The dictionary defines pootling as ‘moving along in a leisurely way with no set agenda or aim’ and we have become expert pootlers since retiring. Last Friday we woke to a crisp winter’s day with clear blue skies and a touch of frost giving a sparkle to the world. As we sat drinking our morning cup of tea we pondered on a suitable destination for a day out? What to do? Where to go?Neither of us felt inclined to travel too far or to attempt anything too strenuous so we settled on a ‘pootling day’ and decided to head for Ludlow.
For my readers who do not know the UK well, Ludlow is a small market town on the Wales/England border and is steeped in history. The castle stands proudly at the centre of town and the narrow streets wind down from the market square enticing shoppers with their unique and special contents. Traditional crafts and family butchers rub shoulders with music shops and long standing hardware stores and each street is literally peppered with a wonderful assortment of eateries, their tempting aromas escaping out on the pavements. What better venue?
So we set off driving along quiet country roads enjoying the crisp morning, sighting pheasants and squirrels and delighting in a fox creeping along the hedgerow. After fifty minutes or so we decided to stop in Craven Arms, another small county town where the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre sits, it’s sedum covered roof making it blend softly into the surrounding countryside. A great bonus of a day spent pootling is that you never quite know what you will come across; we stopped for a cup of coffee in the excellent cafe and we did indeed have this along with a sumptuous piece of spicy, gingery pear parkin, but after enjoying our elevenses we wandered in to the gallery to find an exhibition of wonderful photographs by Jean Macdonald, http://www.behindmylens.co.uk/. This is a link to the artists website rather than just the display we saw but we thoroughly enjoyed her work.
Back in the car we drove the last ten miles in to Ludlow and parked the car where the man in the car next to us gave his ticket which allowed us to park free for the remainder of the day, a random act of kindness that helped the day along.
It was market day and we enjoyed browsing the stalls,buying locally made sausages to take home, a new oak side table from a flea market( we can only wonder whose elegant lounge it may have graced before ending up in our cosy Welsh home), and some small Christmas gifts. We then headed to the local hardware shop which proudly states above the door that the same family business has been in situ for over 150 years, and pushed open the door. Inside you are confronted by a vast array of items on shelves, protruding from old oak drawers, hanging from the ceiling and stacked on the floor. Not knowing where to begin to look for a poker for our wood burner we went in search of a staff member and were met by an impeccably dressed gentleman in full tweed suit, waistcoat and cravat with a handlebar moustache which would not have gone unremarked in Victorian days! Instantly answering our request he set off and reappeared with an array of fire irons from which we could make a selection. Our purchase was duly wrapped and kept behind the counter for later collection so that we would not be burdened with it on our tour of the town.
The day had remained cold and by now we were feeling ready for food again so made our way to a favourite pub, The Blue Boar where settled by a log fire to eat hot platefuls of cottage pie. As we wandered the smaller back streets on our way to the car I spied a Stationers and felt compelled to go in. I have always loved stationery items and this was a true treasure trove; not only pens, pencils and paper of every type but everything any artist could want or need, which kept hubby very happy. At the rear of the shop, far away from the toys and jigsaw, models and board games was a stand containing exercise books and picking one up I was instantly transported back to my teaching days. As a child I had always loved the thrill of a new exercise book, it seemed to embody a fresh start, a new beginning without any errors, the clean white paper devoid of any ink blots or marks from the teacher’s red pen. As a Primary teacher I can still recall vividly those trips to the stationery cupboard early in September to collect armfuls of new books, green covers for maths, blue for English, red for Geography and so on. Seeing them lined up at the front of the class in readiness for a new group of children was a sign of hope and possibilities and standing there in the shop, I was for a moment, back in school surrounded by the murmuring of children’s voices and the smells of chalk dust and school dinners.
I dragged myself away from the past and we headed more slowly now back towards the car when my eye was caught by the quiet street in the accompanying picture. These little alley ways are irresistible, they cry out to be explored and so we strolled the length of the quiet street marveling at the age of some of the cottages, intrigues to find a seamstress and wine merchant hiding in this out of the way spot.
It had been a good day, full of unexpected treats and pleasures and I am reminded of the quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, ” …to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”