Ludlow is a beautiful town with many hills - it reminded me of Dartmouth in that respect! The festival takes place inside the ruins of Ludlow Castle, a medieval fortification in the town standing on a promontory which overlooks the River Teme. The castle was probably founded by Walter de Lacy after the Norman Conquest and was one of the first stone castles to be built in England, dating from between 1066 and 1085.
A range of stalls covered anything and everything to do with eating, drinking and cooking. Local ales and ciders, a range of meats served in a variety of ways – but no fish or poultry. Country clothes and very swish leather aprons were worn, whilst cooking utensils were used to illustrate almost obligatory knife demonstrations. All exhibitors were of a local nature, thus maintaining one of the fundamental aims of the festival. The Black Welsh beef burger and Black Welsh ale, in my opinion, were great - there were no complaints from me! The talks were both entertaining and informative - although, over dinner on Saturday, we wondered why there were so many celebrity chefs! The answer of course is simple, they bring the crowds - creating an audience for younger local chefs like Mark Harris from the Pheasant (where we were staying), who gave a great talk and demonstration.
I know the Weymouth Food Festival well – but, I believe it’s becoming more fast food orientated (as was Ludlow), and didn’t include enough demonstrations for my liking. Weymouth still features fish gutting, as does Faversham and the Fish Festival in Hay’s Galleria at London Bridge, but I’d like to see animals butchered and understand more about the cuts whilst finding out why they are cut in a certain way.
I had the Ale winner third on my list. However, they were both all too similar and all too blonde for me. There is a fashion for blonde beers at the moment, which is stealing lager sales – personally, I prefer slightly darker ales and porters. The winner of the Ale Trail was the Rose and Crown with a 5% IPA, which was pleasant enough. The Blood Bay had a 2.6% very drinkable blonde in the competition but also served a lovely stout which would have had my vote over everything else! I completed the Ale Trail (which has 16 pubs!) in 2 days - the inner town ones on Friday and the others on Saturday. It was quite a march out to the Nelson Inn, which got my vote, but that was nothing compared to the need for brakes in my heels going down to the Wheatsheaf Inn near the river, followed by the Charlton Arms and then a hike up to the Cliffe Hotel. I’d had the beer inside the festival, which I knew I wouldn’t vote for, but had to get the stamp on my card!
Having absorbed the beautiful Shropshire countryside and visited Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock, I had three very enjoyable days and learned a lot. Even the motorways on Sunday evening were trouble free – and it was a very pleasant journey at 23 degrees and 70 miles an hour with the roof down!