes were made in Scotland, either at the Saracen Foundry, or at the Lion Foundry in Kirkintilloch. The other noteworthy thing about the Ewyas Harold box is that it has been flooded: the Dulas Brook, so quiet the day I visited, can turn monstrous.
I pressed on up the lanes, following the Dulas Brook up into the hills and was duly conned by the turned-about signpost. I toured the lanes for some time as a result before finding the box at Lower Maescoed. It stands on a wonderful open site. The phone receiver has been vandalised, and fragments of splintered plastic litter its glorious moss carpet. I stood on it and wrote:
‘grasses blowing and a sense of space
you step out into air, bare trees
and triangles of common land
all the narrow lines among the farms’
The rain started. I ate my sandwiches, then set off winding through late afternoon traffic to reach Holme Lacy, just south east of Hereford. Here is our anomaly, a K6 box but painted blue. I opened the door and stood inside (distinctly cold) and wrote:
‘right by the road, outside a half-timbered
village hall. Swept clean inside.
A blackbird loops over a garden hedge. A cottage
has washing outside.
You wait while it rings. Watch a garage with doors ajar.
The pips and you feed in your change.’
Later, via Facebook, helpful residents of Holme Lacy explained their handsome blue box to me: it is about to be fitted with a defibrillator, and they wish it to be distinctive. My thanks to everyone who’s been in touch about #LastCall!