Archive for The Building

The Dog Days of Summer

Let’s get this out, before we go any further, I am a frost worshipper. A clear blue sky and crisp clean air with a rime to every leaf and blade of grass is the weather I like.  Now we have the blue sky, but it’s hot, hot, hot and I am torpid in the heat. Even the sparrows have been invading the cool vault of the café. Tim has become a bird whisperer, getting adept at enticing them out of open windows and doors.

The roads outside are quiet, the car park a smell of gravel, dust and baking cars. The only shade is by our outside tables or under the chestnut tree, which has become the premium parking space. In the by roads and lanes around the town, the wild roses and dog daisies are starring the verges, celebrating the dog days of the year, July and August the hottest months. The name comes from the dog star Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky.It can been seen at the feet of the constellation of Orion the hunter, one of his hunting dogs. “Dog” is also a Latin tag for wild, feral.

Lunch time and salads and piquant prawns are the orders of the day; crisp lettuce, sweet tomatoes, beetroot, radishes. the bounty of summer. Ice cream has replaced custard as dessert accompaniment. The clink of ice against glass, a cloud of elderflower, sunshine orange.

Why not order a pic-nic sandwich and fruit or cake from us and take it to eat beside the river or up in the cool trees of the forest?

Outside the houses opposite shimmer in the furnace of the sun. Inside, I bless the high ceilings, cool white walls, and gently stirring curtains. If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen they say.

 

 

Art for Art’s Sake

We have been trading at the Mascal Centre for a whole year this month. While we are not actually hanging out the bunting and drinking a toast in champagne, we are glad to have made it through our first catering term.

One of the best things we inherited from the old café was the Ludlow Art Society’s Exhibition, who use one of our walls to house a semi permanent display.

These are all for sale and change every so often to keep interest going. There are some very talented artists among the collection, with a wide range of media and subject matter.

I have always been in awe of people who can produce something, beautiful, interesting or thought provoking with their hands. A favourite day out for us would be spent visiting  art galleries and collections of an artist’s work.

We also have a series of local photographs of the wild hill ponies up by the source of the river Teme, very evocative. I remember the day vividly. We were by a pool watching for dragonflies when the sun went in and they all disappeared. As we were about to leave my husband, Nick, noticed a string of ponies appearing over the brow of the hill. We stayed still and with bated breath watched as more and more appeared and came down to the pool to drink and play. It is an experience I shall never forget.

That is what art does for us, it transports us to another place, or gives us an insight into a different way of perceiving the world around us. They make a great point of contact with our customers, and the high and light interior shows them to advantage.

So, I can be listening to the sound of the tide breaking onto beached boats in a rocky Cornish cove, light bouncing off the water, the scream of gulls over head.

Or lose myself in an enchanted wood, where winter is barely over and these hot pre summer days are a spell that some welsh wizard has spun.

Or I can share the thermals in the air currents with the buzzards and hang suspended over the hills and fields of Shropshire.

Then I remember that there is an art to living as well, and that there is an art to cooking too. The thought and preparation that goes into producing the dishes needs concentration. The knowledge gained through experience of balancing combinations of flavours to make the food taste good.

Happy Birthday Pea Green Café! Come and celebrate life with us.

 

 

Walk This Way

My walk into work is a route I have used for over 30 years, it has many memories for me.

I climb the steep curve of Old Street, glancing up at the tower of St Laurence’s church dominating the sky line. There are usually one or more jackdaws circling. The old town walls come into view, with “The Lanes” asylum built into the gate house end. It’s been a fashionable town house for many years now and housed an Acupuncturist at one time. The gardens behind the wall are filled with mature trees and they seem to blend all of a piece with the gardens that now run along the length. A hanging garden of Ludlow.

 

Now I turn right, walking on the old brick paving with its soft and muted colours under the arch made by the Victorian houses. This probably was once the back entrance to the hotel, which is now a row of three storey terrace houses, with railed front gardens and porches. The view from the arch would seem to most people to be one of the changeless aspects of the town, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I started this walk when I walked my son to school. St Laurence’s infant school was part of the Mascal Centre then. The arch produces echoes and funnels your vision up the gentle incline of the lane. Where I grew up this sort of route between buildings with a turn in it was called a “twitchel.”

