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Here is a five-mile woodland ramble starting from the center of historic Ludlow in Shropshire. 

Your walk is a mix of town and country, the best of both some may say. You can stop half way through at Ludlow Castle, take in this historic monument, may be have some lunch. Then finish your walk back in the center of Ludlow with a well-deserved rest and an afternoon tea at the charming De Grey's teashop. 

We're not going to argue with Sir John Betjeman when he said that Ludlow is 'probably the loveliest town in England'. With that in mind, you can almost think of this walk as a bonus. You climb high into Whitcliffe Woods then emerge on Whitcliffe Common for the very best view of the town and its great Norman castle, towering above the River Teme.

From the common you could soon be back in the centre of Ludlow, but it is also possible to return along the riverside path, known as the 'Breadwalk' and take in a little local geology on the way.

To walk through the doors of De Grey's teashop on Broad Street is to step back 50 years in time. The building itself is much older, with low sagging ceilings and heavy beams.

But the red and white tablecloths create the atmosphere, along with the waitresses in their black dresses and white pinafores serving neatly cut sandwiches and trays of tea - with strainers. There are no new-fangled teabags at De Grey's. Tea here can be a set meal, including fresh sandwiches, spongy scones and pastries bulging with cream, or more simply, a pot of tea, with a choice of cake from the display.

Lunches range from Welsh Rarebit and triple-decked sandwiches to hearty pies and fresh salads, with a selection of wines to accompany your meal. De Grey's is open every day from 9am to 5pm (5.30pm in summer). Telephone: 01584 872764.

DISTANCE 5 miles.

Returning via the riverside Breadwalk, rather than directly, would add an extra ¾ mile to this. It's also possible to walk the 'Whitcliffe Loop' alone (2 ½ miles) by parking at the Forestry Commission Headquarters.

STARTING POINT

Start here:

The entrance to the castle, Ludlow (GR SO509746).

HOW TO GET THERE

Entering Ludlow from the A49, you will quickly pick up signs for pay-and-display parking. The most convenient is just behind Ludlow College, only a stone's throw from the castle entrance.

A bit of History..

Ludlow can trace its origins back to the 11th century with the building of its castle. But its greatest success came in the Middle Ages when its markets gained renown for their wool and cloth. Some of the town's finest buildings come from this time, and you should not leave without seeking out the Feathers Hotel from 1609, with its elaborate timber façade.

Other interesting buildings include St Laurence's church, the largest in Shropshire (A.E. Housman's ashes were scattered near the west door), and of course the castle itself. Add to that Broad Street and Mill Street with their fine Georgian buildings, and the tangle of narrow alleyways harbouring many specialist shops and you will see that, combined with the walk, you can easily fill a whole day when you visit Ludlow.

The Walk

1.Facing the castle gates, turn right and take the path around the castle to descend to the road beside the river. Turn left, and then right, to cross Dinham Bridge.

On the far side the road swings right, but instead go straight ahead, climbing the steps to come out through the woodland of Whitcliffe Common. For this early part of the walk you are following the 'green shield' signs of the Mortimer Trail.

2. Emerging on the road beside the common, turn right and walk down to the bend where the Lower Wood Road goes off on the left. Turn up this road for about 30 yards, and then follow the Mortimer Trail signs up a path on the bank on the left.

The path weaves up and down (mostly up!) on this wooded bank for about a mile, finally doubling back to come out on a road. Cross this road directly to the buildings of the Forestry Commission on the opposite side.

3. Beside the buildings, a board shows you the route of the 'Whitcliffe Loop', which you are about to follow through the forest - abundant red waymarks will guide you all the way. Walk through the barrier and then keep ahead on the main track until, after about 10 minutes, the signs direct you to branch off up a grassy track on the right.

This leads to an open area, and a bench from which there is an impressive view into the depths of the Mary Knoll Valley. When you turn away from the viewpoint, you can continue along the grassy track, which is now running downhill. Soon it joins the main forest road, and you carry on descending on this until you reach a path junction with a bench alongside.

4. Turn left here (the first on the left - it is waymarked) and walk gently uphill through the larches. At another junction with a bench, turn left uphill, and then beside yet another bench take the track on the right.

5. At a major path junction, leave the Whitcliffe Loop (it goes left back to the car park) and keep straight ahead along the edge of the wood with a field on your right. Eventually you reach the buildings of North Farm, and then the road.

6. Turn right and walk down to the junction. Just a little to the right here is the grassland of the Whitcliffe Common, from where you have a fine prospect of Ludlow and its magnificent castle.

From the information panel, walk left across the plateau to where you can rejoin the path that descends to the river bridge (the one you were on at the beginning of this walk).

7. Now you have a choice - you can quickly return the way you came to the castle entrance, or turn right on the riverside path known as the Breadwalk. After a few minutes' walking, the Breadwalk climbs away from the river and reaches a minor road, 100 yards or so farther on.

Now turn left to cross Ludford Bridge and continue under the arch of the Broadgate to enter the town. Walk up Broad Street, with De Grey's on the right, and turn left at the Buttercross to return to the castle.

The walk is courtesy of Shropshire Teashop Walks, a book by Judy Smith

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