Tuesday, 9 August 2022


It has been a tough couple of weeks here at Dove Cottage, with disruptive and at times excessively loud building work going on next door, which has been playing havoc with anything involving the use of my brain.

Although taking a look in the rear-view mirror at our UK holiday in June has been a blessing, selecting photos and stringing sentences together for a blog post has been quite another kettle of fish. 

Therefore, this one has been cobbled together whenever I could snatch a rare moment of peace and quiet.

For my travelogue's penultimate installment, I am taking you back to Saturday the 25th of June.

While I was still feeling a bit tired and lightheaded, most of my migraine's symptoms seemed to have done a runner. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said about the substandard weather. By the time we'd finished breakfast and were ready to go, we'd already seen grey skies, drizzle and the odd fleeting ray of sunshine. What's more, our weather app said there would be "highs" of only 14°C!

We had to do another food shop, so we drove down to nearby Bishop's Castle, the wonderful little town where we'd started our holiday just under a week ago. 

As the rain seemed to be holding off for now and the clouds had parted to show rare patches of blue, we started by walking up and down the high street, where I was struck by the wonderful variety of door knockers and noticed that the town seemed to have a penchant for elephants. Couldn't help snapping a couple more of those road signs of bygone times either!

We struck lucky at the town's one and only charity shop, where Jos fell in love with a butter dish and I found a label-less lightweight cotton maxi dress. 

I found the brooch on the bottom left in a small second hand shop I forgot the note the name of. 
The lovely owner kindly informed me that the flowers in the brooch were woven from silk and used to be given away with Kensitas cigarettes in 1933 and 1934, contained in a protective card. Intrigued, I proceeded to do some googling, and was amazed to find a whole website devoted to them. Here I discovered that mine belonged to the first series dating from 1933!

By the time we'd done our round of the shops and stocked up on food, ominous looking clouds had gathered and were in the process of obscuring the last of the patches of blue. 

It started raining while we were on our way back to the cottage and as there was still no let-up after lunch - indeed, by then, a gale force wind had joined forces with the rain - we decided to stay put and ditch any further plans for the day. 

The afternoon was spent reading and hemming a slightly too long maxi dress I'd charity shopped in the weeks before our holiday and which had gone straight into my suitcase. 

The weather forecast for Sunday was pretty dismal and as we didn't feel comfortable visiting any National Trust properties with inside possibilities on busy weekend days, we were at a bit of a loss.

Then, by pure chance, we discovered that the weather would be mainly dry and several degrees warmer if we ventured south, so that the gorgeous gem of a town called Ludlow would be the perfect destination.

For once, our weather app was right, as blue skies with innocent looking fluffy white clouds and a temperature of 19°C were on the menu. Admittedly, there were strong gusts of wind as well, which warranted the wearing of my raincoat and scarf.

If I remember correctly, this was our sixth visit to the town, travelling from Herefordshire in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for the first three, so that it is safe to say that we know our way around a bit. 

Looking back at my old albums made it clear that I'm always photographing the same things, such as the famous timber-framed Feathers Hotel (above). The oldest part of the building, including the stunning timber façade, was built in 1619, during the reign of King James I, by Rees Jones, a successful attorney in the town. The name springs from the motifs of ostrich feathers carved into the gables of the façade.

The Feathers has a well-known reputation for being haunted both inside and outside, and on a number of occasions, an apparition has been seen crossing the road from the direction of The Bull Hotel (also haunted) opposite.

The latter is not to be confused with Ye Olde Bull Ring tavern (above, top and bottom right), another magnificent timber-framed building. Built in the 14th century and with a history dating back as far as 1365, it is believed to be the oldest existing public house in Ludlow. 

The Smith & Co. ghost sign at the gable end of the house (top left) refers to the grocery business of Gaius Smith, who in the late 1800s had shops at both 42 Bull Ring and 6 King Street.

I also spotted the beautiful old mosaic at the Boots the Chemist shop. I couldn't find any reference to its age, but it must be quite rare as all the photos I found on the Internet were of this particular shop.

