Not my cup of tea

Awake at 7 and off for a walk by 7:30. I decided to take a stroll up to Whitcliffe and into the Forestry commission land above it. The weather, though grey, was actually dry. The first part of the walk which follows the river was alive with dog walkers but otherwise I didn’t see anyone else.

The walk was very steep, leading further up, the tracks squishy underfoot after yesterdays rain. The trees were alive with birds and everything smelled brand new, the River Teme burbled away to my right. Delightful morning for a walk – apart from the lack of sun, of course.

Whitcliffe Forestry Commission

Eventually coming out at the forestry commission office, I sat at a bench and weighed up my options. I decided – it having taken me an hour to reach this point – to head back down a back track. And then I found it! The first fossil I’ve actually found in the wild, as it were. It’s a small slab of limestone with little shells in it – well, the shape of shells in it.

Where I found my fossil

I was carefully looking down at my feet as I walked because the ground was sloping away and was littered with bits of limestone, making it quite slippery when I saw what I thought was a fossil of a fish. I bent to pick it up – it was a scratch – and right next to it was the piece with the shells! A fantastic bit of serendipity! Or just plain luck. It’s from the Silurian period and is around 415 million years old. I carefully put it in my back pocket so it couldn’t rub – limestone is very fragile – and cheerfully tramped on.

I ended up back at the cottage at around 9.30. Mirinda was still asleep. I worked on my experimental archaeology essay.

We left at around midday to visit the castle. Built sometime prior to 1138 when it was first mentioned, Ludlow Castle has been used by many people including royalty. When Edward IV, son of the Duke of York, was crowned in 1461, the castle became royal property. It remained as such for 350 years. Arthur, older brother of Henry VIII spent his wedding night (to Catherine of Aragon), in one of the turrets and Mary, Henry’s daughter spent a few years in the castle. Also the little princes who were supposedly murdered in the Tower of London, also spent a few nights here.

Ludlow Castle main entrance

Now it’s mostly in ruins, like all good castles, but there’s still lots of bits to clamber over and climb up. All the various kids love that. We each took an info stick but the narrative was very condescending and the sound quality was pretty dire. Which is a shame.

Within the keep there are the remains of a lovely round church – the chapel of St Mary Magdelene. There are only a few round churches in England, apart from this one. The most well known is Temple Church in London but, of course, that other great example is in Cambridge and NOT Oxford, as my father well knows.

Of course I had to climb up all the spiral stairs I could find, including a long spin up to the castle keep which afforded an excellent view of everything…including Mirinda sitting under a big tree.

Unfortunately the keep also housed a rather annoying family from somewhere up north where their accents are particularly ugly. In the halcyon days of this castle, such people would have either been clearing out the gaderobes, tilling the fields or living underneath the castle in some small dank cell. Instead, they now swarm like those big flies we have out west in Australia. One of the younger ones decided he’d like to get a better view of the ground so he lay across the stone wall and leant out, 75 feet up. A sudden yell of “Liam! Get off there!” from his father saw him fall back to his feet. Pity, I had the perfect opportunity to give him a gentle little push.

So we’d heard about the Great Green Parade, scheduled to process through Ludlow’s streets at 1:30pm bank holiday Monday. We were looking forward to seeing the cars pushed by people, lured by the promise of zero CO2 emissions – this is what was promised! So we lined the street with lots of others, jostling for position along the tiny main street. Cars kept coming as we stood and waited, eating our cold pastry treats from de Greys.

Finally a police car appeared, slowly advancing in front of a brass band which seemed to take an awful long time appearing. The police car sat with its engine running, emitting CO2 all over us as we waited for the band. After what seemed like an hour of choking, the police car gradually moved away as the band hove into sight. A bright spangley band came marching, people with buckets peeling off from all sides, looking for donations. So far so good.

