Category Archives: Ludlow

Wrekin (The Welsh Marches Line)

I’ve linked to this song before elsewhere, but as I’ve added quite a lot of background info this time, I thought it was worth a post of its own. And it suddenly struck me that if it was worth posting on my Cornish blog, it probably merited a post on my Shropshire blogs.

Wrekin (The Marches Line) (words & music by David Harley)

The Abbey watches my train crawling Southwards
Thoughts of Cadfael kneeling in his cell
All along the Marches line, myth and history
Prose and rhyme
But these are tales I won’t be here to tell

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again

Lawley and Caradoc fill my window
Facing down the Long Mynd, lost in rain
But I’m weighed down with the creaks and groans
Of all the years I’ve known
And I don’t think I’ll walk these hills again

Stokesay dreams its humble glories
Stories that will never come again
Across the Shropshire hills
The rain is blowing still
But the Marcher Lords won’t ride this way again

The royal ghosts of Catherine and Arthur
May walk the paths of Whitcliffe now and then
Housman’s ashes grace
The Cathedral of the Marches
He will not walk Ludlow’s streets again

The hill is crouching like a cat at play
Its beacon flashing red across the plain
Once we were all friends around the Wrekin
But some will never pass this way again
And I may never pass this way again

‘The Abbey’ is actually Shrewsbury’s Abbey Church: not much else of the Abbey survived the Dissolution and Telford’s roadbuilding in 1836. Cadfael is the fictional monk/detective whose home was the Abbey around 1135-45, according to the novels by ‘Ellis Peters’ (Edith Pargeter).

The Welsh Marches Line runs from Newport (the one in Gwent) to Shrewsbury. Or, arguably, up as far as Crewe, since it follows the March of Wales from which it takes its name, the buffer zone between the Welsh principalities and the English monarchy which extended well into present-day Cheshire.

‘The hill’ is the Wrekin, which, though at a little over 400 metres high is smaller than many of the other Shropshire Hills, is isolated enough from the others to dominate the Shropshire Plain. The beacon is at the top of the Wrekin Transmitting Station mast, though a beacon was first erected there during WWII. The Shropshire toast ‘All friends around the Wrekin’ seems to have been recorded first in the dedication of George Farquar’s 1706 play ‘The Recruiting Officer’, set in Shrewsbury.

‘Lawley’ refers to the hill rather than the township in Telford. The Lawley and Caer Caradoc do indeed dominate the landscape on the East side of the Stretton Gap coming towards Church Stretton from the North via the Marches Line or the A49, while the Long Mynd (‘Long Mountain’) pretty much owns the Western side of the Gap.

Stokesay Castle, near Craven Arms, is technically a fortified manor house rather than a true castle. It was built in the late 13th century by the wool merchant Laurence of Ludlow, and has been extensively restored in recent years by English Heritage, who suggest that the lightness of its fortification might actually have been intentional, to avoid presenting any threat to the established Marcher Lords.

Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII, was sent with his bride Catherine of Aragon to Ludlow administer the Council of Wales and the Marches, and died there after only a few months. Catherine went on to marry and be divorced by Henry VIII, and died about 30 years later at Kimbolton Castle. Catherine is reputed to haunt Kimbolton, so it’s unlikely that she also haunts Whitcliffe, the other side of the Teme from Ludlow Castle. (As far as I know, no-one at all is claimed to haunt Whitcliffe. Consider it poetic licence…)

For some time it has puzzled me that in ‘A Ballad for Catherine of Aragon’, Charles Causley refers to her as “…a Queen of 24…” until I realized he was probably referring not to her age, but to the length of time that she was acknowledged to be Queen of England.

The ashes of A.E. Housman are indeed buried in the grounds of St. Laurence’s church, Ludlow, which is not in fact a cathedral, but is often referred to as ‘the Cathedral of the Marches’. It is indeed a church with many fine features (I have about a zillion photographs of its misericords) and its tower is visible from a considerable distance (and plays a major part in Housman’s poem ‘The Recruit’).