We never fail to visit the stunning St Laurence’s Church either! The church was established as a place of worship when the Normans founded Ludlow in the late 11th century. Often referred to as the "Cathedral of the Marshes", its 135 feet (41 metres) high tower commands excellent views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Notable features include fine stained glass - the lovely Nikki recently devoted an entire post to them - as well as an extensive set of misericords in the choir stalls (below).

Misericords are medieval choir stall seats designed to be raised during services, so that the occupants had to stand. If they became tired, they could rest their bottoms against the small ledges protruding from the bottom of the seats; a small mercy of the heart (or misericordia).

With its 28 mercy seats dating from the 14th and 15th century, St Laurence's has one of the largest collections in any parish church, and the carvings on each one are fantastic. There seems to be an misogynistic theme going on though. The mermaid, for instance, being symbolic of the woman luring men away from the path of salvation. She is holding a mirror in one hand and a now missing comb in the other, and is flanked by two snarling fish. 

We stopped for morning coffee and, after browsing some of the town's charity shops, the majority of which were open on a Sunday, we walked towards Castle Square. By then, the sun was making up for lost time. We sat down for a picnic on a bench overlooking the square, accompanied by live music courtesy of the Ludlow Fringe Festival.

From the Castle Gardens, we walked down to the river, following the lane downhill  - a steep 25% gradient - then crossing over over the River Teme via the picturesque Dinham Bridge, where the  wonderful and famous view of Ludlow Castle opens up.

We'd planned to do the Breadwalk, which leads up and over Whitcliffe Common, but by the time we'd found the start of the footpath, we'd already run out of steam, and decided to return to the town centre. After all, we still had to climb back up that 25% gradient!

Back at Castle Gardens, we took the path skirting the castle walls. Built by the Normans in the 11th Century to repel a Welsh invasion, Ludlow Castle is one of the town's finest attractions, which we last visited on a hot Summer's day in June 2019. Here, here and here are some impressions.

Back at the cowshed, we stepped onto our terrace for outfit photos. I was wearing a beloved vintage maxi skirt, which I paired with a green and navy striped Breton top. This too was picked up in a charity shop in the weeks before our holiday. Like the maxi dress, this went straight into my suitcase. 

The flower brooch, necklace and belt were all bought on the high street.

The outlook on Monday's weather still being uncertain, we hedged our bets and drove south again, where the mercury was supposed to climb to 18°C and a mixture of sunshine and clouds had been forecasted.

This time, however, we left Shropshire behind once more, driving over the border with Herefordshire which, having holidayed in the area for three years running, wasn't exactly new territory for us. 

With our NT Touring Pass still burning a hole in our pockets, we selected Croft Castle for our next property, which would be number 5. By now, we'd already more than recovered our costs!

The present, Grade I listed building dates from the 1660s, replacing an earlier house some thirty yards to the west. Owned by the Croft family since 1085, the castle and estate passed out of their hands in the 18th century, before being repurchased by the family in 1923. In 1957 it was bequeathed to the National Trust. 

Our first visit to Croft Castle dates from 2009 but, while I can still clearly remember the walled garden, the parkland and the adjacent church - now sadly covered in scaffolding - I couldn't recall whether we'd actually been inside the house.  

The interior features Jacobean panelling, 18th century Gothick plasterwork and woodwork, Rococo chimney pieces and fine neo-Georgian decoration. 

I loved the opulent wallpaper and gold embossed overmantel mirror by Thomas Chippendale in the Ambassador's Room. This room was named in honour of the Austrian Ambassador Albert Count von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Diestrichstein, who was was due to visit Croft Castle in the summer of 1914 and whom this room was painstakingly prepared for. However, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated while on a visit to Sarajevo, triggering a chain of events that led to the start of World War One, the Ambassador and his would-be British hosts were now on opposing sides, so that the visit never happened.

Oh, and there's a rather splendid old water closet too!

After a visit to the loos, followed by lunch in the Carpenter's tea-room, we were ready to explore the three-acre walled garden.The garden, which even has its own small vineyard, is maintained by two full-time gardeners and a team of volunteers. 

