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The Rock-itt : October 2009
In last month's piece I was taking in the delights of Cork in Southern Ireland and the joy of seeing Christy Moore perform in that City's famous 'Marquee' venue. This month we are back in the UK and after enjoying my wife's birthday at the start of July with her family in Chalfont St.Giles, just West of London, we were off for a bit of a laugh and some culture in the Heart of England. On the Welsh border to be precise, in the lovely Georgian town of Ludlow in the County of Shropshire. This part of the UK is largely unspoilt and as it's not too near a motorway it's also a bit off the tourist track as well. We used to spend time here when we lived in the UK and it's a ritual that on our way we call in at a village called Chaddesley Corbett. The Village has a rich history and is situated just off the M5 Motorway near Bromsgrove in what is known as 'the Black Country'. It's attraction for me is The Swan pub, and even more importantly the beer it dispenses which is from a local brewery called Bathams. Bathams bitter is a hoppy brew, straw coloured and oh so drinkable! Thirst quenched, we leave the motorway behind and carry on. We travelled about thirty five miles into Shropshire, passing through Kidderminster (more of this place later) before dropping down from Clee Hill into Ludlow. We were booked in for the night at the Ludlow Travelodge. On their map it looked as if it was right in the centre of the town, it had been built since we were last here. Unfortunately, their map lied and it was actually on the outskirts of the town and right next to the busy A49 road! We were stuck on the noisiest side and as this was festival week in Ludlow, everywhere else was booked up so we had to stick it out. These Travelodges are usually pretty good, although in my experience, the rival chain 'Premier Inns' is much better. However, we were here to enjoy ourselves so we took it on the chin. For about $140 for a room for two nights it was still reasonable value. Up to now we had been lucky with the UK weather, even catching the tail end of their 'heat wave' which in truth was about equivalent to a good regular sunny day on the Northern Beaches. However, the forecast wasn't good from here on in and as our rendezvous with Romeo and Juliet was in the open air within Ludlow's Norman castle, it was fortunate that it was the first thing we attended. I'm no regular theatre goer but I enjoy it when I do make the effort. The Ludlow experience is very special, a great setting within the centre of the ruined castle, only about 300 people and a cracking good play. Strange to think that if they had had mobile phones in Shakespeare's day it could have all been sorted out in an instant! It was great to catch up on all we had missed about the area, particularly the pubs! The second night we spent in Ludlow was a real joy. As part of the festival they have all manner of entertainment and tonight's treat was 'An Audience with Victor Spinetti'. Spinetti will not mean much to readers of Rock-itt but to people of my age he was a real star. Probably most famous for his roles in the film "Oh What a Lovely War' and The Beatles film 'Hard Day's Night'. He regaled us in his show with tales of all the massive stars he had met during his career. He's put on a bit of weight but was still extremely funny. To add to the craziness of the night my wife and I nipped across the road during the interval to the Blue Boar Inn and got briefly involved in a Karaoke Hen Night celebration, Ludlow -- something for everyone! The day after we were on our way back to London but not before indulging in one of my other 'nerdy' passions. I love railways and Steam railways in particular. A little further North East of Ludlow is Bridgenorth, headquarters of the Severn Valley Railway, a 22 mile working steam railway branch line. Always worth a visit, it conveniently has great pubs on its terminal stations either ends of the tracks, Bridgenorth and Kidderminster. This weekend was a 40's weekend with all the Railways staff dressed in 40's attire and many visitors joining in the nostalgia. This De Greys café in Broad St. Ludlow, Shropshire Ludlow Castle getting ready for a bit of Shakespeare The beautiful Shropshire countryside