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Archive - Monday, 14 May 2001
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Taking steps to avoid the water
Walk east from Castle Square, along any of the following: Harp Lane, High Street or Church Street (all parallel) to the Buttercross.
Turn down Broad Street, which descends to the River Teme, which you cross at Ludford Bridge.
Walk past The Charlton Arms to Ludford Corner, then turn right on a road for just a few paces before joining a path which takes you down to the Teme, where it runs below Whitcliffe. If the path is flooded there is a higher alternative.
When you reach Dinham Bridge you will see the first in a series of waymarked posts indicating the Mortimer Trail.
Follow the trail uphill to meet a road and then go more-or-less straight on, joining Lower Wood Road, a "no through road".
Leave the Mortimer Trail, which soon branches off into the forest.
Follow the road along the northern edge of Mortimer Forest, ignoring a bridleway on the left, and both a footpath and bridleway on the right. Eventually you will come to a second bridleway on the right, by a sign reading "private road no vehicles".
Join this bridleway and follow it past Brick House, The Poles and Poles Farm to reach the hamlet of Lady Halton.
Turn left by Lady Halton Farm, ignoring a sign for another bridleway branching off on the right.
The main bridleway leads across Oakly Park to reach a T-junction. If you would like to make a short detour (about a mile there and back) to visit Bromfield, turn left. To return directly to Ludlow, turn right.
After passing Priors Halton Farm the bridleway joins another "no through road" which leads to Dinham Bridge. Cross the bridge and walk uphill into Ludlow. You can either go straight up Dinham or left on the Mortimer Trail up to the castle.
After all the recent rain, the countryside can seem uninviting for all but the keenest walker.
Riverbanks are flooded and potentially hazardous, and it's not much fun struggling across sodden fields with several pounds of mud clinging to your boots.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way, and until the weather improves we're going to be looking for the driest possible routes. This one is ideal because it's basically two quiet and scenic "no through roads" linked by a bridleway, which has a hard surface for most of its length. There is only one short muddy stretch and there may also be some surface water on Lower Wood Road, but nothing too serious.
It's a very undemanding walk, which takes you west of Ludlow to the fringes of Mortimer Forest and then into Oakly Park, an estate of farmland, parkland and woodland belonging to the Earl of Plymouth, whose house, also known as Oakly Park, is sited beside the River Teme close to Bromfield.
After crossing Ludford Bridge near the start of the walk, look for a plaque on a cliff at Ludford Corner which records the work of the great geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who established the Silurian system in the 1830s after studying Shropshire's amazing variety of rocks. The "Ludlow Bone Bed" was found in 1990 in the limestone above the plaque, revealing fossils of tiny mite-like creatures which were among the first land animals 400 million years ago.
The first of our two "no through roads" is Lower Wood Road, which offers panoramic views of the South Shropshire hills, and also of the Leintwardine and Downton areas of Herefordshire. Shortly before you leave the road at Brick House you will see, a mile or so further west, what looks like a perfectly preserved mediaeval castle.
This is actually an 18th Century fake, Downton Castle, built 1772-78 for Richard Payne Knight, the grandson of one of Britain's earliest ironmasters, Richard Knight (1659-1745) of Madeley, who established a forge on the Teme nearby.
Downton Castle sits above dramatic Downton Gorge (not visible from Lower Wood Road), one of the loveliest places in Herefordshire, where the River Teme has cut a narrow, steep-sided, cave-riddled, heavily wooded, limestone valley.
The gorge is a National Nature Reserve, managed by English Nature. The Downton estate now belongs to the Perrier family, of bottled water fame, and the castle belongs to a Greek millionaire.
If Downton Castle is a magnificent fake, Ludlow Castle is the real thing, founded around 1085 by the Norman baron Roger de Lacy, and this walk provides what is probably the very best available view of it.
Approached from the north-west, it is seen at its most formidable, and its superb defensive position high above the Teme can really be appreciated. Seen from the bridleway near Priors Halton the castle completely dominates the landscape.
Also of interest is Lady Halton Farm, where Henry Hickman was born in 1800. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and was the first person to experiment in the field of anaesthesia by inhalation. He was dismissed as a madman, and died at the age of 30, of disappointment and frustration according to some, and it was many years before the importance of his work was recognised.
In 1930 a plaque was unveiled in his memory in the church at Bromfield.
Start: Castle Square, Ludlow; GR 510746.
Length: 7 miles/11.2km.
Maps: OS Landranger 137 or 138; OS Explorer 203.
Terrain: Gentle; mostly hard-surfaced tracks and lanes, with one muddy stretch.
Public transport: good daily bus service, changing at Kidderminster or Hereford; daily train service, changing at Hereford; all details from County Bus Line 08457 125436.
Refreshments: Excellent choice in Ludlow.
This walk has been carefully checked and the directions are believed to be correct at the time of publication. No responsibility is accepted by either the author or publisher for errors or omissions, or for any loss or injury, however caused.