The cloudscapes were truly dramatic that day, putting on a variety show of dark and menacing ones threatening rain at a moment's notice one minute, and marshmallow ones drifting in a bright blue Summer sky the next.

Having had our fill of horticulture, we thought we'd conclude our visit with a walk on the estate. 

From the way-marked trails on offer, we selected the Ancient Tree Walk, a gentle wander into the heart of Croft Castle's parkland. 

The walk offered stunning views across the Herefordshire countryside and took in the so-called Spanish Chestnut avenue, planted in the formation of the Spanish Armada around 350 years ago, and a 1000 year old Quarry Oak along the way.

Once we passed a cattle grid, there were sheep grazing everywhere, most of them not taking any notice of us at all, just the odd lamb bleating pitifully for its Mum on spying this weird-looking, red floral trousers wearing creature.

There was an impressive and somewhat eerie tree graveyard as well, contrasting starkly with the bright blue of the sky and the lush green of the grass.

The blissful quiet was only pierced by bird calls and the bleating of sheep, providing a soothing soundtrack I now desperately long for. 

Just as I do for rush hour on one of the country lanes leading back to the cowshed.


  1. It's so hard catching up on one's blog after vacation, isn't it? These blogs are full-on jobs at times! Well, we readers surely appreciate all of your work in presenting your travel and all the wonders you and Jos have seen!

    Lovely pictures - oh, Ludlow Castle is right up my alley! That brooch's history is fascinating! Love the tiled "Boots" sign (we had Boots stores here in Victoria for about 5 years back in the 80s - I still have a No. 7 lipstick from then!). I was fascinated by the Mercy Seats (I only knew the Nick Cave song - worth looking up if you don't know it).

    Outfits: Your cotton gown is gorgeous! So very much in style now, but I remember them from the late 70s/early 80s. LOVE that wonderful vintage maxi skirt, and your red/white trousers may have startled the wildlife, but not me - I'm a fan!

    I hope things are settling down for you now, my dear. Take care.

    1. Thank you Sheila! I'm fascinated by those mercy seats too, and yes, of course I know the Nick Cave song! xxx

  2. I love your maxi dress. The Feathers Hotel sounds scary. The carvings on the seats are beautiful.

    1. Thank you Lovely, and I'm not sure I'd like to stay at that hotel :-) xxx

  3. I'm glad that evil migraine didn't hinder your adventures.
    We saw Croft Castle advertised on a billboard when we visited Chirk but still haven't been. It looks fabulous and the photo with the ominous clouds is wonderful.
    We've not been to Ludlow since the last century - isn't that terrible?
    My grandma was a librarian in Boots library back in the 1930s (mad to think a chemist's shop had such a thing, isn't it?), she'd have loved that sign!,
    I've seen (and loved) that dress several times on Ebay - it looks fantastic on you. Love the Breton top with the maxi skirt and you really suit mustard yellow.
    Without sounding a bit Carry On, the knocker collage is brilliant! xxx

    1. Your Carry On remark made me chuckle :-)
      Fancy Boots having a library, I never knew that.
      Croft Castle is well worth a visit, that walled garden is magnificent! xxx

  4. Sorry to hear about the loud building work you are experiencing Ann. Hope the end is in sight!

    What a fantastic collection of door knockers! I love seeing Shropshire (one of my favourite counties) through your eyes. I have to say you are more informed than most of us Brits! I didn't know about Misericords! The Feathers Hotel is a favourite building of ours. We stayed there once. It's just steeped in character isn't it? I also have a very similar shot of those seed heads at Croft Castle - another favourite of mine.

    Love the dress and that brooch was a real find! I shall have to investigate that charity shop.

    I know that feeling of pining for a place when reality bites. Fingers crossed you make it back very soon. xxx

    1. I've had that remark before, that I'm more informed than most locals. Once when we were staying in Somerset, our host told another guest she'd better ask me :-)
      I'm not surprised you have a similar shot of those seed heads, I think I may have photographed them on our previous visit as well! xxx

  5. P.S. You probably know this by now, but Clive of India was once a Bishops Castle resident and the Indian elephant was his emblem. His son built a market hall for the town. xxx

    1. I had no idea about that Claire! You see, I do not know everything :-)) xxx

  6. I've really enjoyed accompanying you on your holiday in Shropshire. Ludlow looks like a fascinating place and OH and I must visit one day preferably for a long weekend.

