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LUDLOW - The Loveliest Town in England

The towne doth stand most part upon a hill,
Built wall and fayre, with streates both large and wide
And who that visits to walk through the towne about
Shall find things therin some rare pleasant things

(Thomas Churchyard 1587)

    I have long been associated with Ludlow, a picturesque medieval market town in the Welsh Marches. Described by John Betjeman as “the perfect historic town,”  it boasts over  500 hundred listed buildings, medieval and Georgian. Its ruined castle  looks down on the fast flowing River Teme.

   Its medieval nature extends to the intersecting grid system of streets which leads to the market, castle and the 15th Century church of St. Lawrence. Coaching inns, reflecting the historic prosperity of the town, such as the Bull Hotel continue to provide refreshment for the thousands of visitors who flock to the town from all over the country, particularly the nearby Midland cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

  Writers and artists have long been attracted to the tranquillity and inspiration Ludlow can provide including John Challis of  “Only Fools and Horses” fame, the political journalist, the late Anthony Howard and I understand Bob Geldof visited the town during its arts festival. A.E. Housman, best known for his collection of poetry, “ A Shropshire Lad”, some of them about Ludlow although it’s said he rarely visited.

   My favourite has to be “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now is hung with bloom along the bough." It reminds me of the temporary nature of life. His ashes are buried in the grounds of St. Lawrence Church marked by a cherry tree. As I write this, the cherry tree in my garden is laden with blossom but soon the wind will blow it away.

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

 

 Visitors to the town can enjoy a wide range of food and drink ranging from local produce from the markets ( check for days) and Michelin star restaurants. It’s reputation as a Foodie Town is well deserved.

  At the risk of sounding like a travel writer, ( see links below for more information on the town), I recommend a visit if you haven’t been before. Walks through nearby Mortimer Forest and over Whitcliffe Common which provide refreshing views over the river and across the town are my favourite activities. People are friendly and stop to exchange the time of day – a rare treat in this modern day of nose-to-phone technology.

   I feel privileged to be signing my book, “The Cruelty of Lambs” on Saturday April 8th at The Castle Bookshop, Castle Square. It’s everything an independent bookshop should be. Knowledgeable staff, a warm friendly welcome, a rich selection of local interest books and unusual little gems you can find while mooching around. Run efficiently by Stanton Stephens who took it over twenty years ago, it’s a “must visit” next time you are visiting or passing through.

http://www.ludlow.org.uk/

  

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INVISIBLE ( 500 words)

    ‘Let’s take the scenic route home. My eyes are tired from motorway driving,’ said Greg, giving a tap to his wife’s knee. Shelly grimaced.

    ‘Don’t forget I’ve got that big council meeting tonight at Ludlow and I need to collect my suit.  They’ve got to elect me this time.’

Greg’s mouth settled in a line.

    ‘That’s a shame. I thought we’d get a take-away and watch a bit of telly. You’re always out these days…’

   Shelly checked her make-up in the mirror so she wouldn’t have to reply. They drove in silence down a ribbon of a road, slowing down behind a tractor. Greg swung the car into a rough, muddy layby and switched off the engine.

   ‘Look at that view.’ Shelly turned her head, feigning interest in the sludge on the hill side.

  ‘You take a photo and I’ll pour us some tea.’ He shook the flask.   Shelly groaned and grabbed his phone. The battery was almost dead. She shivered in the icy chill that swirled round the valley, almost toppling over some hidden rocks as she picked her way through the broken five bar gate to get a better angle. Ever since Greg had taken up landscape painting he’d become obsessed with finding new scenes to copy.

   To get a good view of Titterstone Clee, bleak and treeless with treacherous weather changes, Shelly had to clamber over some rocks and up the hillside, muddying the designer trainers she’d bought in Birmingham that morning.

  ‘Ouch, ouch,’ she yelped, rubbing her knee as she tripped. She checked the three pictures, deciding they’d have to do. Rain spluttered onto the glass and she could hear Greg revving the engine. She headed back to the car but at that moment it seemed to evaporate into the mist that was slowly wrapping itself around the bleak landscape. Shelly rubbed her eyes. She shouted her husband’s name. The silence mocked her as she stood spattered in mud, with no coat, no bag, no purse, no money and a dead phone.

  ‘My God you son of a …..’ The growling wind stole her words.

   As the shock wore off, Shelly began to walk quickly, confident that someone would be driving past in a few minutes. A blister was forming on her heel as she strode along the road, dodging the tracks of mud. The darkening of the sky told her it was getting late. Breaking into a half run to get some warmth into her body, she saw headlights appear on the horizon.

  ‘Thank heaven for that,’ she breathed, clasping her chest.

  The driver slowed, and wound down his window.

  ‘Broken down? His perfect white teeth dominated his face.

  ‘Long story but I need to get to Ludlow. Please, I’ll pay you when I get home.’

  ‘Hop in,’ he said. No need to pay.’

  When Greg heard the banging on the front door and saw the blue light flashing, he turned off the TV. The police handed him a phone. ‘Is this yours?’ 

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