1. Gin glorious gin - The Eureka moment
My ‘eureka’ moment, and a little background...
So here goes – how I came to create Wardington's Orginal Ludlow Dry...
The ‘eureka’ moment actually happened in Cornwall, Christmas 2017; think post belated Christmas family lunch with the in-laws and you’ll get the picture. I ought to explain that both my husband and I are professional organists – well to be completely accurate he still is, and I was at the time. Christmas is beyond manic in that world. In the run-up to 25th December, some 3,500 people would have been through Ludlow parish church singing carols; so post-Christmas is always a time to eat, drink and catch up on the merriment. My sister-in-law, always sharp and very perceptive, handed me a little snifter after our meal – some apple brandy made by a neighbour, who’d just launched a small distillery. A smile and four words followed: ‘You could do this…’. I laughed, enjoyed the warming apple glow and thought no further. The next day, I went for a bracing run – always good to clear the head, it’s where I do my best thinking. I passed a gin distillery, and ‘ping’ – on came the light: ‘No one has made a Ludlow gin, now there’s a challenge.’
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak; seizing opportunities became second nature to me growing up. I had an incredibly loving and secure childhood, but fortune and opportunity had to be won by hard work and determination. Mum was widowed the week before my first birthday. My parents had had a childless marriage for some 18 years, and then suddenly, I came along – boom! Mum worked in pubs – remember those days when they only opened at lunchtime and in the evening? She started behind the bar of a friend’s pub, and for many years worked as a cook, renowned for her warmth and personality. She gave me both a love of food for its own sake, and an appreciation of food and drink created with love.
The great epiphany of my childhood was being taken to my first carol service at our local church. Candles, choir, organ all combined to create an experience that was beyond my imagination. Ultimately, I went on to learn the organ, was lucky enough to win a scholarship and read music as an undergraduate and postgraduate. The entrepreneurial spirit certainly plays a big part in being a musician, and that extended to the culinary creations in our little student house: there was usually a vast vat of ginger beer on the go, and demijohns of wine bubbling away outside the bathroom. The beer was virile stuff, popping all over the town in friends’ kitchens and cupboards.
I met my husband when I was at university; he’d recently been appointed as assistant organist at Hereford Cathedral, and so I began to visit the Welsh Marches. For those who haven’t discovered this beautiful area, it’s the wonderful rolling green hills and fields west of Worcestershire, the borderlands of Wales, full of history and a good splash of mystery too. The journey from Huddersfield across the Pennines, through the beating heart of Manchester and south into the Shropshire hills was very memorable. I love a good train ride, and this one had several landmarks: the mills of the Pennines and Lancashire, Jodrell Bank radio telescope and the mighty tower of Ludlow Church; little did I know that one day that town would become a big part of my life. Eventually, via an MSc in the Conservation of Historic Buildings and time working in as an architectural assistant, I ended up working in Ludlow. For 13 happy years I was Director of Music at the historic St Laurence’s Parish Church, combining the role with that of Clerk of Works, overseeing a major programme of conservation. (If you’re visiting Ludlow, the church is a ‘must-see’, simply bursting with historical treasures.)
Ludlow is an incredibly special place, with over 500 listed buildings. It has always been a magnet for visitors, as well as providing inspiration for poets such as Housman. The town has seen many changes of fortune: royal occupancy of the castle; becoming for a time the political capital of Wales; a centre for the wool trade, then glove making; and a picturesque tourist town to visit. In more recent years it has become the home of great food, with regular farmers’ markets, passionate producers, and a smorgasbord of restaurants, cafés and gastropubs.