Archive for Trees

In Praise of Autumn

Summer is beginning to drip away. The chestnut is turning russet and yellow, while the split silk of its conker cases are being squashed by cars parking underneath. Along Friars walk, in the stone wall and railings that mark out Stephens Close, small pale pink and white cyclamen have flowered. The blackberries have unfortunately been cut back, but the hips on all the roses are ripe and swing like pendent earrings in the slightest breeze.

In the kitchen the steady drip through the jelly bag announces damsons deep crimson juice is ready to be bottled. It goes  really well with our apple crumble, as well as an ingredient in sauces and stews.

We were fortunate to be given a small crop of local pears, grown in a high walled garden. Ludlow is replete which such spaces. The tall Georgian houses each hiding a walled back garden. How romantic. One of my favourite books is Hodgson-Burnet’s “The Secret Garden”. First read as a dreamy child, it is still taken down and read from time to time.

We lightly poached these pears in a red wine syrup and serve them with chocolate ice-cream. Local pears with a local ice-cream, what a great combination. Autumn is full of good combinations; from  apple and blackberry to venison and cranberry. It will soon be time to think about mixing mincemeat, that evocative seasonal blend of fruit, nuts, and a tipple or two of alcohol.

Autumn is coming in all the colours of a good fire in the grate. A good book by the fireside, a poached pear, chocolate, lovely!



Walk This Way Too

A couple of times a week, I take the long way round to work and a very different walk it is. A trip to Ludlow town is always a pleasure, it is so easy to moan about the steep streets, (I’m sure they put a brick under its slabs last night!) and to forget to look. My husband has given me a love for architecture which enhances any town centre visit. Ludlow just keeps on giving.

I start my journey by walking up Frog Lane towards the town walls. What a great name! Even if it was named for its damp water meadows. I wonder if it’s inhabitants were thought to have webbed hands and feet?

I turn left, passing the tiny black and white cottage, conscious that I am walking the boundary of the old leper colony, its gardens and hospital. I so want to think it was a place of peace as well as isolation.

The town wall gardens are vibrant, with their newly minted greens and blues, the Blue bells look as if enamelled against the bricks.

A woman is pushing a buggy and walking her dog and talking on her MOB all at the same time. I wonder if she noticed the shadows cast by the trees over the pavement, or heard the birds twitter patting in their branches.

Wheat sheaf Inn passed, looking spick and spam with its new coat of paint I turn under the last remaining gateway and enter Ludlow. It always makes me smile to remember that we live “beyond the pale”, outside the town’s protecting walls. Although if I remember some of my local history right, most of the local rouges lived inside the town. Perhaps we were better off outside, if looked down on, literally.

What’s not to like about Broad Street? It has been voted the most attractive street in England, and it certainly enchants me. Not just the gracious Georgian sweep with those enticing hidden walled gardens, but the gorgeous glass façade of the Wesleyan chapel, the yellow paint of the medieval, the Victorian pillared and covered shopping arcade, Bodenhams, leaning and creaking on  the top corner, as if its holding up the café next door. (Always be De Greys to me). A Ludlow institution now sadly gone.

The Butter Cross is the icing on the Broad Street plate, though not in the street but looking down it, as if keeping an eye on the comings and goings. When it was the home of local government, I’m sure they kept it all in their sight.

So, left at the top and the real purpose of my visit, buying local produce for the café. First stop Walls the Butcher’s. Charlie’s on form today and singing at the top of his voice from the cellar.

They certain cram a great range of locally produced and butchered meats from a very tight space. They are there from about 6.30 most mornings, and I have never known them to be anything but helpful and cheerful.

We are very fortunate to have three local butchers in the town when many towns have to rely on super-market meat. Now one of the best pieces of advise my husband ever gave me, and bare in mind that this is from a man who has worked in the catering industry most of  his life, is ; “Always look the person you are buying your meat from in the eye.”

Next on the round is Prices the Bakers. We have been using Price’s a long time. They were still baking in the old original bake House in Quality Square then. Turning into the square on a cold morning to the aroma of bread and cakes baking was wonderful.

Their shop was formally an old coaching inn and has some great history hidden behind its walls. But I am on a mission and today just order and receive freshly baked bread.

Last stop is round the corner in Mill Street to Farmers Fruit and vegetable emporium.  It really is the way to shop for perishable goods. I love the range they have, the seasonal quality and the display of flowers entices me in.

The Butter Cross clock is chiming out over head as I  make my way towards Galdeford and Green Pea.








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.





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?