On a bright Sunday in April, the sleepy Herefordshire town of Bromyard was jolted awake with the roar and snarl of mechanical beasts. The inaugural Speed Festival had hit town!
It was an idea genius in its simplicity. Invite a range of classic and vintage cars to drive around the streets. The main A44 bypasses Bromyard’s narrow medieval thoroughfares so it is entirely possible to close off a loop.
There were a few rumbles in the pub on the night before. How many people would come? Where were they all to park? What exactly was going to happen?
We took advantage of the free shuttle bus down the steep hill into town. Parking had been provided at the town’s high school but that quickly filled up. The organisers had thought ahead and an overflow car park was made available in the adjoining field. It looked like the event was going to be a success.
A crowd milled about in the market square, where there was a Morgan exhibition, so after having a quick look, we found a spot against the protective railings and waited.
A super Morgan Sports Car
We knew there would be a procession of cars, beginning with some Morgans but were excited to see Sir Malcolm Campbell’s world land speed record breaking Blue Bird lead the pack. It’s a truly iconic vehicle and to see and hear it at such close quarters was thrilling. Amusingly, it took two engineers, in immaculate white overalls, to crank the engine! The Sunbeam took the world land speed record in 1924 by reaching over 140mph on a stretch of the glorious Pendine Sands.
Sunbeams were made in Wolverhampton by the way, when we had a car industry in the UK.
Sir Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird
The Morgans were followed by a succession of different classes of cars including a clutch of Austin Healeys, cars which are adapted for hill climbs, and vintage and classic cars. The noise from some was deafening but so exciting! The cute little Austin Healeys always make me picture raffish WW2 fighting aces with handlebar moustaches and leather flying jackets but maybe that’s the romantic novelist in me. It’s also historically inaccurate; the company was begun in 1952.
A fabulous Austin Healey
The town was crammed with cars of all sorts. Every nook and cranny was filled with interesting vehicles. A few old-type Minis were parked up in a pub car park and a sleek Aston Martin rubbed shoulders rather incongruously with Mr Fresh Whip the ice-cream van (not exhibiting by the way but doing a roaring trade).
Shops, pubs and cafes were open and doing similarly good business. The whole town had a festive air helped along, no doubt, by the good weather.
A gorgeous Aston Martin
Yes, it was a simple idea but like all simple ideas worked beautifully well. However, the amount of organisation involved must have been enormous. Apparently, it’s been four years in the planning. It showed. Parking had been thought through, the shuttle busses ran smoothly and all health and safety measures were in place (and we all know what a nightmare they can be). There were even specially commissioned souvenirs on offer.
It’s hoping to run the event next year too, with the second of April reserved. If you’re interested in cars, or just want to support a local event, I’d urge you to attend. Bromyard is known as being the ‘Town of Festivals’ and Speed Festival is certainly a worthy addition to the ones the town already hosts. You can find out more information here:
Well done Bromyard and especially to the organisers of The Speed Festival; you should be proud of yourselves.
EDITOR: Georgia has written a super article about Morgan Cars. Do take a look!