Gone are the days when farm shops were little more than a garden shed by the side of the road or in an unused corner of the farmyard, they have become ‘destinations’ and the Ludlow Food Centre is the Queen of all farm shops.
Two miles north of Ludlow, on the A49, the Ludlow Food Centre is owned by the Earl of Plymouth and sits on the Oakly Park Estate (once owned by Clive of India). It is a treasury of fruit and veg, jams, breads, juices, and numerous specialist foods but, more important, it showcases local produce claiming that 80% of the products on sale come from Shropshire and its neighbouring counties. Not only that but it also claims that half of all the delicious food for sale is actually made in its own kitchens (wrapped around the shop and open to inspection through big glass viewing windows).
I love the Ludlow Food Centre and spend way too much money in there every time I stop to shop (it is rather pricey). However, it isn’t the whole that I want to put in my curiosity cabinet. Rather, I would like to place two items: their marmalade and their Eccles cakes.
The marmalade, one of the foodstuffs made on the premises, quite rightly is an award winner. I didn’t know that there were awards for marmalade until I purchased a jar of Lady Windsor’s Rich Seville Orange Marmalade for my mother and found that it had won a number of prizes at the Dalemain World Marmalade Awards (not the only awards won by the Centre but surely the most whimsical). The marmalade is really dark, really rich and as my mother says ‘gooey’ – not sure what she means by that, but it’s what I call proper marmalade – bitter and thick cut. Definitely something special.
The other item to add to the cabinet are the Eccles cakes. Baked in their on-site kitchens too, these were the best Eccles Cakes I have ever eaten. I suspect the pastry could have been a little lighter but I like a solid Eccles Cake. The filling was as generous as its overall size and juicy with a flavour of caramel and orchard fruits but not too sweet.
The shop isn’t the only attraction on the Bromfield Village site – there is a restaurant, an elegant hotel, ‘The Clive,’ a village store, post office, garden centre, something to do with bikes and a playground. Not quite the farm shop of old, but it provides local, seasonal and fresh delicacies all the same.