Visit to Ludlow
As usual we have written you some notes about our travels. This time we have visited Ludlow. It is a place we have wanted to go to for years and despite cold, wet and miserable weather we were not disappointed.
Because Ludlow is not that far away we decided to visit other places on the way. The first place we chose to stop at was Ironbridge, named after the bridge in the photograph.
There are a number of industrial museums there and we did intend to visit them. We parked the car near the centre and walked but by the time we reached the bridge we were soaked and cold. We called in to a tea house for coffee and a warm. When we came out we decided not to walk around in the biting winds any more.
We dried out and warmed up in the car and drove in the direction of Ludlow going through Much Wenlock and Craven Arms, two towns worth visiting for their names alone. Just south of Craven Arms is Stokesay Castle where we stopped for lunch in the car. It was still too cold to be comfortable outside for long. We knew that the castle was not open on a Tuesday but we also knew that it had a car park and was in attractive scenery. We had plans to revisit on Thursday when it would be open.
We later drove on past Ludlow to Woofferton where the hotel was. The staff were really friendly and helpful and the room was warm. It was a very quiet place to stay and if you don’t mind radio masts it had a pleasant country view with masses of rabbits and birds.
After settling in we drove back to Ludlow and went for a walk around. We really liked the place immediately. The buildings are marvellous: it was like opening a living history book with styles from almost every period of English building. We went to the Tourist Information Office and picked up detailed maps and tips for places to visit. One of the really noticeable things apart from what we could see was the ever present smell of wood smoke. Only once before can I remember such an all pervading smell and that was in Andorra. We also noted that there were lots of people in wax jackets taking dogs for walks. Ludlow boasts a slow pace of life – well, we saw it. Perhaps that was what influenced us to go into the most notable hotel and sit by the fire with a drink, although it might have been the cold wind that made that decision for us. Anyway, I read the maps and guide books and Beryl read the newspaper and we stayed there until we were glowing with the heat of the log fire.
After that it was back to the hotel for an early meal and an evening planning the next day in detail in a warm and comfortable room with some wine to banish the chills of the day.
The next morning was just as damp, cold and dreary. This makes me realise that we have been writing these letters to you since I stopped working and have not made a reference to bad weather until this trip. So for eighteen months we must have been lucky. We set off for Hereford at 10.15am. It was a short journey away and we were soon in the cathedral cloisters coffee bar eagerly anticipating our visit to the Mappa Mundi. On the way in to the cathedral I noticed a new extension and thought it was quite well done but that it was unlikely ever to blend in with the original building. I was a bit slow not to realise that this was the very building that housed the irreplaceable medieval manuscript we had come to see.
We spent a long time in the exhibition and found it utterly fascinating. I am surprised at how much contact we have had in the last six months with old manuscripts and how much we have enjoyed the stories they have to tell. As we usually do we bought books and cards to follow up and so we will show you these later.
We sat in the middle of a fruit growing area in complete peace without a sound in the air or any movement except for robins in the hedgerow. We had not realised before we visited how much fruit growing takes place here and were certainly not aware that hops are grown so extensively here.
After lunch we went into Ledbury to have a look round. We did some shopping and took some photographs before the sky went black and snow seemed imminent. We decided to drive on to visit some more villages. For most of our journeys recently we have been to cities and not used the car and so to be able to sit in the warm and drive from one place to another seemed a bit of a novelty. We ended up driving around the villages we had planned to visit the next day. So, we went through Leominster and on to Knighton where there is a centre for the Offa’s Dyke Path. We wanted to walk part of the path and so we went to collect information. We left there and drove along the lanes to the place we intended to walk from. On the journey we went through Clun which has this castle.
When we reached the village we had intended to use as a starting point the next day it was already nearly five o’clock , the sky was dark and the air was cold and so we decided to return on the next day as planned but at least we knew where we were aiming for.
