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Whitcliffe Campsite, North Farm, Whitcliffe, Ludlow, Shropshire
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Whitcliffe Campsite, North Farm, Whitcliffe, Ludlow, ShropshireIt was all very well for Dante to claim that the only perfect view is the one of the sky above our heads, but then he never climbed the hill west of Ludlow to Whitcliffe Campsite. Had he done so he might have had some serious second thoughts, for here is a panorama to rival any cloudscape you might care to imagine.

Indeed, given the right weather, a stay at Whitcliffe allows for one of the great British camping experiences: settling down in the early evening to watch as the sun, dropping below the hill at your back, lights up Ludlow's parish church in the valley at your feet. As the minutes slip by, the stone tower of St Laurence's turns from russet to gold and, at last, to jet-black.

The difficulty is in keeping one's eyes on the church, because just to the left of it is the once mighty Ludlow Castle, while behind the town the summits ofTitterstone Clee and Brown Clee vie for attention. After dark, the lights of Ludlow huddle together as if for protection from these twin hulks. Or at least that's what appears to be happening, especially if you've watched the spectacle while sipping at a bottle of the Ludlow Brewing Company's excellent Boiling Well.

Several cats patrol the grounds, one of whom is very friendly should you be in the mood for a bit of feline fussing. Meanwhile, if you hear a high piercing cry from the other side of the hedge, get your camera out and stalk quietly towards it (David Attenborough-style) because it will almost certainly have come from a peacock.

Whitcliffe Campsite, North Farm, Whitcliffe, Ludlow, Shropshire


But Whitcliffe isn't just about tranquil evenings and picturesque birdlife - the owners run a riding school, too, so if you book in advance you can go for a hack through Mortimer Forest which, very conveniently, is right next door GЈ19 per hour, minimum age five years, weight limit 101 kilograms).The forest - which is the remnant of a great Saxon wooded hunting area - is also criss¬crossed with trails for walkers and mountain bikers.

A precipitous mile below (the campsite itself is quite steep but has nearly a dozen level pitches), the historic town of Ludlow is a veritable treasure trove of delights. There are the picturesque weirs, over which the mellifluous River Teme flows; the mighty hulk of the Norman-built castle; as well as St Laurence's church, the so-called Cathedral of the Marches (stlaurences.org.uk).

The town was also the first in Britain to declare itself a member of Cittaslow, a movement that aims to improve the quality of living by eschewing the breakneck speeds at which modern life is led. In Ludlow's case, this means that there's a farmers' market (9am-2pm on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month), independent shops dripping with local produce, and more festivals and fairs than might possibly be imagined in one place. These include a transport festival, a music festival, a May Fair, an arts festival (including some open-air Shakespeare plays in the castle), a food and drink festival (foodfestival.co.uk), and a medieval Christmas Fayre (see ludlow.org.uk for a calendar of events).

Whitcliffe Campsite, North Farm, Whitcliffe, Ludlow, Shropshire


A special treat for gourmands comes around every August in the shape of the Magnalonga Walk (magnalonga.co.uk), a seven-mile ramble with stops for delicious local food and drink en route. Poetry lovers, meanwhile, may want to pay homage at St Laurence's graveyard where, by the church's north wall, AE Housman's ashes are buried next to the stump of a cherry tree.

COOL FACTOR Where else are you going to get such a stonking grandstand view of Ludlow with riding lessons thrown in?

WHO'S IN? Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs (on leads) -yes. Croups - no.

ON SITE There are 11 level pitches, all with electric hook-ups, and an indeterminate number of sloping ones without. The camping field drops away quite steeply, so if all the level pitches are booked (and they must be booked in advance), be prepared to Velcro your sleeping mat to your groundsheet. There are 3 nice clean loos housed around the farmhouse and stables, a couple of decent (free) showers, and indoor washing-up facilities ranged around a stable yard. Ice packs can be frozen free of charge - just hand them to the owner. No campfires allowed, but bricks are provided for BBQs (and there's a £10 fine for any grass that gets burnt).

OFF SITE Mortimer Forest is right next door, and it would be a shame not to visit for a sylvan stroll or a ride either on a horse or a mountain bike (for which there are signposted trails). Bikes can be hired at Wheely Wonderful Cycling (01568 770755; www.wheelywonderfulcycling.co.uk). Ludlow Castle (01584 873355; www.ludlowcastle.com) is a terrifically well-preserved Norman fortress hosting a busy calendar of events, including medieval games and have-a-go archery. Nearby Stokesay Castle (01588 672544; see www.english-heritage.org.uk) is really just a fortified medieval manor house, but also well worth a visit. For a completely different day out near Church Stretton, the Acton Scott historic working farm (01694 781307; www.actonscott.com) - made famous as the venue for TV's Victorian Farm and Escape in Time - offers an insight into what life on a Victorian estate might have been like.

Whitcliffe Campsite, North Farm, Whitcliffe, Ludlow, Shropshire


FOOD AND DRINK For a real splash out, Mr Underbill's (01584 874431; www.mr-underhills.co.uk), on the banks of the River Teme in Ludlow, is a Michelin-starred restaurant famous for its 9-course market menu of the day. Sadly, the pubs in Ludlow do not have such a great reputation for food, but the Queens (01584 879177; www.thequeensludlow. com) is said to be the best of them. If you're feeling completely indolent, Munchies (01584 872636) will deliver pizza from noon to midnight. Alternatively, the Ludlow Food Centre (confusingly not in Ludlow but at Bromfield - 01584 856000; www.ludlowfoodcentre.co.uk) boasts 8 kitchens producing food and drink to buy, more than 80 per cent of which is sourced from Shropshire and its surrounding counties.

GETTING THERE From the B4361 that runs from north to south through Ludlow (starting off as Corve Street and becoming Old Street) head south over Ludford Bridge. Take the first right (almost immediately). This is the steeply climbing Whitcliffe Road. North Farm (aka Whitcliffe Campsite), which is signposted, is about a mile up the road on the left.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Take a train to Ludlow, and a taxi from the station to the site should only cost a fiver.

OPEN Easter-late September.

THE DAMAGE Adult £5 per night; child (10 to 16 years) £2, (5 to 9 years) £1, under-5s free. Level pitch £2 extra (and minimum overall charge £12 per night). Awning/ gazebo £1. Dog 50p.



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