John Betjeman wrote hat it was the loveliest town in England and Jeremy Paxman that there was no ‘visitor to Ludlow who hasn’t wished they lived there’. Who could doubt those two authorities, given that house prices, compared with any city, are bargain basement?
We resisted the temptation, difficult while sitting outside an estate agent’s office gazing at the timbered beauty of Broad Street – even if it accommodates a Holland and Barrett. One listed building, three storeys, four bedrooms but not timbered, was on offer for £250,000; less prestigious property was less than £100,000. To add to the allure the food market was offering local and imported craft cheeses: at any price these would have been worth buying – and I did, though saving the Picos blue for Friday and the journey home.
It was our second walk around the centre of Ludlow, perched on its hill around the castle, our main destination of the day. Most of the photographs are from the first day, when the weather was a little kinder. We had also found a long-stay car park within five minutes’ walk of the castle. Like the houses, that was reasonably priced: £3 for up to 7 hours, an incentive to leave any town in the south east.
The timber framed houses had clearly attracted buyers in earlier centuries than this highly inflationary one. There are almost 500 listed buildings, according to the town guide. Not all are black and white but several have associations with famous people. One Georgian building housed Lucien Bonaparte as a no doubt comfortable prisoner.
Opposite the castle is a ‘newly built’ timber framed house, that had been burned down in the Civil War. That was an original use for a blue plaque. Another was home to the town preacher of the same period. Several are now hotels or restaurants; one that we hope to patronise for farewell meal – even if Covid restrictions mean it will be takeaway – is the Fish House.
Ludlow is perhaps not as quiet as Housman recorded of Clun, which we will hope to visit, but it is much less than bustling. Ring roads keep most traffic away. Pedestrians have freedom to wander several streets, and nobody seems to be in a hurry. There is even a liquorice stall in the market, with provenance recorded for each item as though for vintage wine. That too would have made Betjeman happy.