The decision to abandon a comprehensive park and ride service for last weekend’s Ludlow Food Festival was bizarre. If you want to put off people coming to Ludlow Food Festival, this was the way to do it.
Many people I spoke to complained of how far it was to walk, especially on their way out of town. People with limited mobility struggled with the journey. Those leaving on Saturday and Sunday afternoon were treated to typical Ludlow rainstorms. Depending on their fitness and where they had parked their cars, it would have taken between 20 and 40 minutes to return to vehicles.
The weather in Ludlow is the weather in Ludlow – we are all used to it. But I cannot work out what was on the minds of the Festival organisers when they asked a local farmer to create a park and walk site on Foldgate Lane. By the best available route, this site is 2km (1.25 miles) from the Castle. It’s also on a narrow lane unsuitable for anything other than occasional light traffic. The field is pasture with no surfacing. A tractor was on standby to tow people off if the rain poured down, as it so often does. It poured down.
Getting vehicles on and off this “park and walk” site was the least of the problems. People faced a walk of half an hour both ways. Most were directed down to Steventon, finding their way onwards to Temeside and up the hill on Old Street or Broad Street. Others found their way to Sheet Road and a few caught the bus from there.
At the last moment, the festival management added a rider to the website to cover its embarrassment at having directed people to a barely accessible site:
This must be the first local food festival in the world to advertise a one hour return journey on foot.
Over the weekend, we saw many people struggling on foot up Old Street, Broad Street and Sheet Road – and worst of all on the steep bank from Steventon Road onto Foldgate Lane. One local man I know took to picking up people to help them out on the difficult journey. He was a hero. It was certainly more help than the festival organisers were prepared to give paying customers over the weekend.
This was not the only problem. I watched coaches discharging passengers in the Smithfield car park. Many struggled up Lower Galdeford. I don’t know why they weren’t dropped at the top on Upper Galdeford. It would have been courteous to do so. That would have met our general duty of equality. We should not discriminate against people with limited mobility and make it harder for them to attend the events that we all want to enjoy.
The usual 722 park and ride worked well, with Minsterley Motors running a bus every ten minutes to and from the Eco Park on Saturday. Mawley Oak ran a 15-minute frequency on Sunday. But there was pretty much zero information about the park and ride service and no signage by the food festival.
This year’s “park and walk” arrangement might be portrayed as the ultimate in sustainable transport. But I don’t think Ludlow Food Festival can be sustainable unless it improves parking and access. I also cannot believe that the festival organisers for one minute considered equality when organising this year’s festival. Food festivals should be for all, not just those that can hike for an hour or walk uphill.
On a brighter note, we raised nearly £250 by renting spaces in the Ludlow Youth Centre car park on Saturday and Sunday. Every penny will go to the Ludlow Youth Partnership, which organises and funds local projects for young people.