The first buildings are a pair of old coachman’s cottages, which belonged to the hotel. They have sweet little front gardens and I am fond of them because in one of them a gentleman called Fred Griffiths had his home. He was a large man with glasses and a small moustache who always seemed to be pushing a bike. I only once saw him in glorious free wheeling mode coming down Old Street with his shopping balanced on the bars, a huge smile on his face. He wore a flat cap and always touched its peak before speaking to me. He worked in the vegetable garden on the other side of the lane, probably of mutual benefit to both the people who lived there and Fred. Their garden was huge, and looked over the river valley towards the wooded slopes of Whitcliffe. They were an elderly couple who had moved from Norfolk, my Mother’s family home, so we got speaking too.

Now the house is up for sale and empty of life. The other side of the lane was taken up with E.Walters jean factory, a significant local employer. I can not deny that the new housing estate is more aesthetically pleasing, but I miss the sense of purpose and bustle the factory represented. The town, I’m sure missed the boost to the local economy the workers wages provided when they finally closed. After the school gate, the “new” school gate that is, there is a tall Gothic hedge, thick with ever green and shrub trees which darken the lane though birds love it . There is a door further up which looks like all the story book doors you read about as a child. It used to lead rather prosaically to some police houses. I don’t know if still does.

Now I have reached the last piece of the lane and it begins to open up and lighten as I get to the Mascal Centre grounds. I can see flowers and birds through the railings and can begin to gauge potential trade from the cars that are parked.

Nearly there, a step out through some rather imposing posts into Lower Galdeford, a short pull uphill and I turn in through the gateway and cross the car park to the open café door and the start of another day at the Pea Green Café.

 

 

 

 

Give God a Laugh

I had it all planned out, what I was going to say, the things I wanted to share with you. But life happens, and on Tuesday afternoon my handbag was stolen. I liked my bag, I bought it a couple of years ago when we were in Gt Yarmouth visiting my Mother. It was nothing special, but I had personalized it. It had just the right amount of pockets and zipped compartments, and a Lego Wonder Woman which was the place setting at our daughters wedding hung jauntily from the zip.

My purse didn’t  contain much money and I only have one credit card so that was easy to sort out. But the bag did contain the work’s phone and my personal Mobile phone as well as all those bits and pieces that might come in useful such as hair brushes, meds, tissues, keys.

I didn’t realize how much I had come to rely on my phone. They are so much more now aren’t they? They are the address book we used to carry, so no contact details for my nearest and dearest, its a clock, lets me know what the weather is going to do, lets me read the news in my break time, and most evenings I would go to the “stellar sky map” to look up which stars and constellations I could see from my west facing window.

It is my dictionary and encyclopaedia, I’m always looking things up. But most importantly for me, its my camera. It has really enriched my daily life and I miss it.

How childish this sounds, my bag wasn’t snatched, I was never in any harm, yet I still feel a bit vulnerable. Who ever it was took it now knows quite a lot about me. Luckily not where I live. But changing the locks, ringing the bank, the National Trust to ask for replacement cards, RSPB ditto, all takes time. Not to mention the all important task of replacing my phone!

So, as the wonderful John Lennon once said, “if you want to give God  laugh, tell him your plans!”

Hopefully back to normal next week, what ever that is.

 

Oh to be in England

Oh to be in England
now that Aprils there,
And, whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
(from Robert Browning’s Home Thoughts From Abroad)

Such a lovely morning that I started the day with a walk round one of Ludlow’s secret gems. I love an old garden, and the Mascal Centre’s is in full Spring time fig. The beds which border the car park are the boundary of the old buildings, and have had time to become embedded with mature shrubs and plants.The horse chestnut by the gate is older than the school, which was opened in 1857. Apparently the wall was built around its trunk. How many children have sat under its summer shade and played conkers from its largesse in Autumn?

All the spring flowers are pushing through the young foliage of annuals, making a dappled tapestry for the birds to flirt in. They are making such a racket now that the sound of passing traffic is just a background hum.

All of this casual beauty takes hard work to plant, maintain and control. When we were younger, we too had a flower filled garden. I was afflicted with that mild complaint of “Planta Must Have’em” suffered by the avid plant collector, and my long suffering partner would have the job of looking after the new arrivals, as well as the lion’s share of its maintenance. I just weeded a bit and stood on the side lines watching gratefully.

