Locked-down Ludlow pulls together

Ludlow is pulling together.

Despite the sign, there's nothing to smile about for Ludlow businesses.
Despite the sign, there's nothing to smile about for Ludlow businesses.

With the town in lockdown like everywhere else, there's a local group which is making sure food gets through to those who can't get to the shops.

"I think everybody is managing very well," says Councillor Viv Parry, the Shropshire Council member for Ludlow South.

"We have PLT – Pull Ludlow Together – which is delivering food to people."

Some local shops are doing their bit and making deliveries.

There has already been a well established Hands Together Ludlow community group in which volunteers do good work in the town, and the PLT effort is an extension of that.

As is to be expected, Viv reports that the town is quiet, except for people going for a walk and things like that.

And the walkers may face more walking still, as a new development is that the two buses, the 701 and 722 providing an in-town service, are going down to one bus with a reduced service.

Stalled – the market is closed.

"We've been having them every half hour, but starting today (Thursday) we will have one bus running, at 8am, 9am and 10am, and then 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm," she said.

Ludlow Mayor Tim Gill said: "Ludlow is almost like a deserted town, apart from the supermarkets, Tesco at the bottom of Corve Street, and Aldi towards the station."

There are a number of other smaller stores open selling food essentials, but he said: "When I was up in Ludlow yesterday I should think I saw a dozen people.

"There was talk of keeping the market open for food but we were advised by the police not to. I personally think that was a mistake, because they would have been selling food, and it means that more people are being forced into the supermarkets.

"Quite honestly the supermarket isn't a place I would want to go shopping at the moment, even with them putting down markers and having signs to get people to keep their distance. That's easier said than done."

As for community spirit, he says: "There are a lot of organisations pooling their resources to support people who can't get out."

However, he has been struck by something.

"One on side there's a good community spirit. On the other you have people going into Tesco's and virtually stripping it in the early morning. You have that interesting contrast. Although I haven't been in in the last two days, until very recently there was no bread, no pasta, and meat had gone. It's just selfishness."

A lonely place – one of the town centre streets.

And it's not just been food that has been snapped up. Tim says he went in to Ludlow Homecare the other day expecting it to be quiet.

"They said no, they had been busy. I said 'What, people buying screws and nails?' They said no, it was freezers – they had had a run on freezers."

As for how Ludlow will emerge from the crisis, he says: "My concern is that there are many small traders who were struggling before this."

Because of an increase in on-street parking charges and a reduction in the time allowed for free "pop and shop" parking, a Ludlow Town Council survey had shown some had already been down one third on their business.

"Now they're not trading for goodness knows how long. I'm really concerned that Ludlow will lose a lot of its distinctive small traders.

"The parking changes dealt Ludlow town centre a fairly grievous blow, but Shropshire Council was deaf to it.

"There's another impact in that Ludlow is lucky in that it has got a lot of pubs owned by individuals. We have five independent pubs and they must be really hard hit.

The historic streets are quiet.

"Then there's the impact there will be on people being employed in Ludlow. On the whole all the businesses are employing local people, so when it's finished, if they don't reappear, then jobs are going.

"My great fear is that Ludlow is famous for its market, one of the few towns with a regular market. A lot of the traders were not making a huge amount of money, but it was a regular income. Are they going to be here trading again?

"That's important to Ludlow Town Council. In a normal year we would get about £150,000 from the market, going up to £180,000 a year – £180,000 pays for a lot of things in Ludlow."

With churches nationally closed, the Rev Kelvin Price, Rector of Ludlow, says it's a case of using lateral thinking.

"We are looking at what we can do, rather than what we can't do, and what we can do is work from an online platform. It's only been a week but we've set up a daily prayer people can log on to and join as a community at 9am from Monday to Saturday, and then one specific for Sundays at 10.30."

And in his churches he has set up a network using the contact details of members of his congregations, breaking them down into groups of five and with one person in the group calling the others weekly to check on their spiritual and practical needs.

There's also a weekly sermon, in sound and based on a written text, going on the church website.

"On top of that there will be a weekly video update from one of the clergy with a short message on the current situation."

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