The song was actually mostly written on a train between Shrewsbury and Newport at a time when I was frequently commuting between Shropshire and Cornwall to visit my frail 94-year-old mother, who died a few months after, so it has particular resonance for me. It originally included a couple of extra verses about Hereford and the Vale of Usk, but after the ‘Wrekin’ chorus forced its way into the song, I decided to restrict it to the Shropshire-related verses. Maybe they’ll turn up sometime as another song.

David Harley


Shropshire Blue and other cheeses

On the ‘About’ page of this blog, it says:

This is not a blog about cheese, even though I’m partial to it.

Still, following a discussion on the Facebook Memories of Shropshire page about Shropshire Blue and Ludlow Blue cheeses, I couldn’t resist commenting (slightly edited with the addition of a couple of links):

Ludlow Blue is actually made at Ludlow Food Centre. Shropshire Blue’s origins are in Inverness, but some is now actually made near Oswestry by the Shropshire Cheese Company. As far as I know, the main difference between the two is that Ludlow Blue uses carotene rather than annatto for colouring.

Paul Meakin expanded on that commentary and has kindly allowed me to quote him here.

Shropshire Blue was originally ‘Blue Stuart‘ from Castle Stuart Dairies, Inverness. It was resurrected briefly in Cheshire but it took off when it began to be manufactured by Long Clawson Dairies, Leics, and two other major Stilton producers in Notts […]The Eyres Family (Shropshire Cheese Company) at Abertanat took up production in Shropshire and Belton Cheese, at Whitchurch now make it too, as do Ludlow Food Centre […]

If that weren’t good enough for a lover of blue cheeses, the Moydens at Wistanswick […] are now making TWO local blue cheeses: Ironbridge Blue and Wrekin Blue. Try them if you haven’t already…wonderful. And that is not to mention the other fantastic cheeses made in and around the County!

Thanks for that, Paul. I think there might be a little more cheese-tasting in my future. 😉

David Harley


If you’ve looked through this site, you may have noticed that I’m quite fond of the poetical works of A.E. Housman, whose remains can be found in St. Laurence’s churchyard in Ludlow, not five minutes walk from where I’m sitting right now.

Which explains why I have a short-ish article in the January-February issue of Ludlow Ledger entitled While Ludlow Tower Shall Stand, about my personal voyage into the Housman’s world. The title of the article comes from A Shropshire Lad III (The Recruit) and while it’s quite suitable for the content of the article, I hadn’t realized at the time I wrote it that Clive Richardson had used a very similar line from the same poem for his book Till Ludlow Tower Shall Fall, or else I’d have used a different title. Sorry, Clive! Still, I don’t suppose my little article is going to affect the sales of your book adversely. 🙂

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Ludlow sunset

A couple of sunset shots taken in Ludlow. (The reference to Keswick is explained by the previous article on that blog, which shows some sunset views of Derwent Water.)

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

David Harley Photos

Taken this evening. Sorry, we don’t have a lake in Ludlow like the one in Keswick.

Taken from the side of the castle that overlooks the Teme facing across to Whitcliff, but in this instance I turned almost due West for obvious reasons. I really like the natural frame provided by the leaves, though it’s probably a gambit I use too often.

ludlow sunset

And here’s Mortimer’s Tower, on the same side of the castle, catching the last of the sun.

Mortimer's Tower

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

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May musical events: Unicorns, Trackies, and Grey Wolves

This isn’t really an events tracking page: I don’t want to offer anything like that until I have the time to keep it updated properly. However, I can’t ignore these and may well be at all three. I hope that doesn’t put you off.

There’s an excellent folk session on the first Friday of every month at the Unicorn, in Corve Street Ludlow. The next one is on the 2nd May, 2014.