 

Seems the Mascal Centre have some compliant helpers too. I sat in the sun for a while gazing over towards a wooded bank, whose name I don’t know and was grateful that the developers hadn’t managed to get hold of this piece of estate. The white blossom fluffed and billowed, in most Houseman-like way. I suppose they are cherry trees, or are they romantically Shropshire Plum?

 

 

This bush of Bachelor’s Buttons has just been “let” to some discerning bird, a nest is concealed behind these wonderful yellow pom-poms, a frilled hurrah for warmer days and tea in the garden.

Trees Be Company

 

“In the company of flowers we know happiness. In the company of trees we are able to think, they foster meditation. Trees are very intellectual. There is nowhere on earth we can think so well as in a thin wood resting against a tree.”
(John Stewart Collis)

Woods have been on my mind recently. I have just finished the excellent book by John Stempel-Lewis about a wood he manages for a year in Herefordshire, he makes you look with fresh eyes at the way we use and relate to woodlands. Every morning as I come into the car park I greet “the guardian of the gate” a wonderfully gnarled horse chestnut of indeterminate age. He has daffodils at his feet today and I can see the buds breaking through the bark. Little points of light in a dull day.

A few weeks ago, the “Save Mortimer Forest” group were using the Mascal Centre to host their meeting and debate about the possible despoiling of the forest by a business consortium who want to build a holiday park here. There would be sixty cabins, a shop, a café all within the forest. A place which is currently free for us to roam in would be enclosed, private, no longer somewhere to visit quietly on long summer evenings.

We have visited the forest frequently since we came here 30 years ago. We brought our children and now take the grandchildren. Its varied flora and fauna, some like the deer unique to the forest never cease to enthral. We have seen adders basking on a rock in the late summer sun, owls feeding their young in the dusk. The noise they made was unbelievable. Squirrels, my grandson spotted one eating a nut the last time we went, and once and twice most magical of all the deer. A small herd flowed by us in the twilight, and once a single doe, leaped and ran beside the car, in and out among the trees accompanying us on our way back into Ludlow.

Then, last week a group from the Forestry Commission met up for a well deserved late breakfast after taking part in a deer survey. I don’t understand how the Forestry Commission can sell the land. I always thought that if an area contained animals and plants that were specific to that place, they were protected? Don’t we have enough B & B’s, hotels, guest houses, camping sites and caravan parks in the area to accommodate visitors? This seems to me another incidence of those in authority selling off assets that belong to the people of Ludlow and the surrounding area, like the old swimming pool and Whitcliffe Common.

How can you measure the age of a tree without either chopping it down and counting the rings or boring a hole into it, which sounds painful? Do we really have to chop down a forest to realize what we have lost?

 

Have Faith

My walk into work takes me up Old Street, beginning out side of the old town walls. It’s a long hill and starts with a small meander. Above the climbing roof lines St Lawrence’s church tower dominates the sky. I then turn right under the brick arch which penetrates the Victorian houses, and begin to climb up the path which is known as Friars Walk. It seems to have sunk a little, it’s been in use a long time. One side offers views over the lower town and the other is crowned with trees and shrub.

I like to think of all the Friars that have used it in the past, padding up to their Friary in Galdeford. Faith is an old-fashioned concept now, in this age of science, reason and technology. But the good works that the friars did here and still do elsewhere has been continued by the Hereford diocese who now own the buildings on this historic site.

One of the traditions that has been continued is hospitality. Weary travellers in times gone by would stop at Friaries and monasteries for food and a night’s rest from the perils of the roads.

Times have changed and even when Storm Emma meets the beast from the east, travelling is far easier than it used to be. But Pea Green is here to offer good hot meals, a bowl of comforting soup and a refuge from the weather. Just like this part of the town has always done. A tradition we are proud to be a part of.

 

Picture This

The centre is full again after the holiday lull with our lunch time buffets being the flavour of the moment. Its more than just a sandwich and the teas and coffees keep on coming! One of my favourite bites is the crispy potato skins filled with a good cheddar and grated celery, baked in the oven and seasoned to taste.

Our daily specials also seem to be making an impact, with a couple of local businesses cottoning on to our take away service. No need now for anyone to walk up the hill into town for a quality meal or hot soup.

Local artists have been hanging their work in the café for a while now, in fact the exhibits have just been changed. But the most stunning canvases, are three large pictures of wild hill horses, taken at the source of the river Teme.  They evoke a sense of place that create an icon for our area.

Come and visit our community café, enjoy the ambiance, the food and drink, and the art!