'Salop', of course, is the abbreviated name for the county of Shropshire, and yet another example of Anglo-Saxon deviousness as they strive to confuse any visitors! As I told you, the 'Memsahib' and I visited the area somewhere around 16 or 17 years ago and it made a deep impression on us to the extent that when we decided to leave the 'Greater London' area 13 years ago then Salop was our first choice but cooler, wiser thoughts eventually prevailed, the distance back to the area where friends and family lived plus the fact that Salop is really Wales but without the Welsh but with the Welsh weather! So instead of moving north west we moved south west but without ever losing our fond memories of the area round the ancient market town of Ludlow. Thus, last week's return for another look was inevitable.
But let me start by praising, nay, raving about the best B&B in the country - The Old Rectory at Wheathill. It is as near to a 5* hotel as you can get. Three large double bedrooms, beautifully furnished with the biggest beds I have ever slept in. The Georgian-period house is elegantly and comfortably furnished and surrounded by lawns, flowerbeds and a huge variety of trees and shrubs over which sundry squirrels, rabbits, hens and three ducks wander at will. The place is run by 'Izzy' and Andy Barnard, a delightful couple and superb hosts.
Absolutely our first visit was to Powis Castle which had made such an impression on us the last time we were there.
The building itself is not particularly attractive - very few military castles are! - but the design of the gardens takes your breath away. From the castle heights a series of terraces with a luxurious mix of flowers and shrubs descends down to a water meadow at the bottom. Down one side there is a huge yew hedge which seems to pour down one side of the castle hill and which has been 'carved' (so to speak) into an abstract series of shapes which look like thick green cream:
Then it was off to Stokesay Castle, another place that had made an indelible impression on me during my first visit. Actually, it is more of a fortified manor house than a castle and it was built in the late 13th century by Lawrence of Ludlow - a wealthy wool merchant so presumably he had much to protect!
What I particularly like about this place is that very little of the main structure has been changed or added to so that if you narrow your eyes but open wide your imagination you 'feel' and 'sense' what it must have looked like 900 years ago.
Then it was off to a new site for us - Croft Castle. This has been, and part of it still is, in the ownership of the Croft family for a thousand years. The Crofts are mentioned as the owners in the Domesday Book. It has been altered over the centuries and provides a nice mix of medieval to modern.
It also has its own private church in the grounds - as one does, of course!
Naturally, we had to revisit Ludlow, a delightful country town with a castle that dates back to Norman times. Alas, the castle was also "one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit" so it is showing signs of wear and tear.
You can see from this photo how it dominates the countryside known in those olden days as 'the Welsh Marchlands'. In fact, keeping the Welsh in proper order was a fulltime job back then - as it remains today whenever they visit Twickenham for a rugby match!
Finally, here is a 'taste' of Ludlow:
No, no, it's not all like that but quite a bit of it is so you can see why the ancient town of Ludlow is such an attraction. It was an excellent trip and if any of you are looking for an enjoyable mini-break then I urge you to make for Ludlow, in general, and The Old Rectory B&B at Wheathill, in particular.
I'll be back to dreary politics later!