On Saturday May 10th 2014, Folk Down The Track (a gathering of folkies who mostly seem to find their way over from Shrewsbury to Knucklas, though I sometimes wander over there myself) and Folk Up The Track (apparently based in Llanelli, though I can’t find a web site for it*) will be meeting at the Llanerch Inn, opposite  Llandrindod Wells Railway Station, for ‘a FREE fun day of acoustic music from mid- day’. Travel arrangements as detailed on the flyer I have:

Northbound train departs Llanelli at 09.34, arriving in Llandrindod at 11.35. Last train to Lla- nelli/Swansea departs at 19.35, arriving in Llanelli at 21.40.
Southbound train departs Shrewsbury at 09.00, arriv- ing in Llandrindod at 10.29. Last train back to Shrewsbury departs at 20.40, arriving at 22.08.
Special rates on accommodation are available for those who wish to stay overnight at the Llanerch Inn, call 01597 822234 for more information.

*For more info, contact Roger Price 0780155 1747

Here’s an event right in my backyard, as it were. The Parkway, just off Corve Street in Ludlow, frequently puts on blues/folk events with the likes of Will Killeen (a frequent guest when I used to run folk clubs in London), and on Sunday the 11th of May is putting on a special event with buskers jamming from midday on (yes, I may be there, though busking isn’t really my thing) and with the very excellent Grey Wolf (accomplished purveyors of Americana) playing a set in the evening.

Here are a couple of pages that offer a wider spread of information for events in this area and beyond:

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World


Frankwell, Shrewsbury: the old String of Horses/Co-op building

This is another drawing by my uncle, Eddie Parker. It shows the building in Frankwell, Shrewsbury, that I remember as the Co-op. However, according to Historic Buildings In Art, a web site devoted to the work of William Albert Green (mostly pen and ink drawings), the building was originally built in 1576 by John Worrall as two houses.


For some time it was an inn that went under various names, notably ‘The String of Horses‘. Part of the building became a Co-operative Store after a fire in 1912. It was dismantled around 1971 to make way for the Frankwell roundabout, but was rebuilt at the Avoncroft Museum at Bromsgrove. (I’ve been promising myself a visit to the museum for years but never made it yet.)

Shrewsbury Museums Service has a photograph of the building here, and there’s a drawing by William Green here, one of a number of his Shrewsbury drawings. As a former resident of Ludlow, I like his drawings of our little town, too, but it seems he drew subjects from all over England and Wales.

I suppose for consistency with similar posts on this site I ought to include a photo of the roundabout to show what the area looks like now, but as I  live in Cornwall and don’t get to Shropshire much these days, it probably isn’t going to happen.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Real Shropshire Blues

…at the Pop-Up Blues Folk Bar at The Parkway, Corve Street, Ludlow SY8 2PG.

It’s just off Corve Street via a passage (since this is Shropshire, I should probably say ‘shut’) leading to the library, on the same side as the Feathers but further down the hill.

It’s a tiny venue, with a single loo up the stairs. (Reminded me a little of Bunjies, but at least you don’t have to ask for the key. OTOH, downstairs is a lot smaller than the London venue was…)

Will Killeen played there recently, which sounds like a recommendation to me (I booked him several times back in the dark ages when I ran folk clubs in London), but I was unable to get to that one. Last night I went to see Trevor Rowley, who turned out to be a competent performer playing quite a lot of slide and including several Robert Johnson songs, a piece very loosely based on Blind Willie Johnson’s beautiful piece ‘Dark was the night, cold was the ground’, T-Bone Walker’s ‘Stormy Monday’, and Muddy Waters’ ‘I can’t be satisfied’.

The venue is apparently booked into May. More information when I have some… (Or you could contact Stuart on 07462266575.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Weir-ed and Wonderful

You might think that now, when the water level is so low, would be a really good time for salmon to be thinking of swimming up the Teme.

horseshoe weir lite

But I’m not sure how good salmon are at thinking out of the box. I mean tin.

Horseshoe weir, Ludlow/Ludford. And having a look at the Photoshop watercolour filter.

David Harley