    St. Lawrence's church and those amazing misericordia; Ludlow Castle and Croft House all looked so interesting.

    Wonderful outfits and the new to you maxi dress bought in the local village with that wonderful brooch...I had no idea about the Kensitas cigarettes which my mum smoked back in the 1960s and we saved the coupons to buy household stuff like glasses!

    Hope the noise next door ceases soon,

    Have a great weekend

    1. Thank you Vronni! Ludlow is well worth a visit and there's enough to see for a long weekend. Stokesay Castle, which is very atmospheric, is nearby as well! xxx

  7. I've loved every picture of your english holiday, all the wood framed houses, gardens, abbeys, towns, National Trust treasures and every detail that caught your eye and was set into those beautiful collages. Totally in love with your posts, and totally late in my commenting so just a quick mention to all the entertaining and joy they have brought me. Love your 'Lady of The Manor' pose!

    Love particularly those doorknobs!, and love those misericordias that caught your eye, they're usually humorous and fantastic, but also mysoginist (as it's almost every medieval scene concerning women!).
    Looking lovely in your floral maxi and those fab trousers!.

    1. Thank you so much Monica, and never mind about commenting late! Each of your comments is truly appreciated, whether it's late or not :-) xxx

  8. Hachz can I have 19 degrees please?! 🥴 😂 No wish concert.
    I totally enjoyed your travelogue. 💕 UK is soooo amazing.
    By the way, you are the charity shop queen. 😁
    wirh a huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina, and I wouldn't mind having 19°C either! xxx

  9. sorry for that bulding noise in your neigborhood! hope they will finish it soon!
    good old england is so pretty - is´t it?! the artful timber frame houses, the rich stately homes, the perfect gardens.....
    and sheep on a hedge bordered lane :-D
    hugsies! xxxx

    1. Thanks Beate! I love those hedge bordered lanes, which are so typically English, with or without sheep! xxx

  10. I hope that the building noise doesn't hang around for too long! It's a shame the weather wasn't perfect for your holiday but you certainly made the most of it - and I really like that maxi skirt you thrifted! that brooch was such a good find too. :)

    Hope you are having a good day :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! To be honest, we didn't really mind about the sub-standard weather. xxx

  11. Sorry 'bout the noise. That sucks. I love the picture taken through the car window.

  12. You put so much effort into your posts, I hope you know how appreciated they are. I love the maxi look on you, you're really rocking it.

  13. I'm glad the migraine cleared and you were able to carry on enjoying your holiday. I love the charity shop dress what a find. My Grandad had a whole load of cigarette cards and Mum and I had all of the flower ones framed they are so pretty.
    I do hope the building work finishes soon and thank you for your comment on my post, you are definitely not alone. xx

    1. Thank you Gisela, it's a relief that I'm not alone, and I do hope things will get better for us soon! xxx

  14. This post features some of my favourite places! :D Thank you for the kind link to my blog post.

    The last time I visited Croft Castle it had scaffolding around it, so I must visit again sometime soon.

    1. Thank you Nikki! The church was still in scaffolding, so perhaps you'd better wait a bit longer with your return visit! xxx

  15. I love your attention to detail and all the lovely knockers and elephants you found!

    Amazing to think you could once get beautiful embroidery with cigarettes!

    I love huge old trees! They seem so wise!

    1. Thank you so much Laura! I love ancient trees too! xxx

  16. I have a load of those silk flower thingies somewhere, though not in their original cards. Putting them in a brooch seems like a great idea.

    Ludlow's a lovely place. (We stayed at the Feathers and didn't see a single ghost...) It looks like you had a lovely time visiting there and Croft Castle.

    1. Staying at the Feathers sounds quite posh, but what a shame you didn't see a single ghost :-)
      I would never have realized the brooch wasn't original if the shop's owner hadn't told me! xxx