Then came the parade princess…or spring princess…well, some sort of princess and her attendant maidens, waving to and generally delighting the crowd. But what is this? Directly behind the royal party there appeared a Jag, just like the one Morse used to drive through the tiny Oxford streets. It drove slowly, careful not to squash the princess walking in front of it. Seated in the back was a strangely dressed pixie looking sheepish but warm and comfortable. The Jag managed to emit a bit of nasty air on us as well. (We later found out that this pixie was in fact a dancer who did her thing once the parade reached its end. I assume she was concerned about wearing out her points.)

It was at this point that we figured the zero emissions promise was completely hollow. This was further strengthened by the trucks full of the Wizard of Oz characters, the ambulance and the fire engine, which was particularly smelly as it belched in front of us.

The best bit of the parade was the people dressed in red netting, playing some sort of funky, tribal type music. And that was about it really. I’ll not add anything about the odd display called ‘Shop Till You Drop’ or the shopping trolley dragons because they were just too bizarre. In fact, we left after the fire engine made breathing very difficult. This was also the end of the 12 minute parade. We decided to go and visit Angel Gardens.

And then we spotted the house with no windows. Obviously convinced the Window Tax was still in operation, the crazy owner had just not put any in. What a dim house this would be! Good luck selling it, buddy. Unless The Count is in town.

Windowless house, Ludlow

There being no parking at the cottage (something Mirinda was not amused at), we collected Sidney from the council car park where she sat, abandoned by us, in the company of lorries and coaches, and took off for Angel. The brochure claimed the sign off the main road was easy to miss so we turned down every left hand road we found, just in case. Eventually we found the correct one and pulled into the car park. Here we were met by, I assume, the owner.

Some garden near Ludlow

He asked the usual questions (“Have you come far?“, “Ah, Ford Ka eh? Nice car. My daughter drives one“, etc) then gave us each a ticket after I passed some paper across his palm. We started to stroll down through the very small borders. Not having a guide book meant we had to make everything up. Anyway, it appears to be quite a young garden in a fantastic spot. Our first stop (after the short sit in the semi-circular hedge layout which we are going to steal for our own garden) was the tea room, which is a big garden room on the side of the very big pond.

The coffee was foul, as you’d expect but the 457 choices of tea would cover any tea lover’s repertoire. As we sat enjoying the tranquil beauty of the rain drops as they started falling, we couldn’t help but observe the absurd rituals being enacted around us. Politeness gone mad, I’d call it, as each new couple that entered tried their best to out-polite the last. Ok, I exaggerate, but it did seem most peculiar when the guy brought in the wicker chairs for no reason other than it was raining. At first I thought he must have known the owners.

Just a short laugh at this guy. At one stage he produced a perfectly ironed copy of the brochure and, handing it to his companion, instructed her to put it between two stiff cards so it didn’t get creased. I figured he must collect brochures. And we think Nicktor is odd with HIS collections.

Suitably refreshed (well Mirinda was anyway) we started strolling around the garden. As usual I was flicking away with my camera when suddenly, like some avenging angel (from Angel Garden) I was told to desist! “We don’t allow cameras, I’m afraid” the man who took our money explained. So, I stopped taking photos. We couldn’t work out why there was no sign to that effect when we first entered. Like I couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t a guide book. And like I still have problems figuring out why you can take photographs at some of the biggest gardens in this country but not the Angel Gardens, Ludlow. So, be warned. I’ll also not include his garden as a search item on my site. That’ll learn ‘im!

And with that pleasant little exchange, we hopped back into Sidney and departed once more for Ludlow. It had been a wholly unpleasant day (apart from the fossil find) so we decided to return to the cottage and watch The Parent Trap – the remake with Lindsay Lohan. Compared to the rest of the day, this was excellent and not at all a waste of time. To be honest I thought it was real twins and nothing is going to convinced me that there aren’t two Lindsay Lohans.

Dinner was a very tasty but extremely expensive Indian meal. Because it was SO expensive I’m damned if I’m going to give them a plug for the quality of their food…which was quite high.

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