Back to the hotel then and a change of clothes to go off to visit one of the famous eating places in Ludlow. There are three restaurants with Michelin stars there and a large number of other eating places with good reputations. One of the Michelin places is well out of the town, one of them we walked past and the other we did not find at all. We had selected an Inn called The Unicorn from the descriptions in a restaurant guide. We had two courses and felt very full. We had the restaurant to ourselves at the start … about 7.45pm and we liked that and then in came a crowd of about ten or twelve people who were obviously retired and met up as a group every now and then in a different place to look around and eat together. They bounded in to the restaurant noisily and told us our peace was about to be shattered. We smiled and said that we would cope. They discussed places for their next visit and we had to restrain ourselves from making suggestions. The food we had was good and the service was excellent. On the way back to the car we walked past Hibiscus, one of the Michelin starred restaurants. We looked at the menu and pondered on meat cooked in an infusion of coffee and cardamom. However, it is well renowned and Matthew Fort, the Guardian food critic, who I think is a good chap, rated it very highly. We did plan to visit at least one of the Michelin restaurants but we did not do so this trip.
Next morning we spent quite some time watching the rabbits before leaving to go to the farmer’s market. There is one on the second Thursday of each month in Ludlow. It was interesting to see how different this one was from the ones we visit in Derby regularly. One of the things that was different was this little fellow.
He was on a stall about Owl Rescue. I took a number of photographs and this is the only one where he deigned to look in the direction of the camera. From the market we went on to a coffee shop where we read more booklets and the newspapers. Best place to be in the cold rain! When we were ready we went on to the church of St Lawrence – the biggest church in England that is not a cathedral. It was a really lively place. There were lots of people doing all sorts of things and guess what, we met up again with the noisy group from the restaurant the previous night. They were not quite so loud this morning!
We had a really good walk around Ludlow again and bought a very imaginative lunch in the farmers’ market – scotch eggs dressed in coatings you would not have thought of and cheese and sun dried tomato bread.
After that it was back to Stokesay Castle car park to eat them and later visit the castle as planned.
It is a magical place and it was not difficult to imagine it as it was when fully inhabited. However, it was so cold there that I found it difficult to get up and down the steps because the cold affected my knee. The sun did come out just as we finished our tour and the warmth was most welcome. Not just for us I might add because as we returned to the car park I spotted some buzzards gliding over the ridge of Stoke Wood not far away from the castle. It was a real thrill to watch them veer and drift over the woodland.
This was the day we had planned to walk on Offa’s Dyke Path but it was so cold and over cast we thought we would not enjoy it and we certainly would not have been able to see the view and so we made a note to visit the area again another day. We had also picked up maps for bike trails in the area and so we will come back with our bikes another day.
Instead we decided to follow the ‘Black and White Village Trail’ a forty mile journey through the most picturesque villages of Herefordshire all notable for their architecture in one way or another. My photographs are not very good because it was dark and raining. This is the best one I took:
Before we left home I located a web site with photographs of places all over Britain and there were some beautiful photographs there. We were quite late back from this journey but we had made the best of our day I think.
Next morning we had arranged to meet a friend of Beryl’s who happened to be in hospital. We had hoped to meet him at home but he was called in for a knee operation and Beryl decided that we would visit him anyway. It took us quite a time to find the hospital and then a long time to find a parking space. Locating Don was much easier but we were only grudgingly allowed to visit him because it was lunch time. In the end having spent nearly two hours locating him we only spent about five minutes with him. Still, he seemed cheerful and to be recovering well.
We stopped for coffee in the hospital because there was a Costa coffee shop. After that we set off for Leominster stopping on the way at Bromyard Downs to eat lunch. Then we took a very scenic route to Hay on Wye. Again, it was bitterly cold and we did not feel like getting out of the car. In terms of timing I had hoped to leave Ross on Wye by about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and in fact we joined the motor way there at eight minutes past and arrived home at twenty past six despite grim traffic on the motorway system. So, we were just in time to see the semi finals of ‘Masterchef’ as planned. What the judges would have thought of us sitting watching it eating fish and chips I don’t know. It is a classic British dish though!
I usually make a comment about having fitted a lot in to a short space of time but you can see we did that. I also often say we would like to go again. We definitely want to go again this time and have started looking at where to stay. I hope you have been able to share some of our experiences without the cold weather affecting you.