Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ludlow and Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

I had read a lot about the town of Ludlow, but our visit there left us disappointed, it may not have helped as I had woken up with a cold this morning.  Arriving in Ludlow it was market day and quite busy.  There were some interesting food shops around, which Ludlow is famous for, this Cheese Shop particularly caught my eye.



The courtyard of the Rose and Crown, possibly the oldest pub in Ludlow, with records showing that there has been an ale house on this site since 1102.  Currently it is owned by Jules Brewery of Market Drayton.



Tucked away between some buildings I spotted this blue plaque, which reads "Ludlow Civic Society - The Conduit.  A water supply point, given to the town in 1581 by Sir Henry Sidney, was moved here from the High Cross in 1743."  A conduit is a channel used for conveying water.


The Feathers Hotel has a very impressive and ornate frontage.  It was constructed in 1619 for a local Lawyer Rees Jones, who was part of the Council of Marches.  Its name comes from the Prince of Wales feather motifs carved into the wood frontage.


We then headed to Ludlow Castle, which had just opened up its doors again to the general public after hosting the Ludlow Food Festival for the last few days.

The original castle was built between 1086 and 1094 by Roger de Lacy and has been added to over the centuries.  It is currently owned by the Earl of Powis and the Trustees of the Powis Castle Estate.  There is a plaque on the gun that is positioned at the entrance to the castle which reads, "Captured 1855."  The gun is a 26 pounder Sevastopol Cannon, many of these cannon were captured during the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856.  The captured cannon were sent and presented to many cities within the British Empire.  Sevastopol is the largest city on the Crimean Peninsula and a major Black Sea Port.


Our first glimpse of the Castle as we walk from the visitors center at the main entrance.


Here you can see the bridge which crosses the moat to gain access to the inner bailey.  It is said that the moat has always been dry, filled with brambles and thorny bushes to make it difficult for enemies to cross.



This entrance is called Sidney's Gateway, named after Sir Henry Sidney who lived in the castle from 1559 to 1586.  He was the Lord President of the Council of the Welsh Marches for 22 years.  The crest above the arch shows the Sidney Coat of Arms and also Queen Elizabeth I's.


Some shots from the interior of some of the buildings.  This section of ceiling looks very impressive, I wonder what that vent hole could have been for?



There is also a large fireplace in this room.


Ok, who took the roof!!


Some of the windows still have glass in them, others around the castle would probably never had glass just wooden shutters to try and keep out the cold and winds.


From up in Mortimers Tower you get a good view of the castle.  Between us and the edge of Ludlow you can just make out to the right the buildings of the Outer Bailey which once contained a porters lodge, a prison and a stable block, which today contain a shop and gallery.  The building to the left is the Castle House which now houses the offices.


Here we are looking beyond the Castle walls to the surrounding countryside.  The River Teme runs through the trees down below us here.



One of the narrow, steep, spiral staircases that you can venture up, and back down again.


Mortimers Tower was built in the 13th Century by the Mortimer family, who were the current owners of the Castle, after Roger de Mortimer married Joan de Geneville, who was heiress to the castle.  In 1306 Mortimer was very powerful but also unpopular and was tried for treason as he was accused of being involved in the murder of King Edward II, he was hanged in 1331.


All around you you can see where sections of walls and floors are missing.


We are now looking through one of the larger windows that looks out into the heart of the Inner Bailey.


Here we are looking at the range of buildings at the rear of the castle which would have contained the Solar Wing, Great Hall, Great Chamber Block, Garderobe Tower and Tudor Lodgings.  The circular building to the right of the photo is the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.  The chapel was built in the 1100's and has an unusually round nave, which is all that now remains.


Doorways always give you a good sense of the thickness of the walls that surround you.  They also can be quite decorative.


They also make for interesting frames for your photos.


Another of the beautiful views across the surrounding countryside.


The remains of a fireplace with its chimney still hanging in there.


Here you can still see the remains of one of the ornately carved wooden window shutters.
Also again here you can see just how thick these walls are.


The craftsman ship of these old castles is something to admire.


We are up at the top of the castle now with some impressive views of down below.




Here you can see Ludlow stretching out in the distance.


The tower of St Laurence's Church in Ludlow trying its best to stand above the height of the castle.  It is a member of the Greater Churches Group and is the largest parish church in Shropshire and is described as "the cathedral of the Marches."  The church was established as a place of worship by the Normans in the late 11th Century.  The church was rebuilt in 1199 and has had several alterations over the years.

Stokesay Castle, Stokesay, Craven Arms, Shropshire

While we were in Stokesay staying at the Old Vicarage we visited our neighbours, The Church of St John The Baptist and Stokesay Castle.  Once we turned off the A49, where the Old Vicarage is located, we passed by the Old School House before reaching the Church and Castle.

Although it is called a Castle, Stokesay Castle is basically a Medieval Fortified Manor House.  It was built by Laurence of Ludlow, a wealthy wool merchant.  He built the castle during the 1280's and early 1290's.  It is currently managed by English Heritage.

