Ludlow is an historic, exceptionally pretty town in South Shropshire, bordering the counties of Herefordshire, also in England and Powys, Wales’ largest. Latterly Ludlow has been hyped (many would say massively over-hyped) as England’s provincial gastro capital.
There for a few days, holidaying with Daughter One, I came to the conclusion that the hype was only partly justified. Granted there are two Michelin-starred restaurants (there were 3 until Shaun Hill quit The Merchant House to take over the Franco Taruchio’s legendary The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny) but the supporting cast is mundane at best – the cafes unenticing and the pubs wearisomely formulaic.
The real glory of Ludlow is in its local produce which is exceptional with good bakers, great butchers, pie, cheese and jam makers and myriad other artisans. Also, of course, the pastoral idyll that surrounds you.
We stayed at Lower Buckton, a small country house b&b near Leintwardine, a pretty village only a few miles from Ludlow, ensconced in glorious countryside – perfect for the walking we had planned to undertake. Lower Buckton gets forkncork‘s vote for Best Breakfast for Ages with home made meusli, yoghurt, Welsh honey, home made breads, jams and marmalades, crowning glory being the perfectly poached eggs, yolks deep golden; superb butcher’s sausage and what I think is the best dry-cured bacon I’ve ever tasted. Oh and nearly missed the tasty fat field mushroom, topped with fresh sage. Good coffee too, makes a nice change. No tomatoes though – “They aren’t in season” said Carolyn, giving the clue to what Lower Buckton is all about. Anyhow, we were stuffed, we didn’t need tomatoes. But we did need the hike afterwards.
The night before we had eaten a meal of local salami, home made mushroom paté (must get the recipe) and quail’s eggs, with a delish bread from a local baker – Carolyn says it’s called ‘Shropshire Brown’; followed by ultra-fresh wild venison liver, pearl spelt and lovely assorted greens dug up that afternoon from the garden by Henry, Carolyn’s husband, who introduced himself to us as ‘the butler’.
Henry Chesshire and Carolyn Stone are a convivial couple, with the knack of making guests feel at home. A good few years ago they decided to shun supermarkets and everything you eat now comes from the garden, the local farms, or local artisan producers and the quality shines through. Carolyn also gives cooking lessons. Thanks go to Henry for keeping us topped up with tea and coffee as we sat in the comfortable lounge, tapping laptops or resting aching feet.
One caveat, though. I’m sure H & C won’t mind me saying that they are country folk, with the habits and prejudices that a rural upbringing implants. Hunting, shooting and fishing come as natural to them as dodging traffic and following footie to city dwellers. Hyper PC foodies should maybe leave their sensibilities at home or conclude here and now that Lower Buckton ain’t their bag.
Though personally I think the best use for horses (untrustworthy beasts, as I know from being dumped on my arse in a Connemara bohereen) is in salami di Milano, I can’t wait to get back to Lower Buckton. Thanks, Carolyn and Henry for a memorable few days.
ps Anyone visiting the Marches should also check out The Stagg at Titley – stellar food in a very pleasant pub/restaurant.