Ancient spores

According to the much lorded poet John Betjeman, Ludlow is ‘probably the loveliest town in England’. In 1943, Christopher Hussey said of Ludlow that ‘the whole place is a national monument’.

A lot has happened in this part of Shropshire, this close to the Welsh border, which is why we chose to visit. Also because we’d never heard of it and it felt like a good idea at the time.

Geologically, the area is rich in calcareous limestone laid down around 400 million years ago. This means the place is alive with fossils – if such a thing is possible! In fact Ludlow gives its name to a period of geological time, as does the nearby Whitcliffe. Although Whitcliffe is a tad older, being 415 million. Suffice it to say that with all this geological activity and given the last ice age, Ludlow is atop a big hill.

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Rain! Miserable day with grey breaks in the grey clouds. Went out for more important supplies then sat in the cottage typing up the holiday so far. Then worked on my essays.

We decided to venture out around lunchtime. Ludlow was in the grip of festival mayhem so there were plenty of stalls in the Castle Square with all manner of environmentally friendly information and products. We popped into the old Assembly Rooms for a bit of a dance, though I would have preferred a hand or two of whist with that well proportioned Miss Kettleby, but it has long since stopped being a venue of such fun and frivolity. It is now the Ludlow Tourist Information Centre and Museum. We picked up a guide to Ludlow restaurants then went into the museum.

Ludlow market

The rain had driven the kids and other non-museum regulars into the relative peace of the museum. While this should be applauded, it was a tad annoying when I was actually interested in looking at examples of Silurian rocks and had to constantly bat away annoying little heads from in front of the displays. Still, a lovely museum with some great stuff on rocks, something Dawn would surely tease me about.

It was time for lunch when we emerged into the damp. We decided to try De Greys, a famous teashop at the top of Broad Street. Yesterday when I wandered by there was a massive queue, today as we walked in, there was not. We were immediately shown to a table just inside the door. Five minutes later, the queue had started to form and by the time we had our food, the queue was out the door.

It made us think of all the places we’ve eaten around the world – the Grand Hotel in Oslo, the Railway carriage in Flam, that fantastic steak house Jack took us to in New York, the Fork & View in Leura – and the few times we’ve had to queue for food. Rather than queue, we’d find somewhere else. There always IS somewhere else!

Anyway we had weak lattes and a tuna salad roll in a baguette rather than a bap and laughed at the idiots queuing. All very nice and if Bob & Claire ever come to Ludlow, this is the ideal place for them to stay. It is a five star B&B and has this tearoom on the ground floor. Claire could never leave the building.

After lunch we wandered around looking for a brush for Mirinda – she collects brushes like most women collect shoes, every town we go to on holiday, she just has to buy a hair brush. However, we didn’t find one – the girl in Woolworths when asked if they sold hairbrushes said “IF we sell them, they’ll be down the back somewhere.” Why the hell do we bother going into Woolworths?

We were tempted to go and look at the castle except for two things – it was raining and the castle is a ruin and therefore nearly all outside. So instead we opted for the Castle Lodge. Parts of the house date from the 13th century – the mildew will attest for that.

Gaz by Alice door in Castle Lodge, Ludlow

The signs all seem polite and needy enough but when you reach the front door you are presented with a bell and the sign ‘ring to open’. We rang and were eventually admitted by an odd looking chap with a cigarette hanging from his lips. Lurch-like he bade us enter and handed us a sheet of paper while I handed him some money.

According to the piece of paper the lodge has been owned and rented for most of its life. In fact it wasn’t until 1848 that it was actually in private ownership. Apparently the present owners are trying to ‘rescue it from its tragic state’.

The above is very laudable and as you wander through the rooms filled with more and more carpets, it is almost as if the restoration is gradually happening. However, this all comes tumbling down when you chat to a visiting Liverpudlian couple who have been before. Mrs Scouser assured us that it was like a National Trust property when they visited previously and now it just makes her weep to see it.

It is a shame. The wall panelling is truly amazing and the wibbly wobbly floors reminded me of the psychedelic version of Alice in Wonderland but the mildew just attacked Mirinda’s nose and forced us to leave. The inch thick dust on the surfaces didn’t help! We climbed back down the stairs and left tout suit!

We wandered around a bit more but basically had decided to return to the cottage for the rest of the day because of the lousy weather. It was a good decision – the rain is supposed to clear tomorrow for the Ludlow parade, a date on the calendar NOT to be missed!

We watched Mr Holland’s Opus, a film remarkable for its American morals, had cheese and bacon on toast then went to bed.

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