Your first view of the Castle as you approach the Church is of the North Tower.



The oldest parts of the Church here are Norman and pre-dates the Castle, although it has largely been rebuilt after being damaged during the Civil War.  The Interior still retains some mid 17th Century fittings of an Anglican Church.



The inside of the Church is quite simple although there are one or two interesting aspects.  The alter area is quite small but looks in keeping with the rest of the Church.


The gallery that we can see here would have originally been built for the orchestra to sit, around 1855 the orchestra was replaced by a Harmonium and later by the Organ which you can see today.
The first five pews to the right as you enter the church from underneath the gallery are said to have survived Oliver Cromwell's attack.


The two sets of stained glass windows were restored in 2015 and are impressive looking.



From this picture and others you will see later, the Castle is located in the bottom of a valley in the Welsh Marches, the England Wales Borderlands to the West of the River Onny as it passes through Wenlock Edge.


Looking across from the shop and ticket office to the impressive looking Gate House, with the Castle tucked behind.


There is the remains of a moat running around part of the Castle, walking around it gives you a different, impressive view of the Gate House and Castle walls.


The black wood work against the yellow plaster certainly adds character to the Gate House.


Here we are standing underneath the South Tower.


Here we are approaching the North Tower with a half timbered room "jettying" out above the stone walls below.  "Jettying" meaning an overhang in architecture.


It does make for quite an unusual feature.


Here we are looking across the courtyard to the South Tower and Solar Block.

The South Tower has three floors and thick walls, although during construction two large buttresses had to be added to support the walls.

I had never heard of the Solar Block, but the Solar was a room in medieval manor houses and castles, designed as the family's private living and sleeping quarters, general on an upper storey, with the brightest aspect.

Generally the room or large open space on the ground floor beneath the Solar was known as the Great Hall, where all members of the household would eat.


As with a lot of the windows around the Castle they remain unglazed, as in the 13th century, with wooden shutters providing the only protection again the elements.


The door into the Great Hall.


The Great Hall is a very impressive space and you cannot do it justice in a photo, it is 54.5 feet (16.6m) in length and 31 feet (9.4m) wide.  The roof is supported by three large 13th century wooden arches.


Looking through some of the windows to the view outside, its a bit of a windy day, with rain clouds floating around, you can imagine it would have been really drafty without window glass.




The staircase in the Great Hall that runs up to the first floor room of the North Tower, has treads cut from whole tree trunks, the carpenters marks from 1291 can still be seen on each one.


Inside the first floor room of the North Tower with a large fireplace and alcove, showing that the walls are mostly stone with some plaster remaining.


There are some lovely views from here, framed by the windows in the tower.





You get to see a lovely view along the valley leading away from the farm next door.






Here you can see the remains of the lake which used to provide all of the water that the Castle required on a daily basis.


The main room in the Solar is still lined with the panelling from the 17th Century, with this ornate carved fireplace.



If you look very closely at the tree line just down from the top of the photo and just right of the center you can just make out the grey roof of the Old Vicarage where we are staying.





We stopped off at the onsite cafe for lunch, one of their specials was Fidget Pie, which we just had to try.  Fidget Pie is a pie filled with gammon, onion, potatoes, cider and apples, which is then topped with cheese and a pastry lid.  I have read that there are two possible origins of the name, one being the original shape of the pie having five sides.  The other the way that the ingredients fidget around in the pastry during cooking.  Traditionally served with pickle, this pie was originally created like the Cornish Pasty for farm workers to easily eat.  This one came with some interesting sides of baked new potatoes, a small pot of gravy, salad, carrot and coleslaw, a strange combination, but it tasted lovely.


After lunch we decided to walk part of the Three Woods Walk, a circular walk from the Castle.  The first part took us along the lane past a farm and over the railway line.


There was then a steep climb across two fields to Stoke Wood, the views looking back down the hill to the Castle and along the valley are spectacular.




We then went along the edge of Stoke Wood, the going was a bit slow in places due to the mud, and because the path was just inside the wood, we lost the views and just had to follow the track.  Parts of Stoke Wood are classed as good examples of ancient semi-natural woodland and are at least 400 years old.

Once we reached the end of the wood at Clapping Wicket, we then had to cross an open field, complete with sheep.  We have never really done much of this type of walking across open fields, so find it quite un-nerving walking through fields of animals, especially when the sheep start running, but fortunately away from us.



We just managed to reach Sallow Coppice just as it started to rain and boy did it come down, but we were ok in the trees.  Sallow Coppice is another example of ancient semi-natural woodland, it used to be mainly sallows (willows) but they have long gone.

The whole way through Sallow Coppice we could feel that we were headed back down the valley.


Some of the fungi we spotted in the Coppice.


When we got to the end of Sallow Coppice we decided to take the shorter route along the edge of some more sheep fields heading back to Stokesay Castle, this time we went under the railway line.



I had my Strava App on my phone tracking our walk and at the end we had covered 6.1 miles.