6. Gintown – Home is where the heart is
Why Ludlow is so special to us?
I mentioned briefly in an earlier article how Ludlow came to be so special to me. The fuller story stretches far back to when I was a mere 19-year-old student.
I met my future husband when I was at university; he’d recently been appointed as assistant organist at Hereford Cathedral, I was a student in Huddersfield also studying the organ, and so I began my visits to the Welsh Marches. For those who haven’t discovered the Marches 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 Pennines and Lancashire, Jodrell Bank radio telescope, the enchanting Stokesay Castle in its rural idyllic landscape and then the mighty tower of Ludlow Church; little did I know that one day that town would become a big part of my life.
Eventually after completing my post grad degree I moved to Hereford to join Peter. For five years I worked as a freelance professional musician: playing the harpsichord, conducting choirs and teaching organ, piano and theory. Early in my time here I was asked to play for a wedding at Ludlow Parish Church, St Laurence’s. I remember being quite bowled over by the interior, though at that time it was quite cold and dark, up a rather dingy alley and visited by only a handful of tourists. I didn’t think much more than that it made an interesting day out from Hereford.
I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life teaching privately and an opportunity came up to retrain as an architectural assistant, reading for a part-time MSc in Conservation of Historic Buildings at Bath University, and working for a new architectural practice in Hereford. Shortly after I graduated from that course, the post of Organist and Director of Music at Ludlow fell vacant, my predecessor having served for 27 years. I knew the building was in poor shape and needed some serious energy and enthusiasm to breathe new life into it. And so, from a long list of 17 applicants from across the UK I was appointed the 52nd organist of Ludlow since 1492. For 13 happy years I served as Director of Music, building up the choir and expanding the range of concerts held in the church. I also had the privilege of serving as Clerk of Works, overseeing a major programme of conservation that saw the building transformed into a warm, watertight building with three times the number of visitors; if you’re visiting Ludlow it’s a ‘must-see’, simply bursting with historical treasures, known quite rightly as the Cathedral of the Marches.
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.
After 10 years I knew that I was starting to get itchy feet, there’s only so much an individual can do in a job and I started hunting around for opportunities. That sense of hunger and drive has always been a valuable asset, and of course the rest is history: Ludlow Gin was born. You can find out more here.
Ludlow had become my work home, somewhere for me to spread my wings. The idea of making a gin named after the town and using locally foraged ingredients meant I could create a new story for myself – but more importantly a new story for Ludlow – something to help spread the word about this exceptional place. Over a period of 25 years the town had three Michelin-starred restaurants, not to mention the panoply of producers. But time had moved on, those restaurants had closed, and the food scene had developed into what I believe to be something more accessible and sustainable: a range of delis, bistros and small producers creating a buzz that everyone could enjoy. Ludlow Dry Gin was a natural addition. We’re so grateful to those people who’ve supported us locally. In fact, offering our support in turn is very important to us – we give regular donations to local charities and have made a particular effort to support the town food bank during our second year.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we don’t have a distillery big enough yet to open to the public, in fact I’m glad we didn’t go down that route just yet, I’m not sure we would have survived in this current climate of Covid -19 if we had. You can experience Ludlow gin at venues throughout the town though – our entire range is available in a tasting menu at the Church Inn, and you can enjoy our range at most of the other pubs and restaurants in Ludlow. If you’re in the mood to purchase, our entire range is always available at Taste No.1, where if you smile sweetly, samples are usually available.