Two metre distancing has proved difficult on Ludlow’s narrow streets. It has proved impossible on many of its narrow pavements. The market reopened but there have been fewer stalls. People have been walking about, especially in the afternoons. But do they spend the money that we need to keep our town centre and its traders thriving? Can we get the buzz back into our town?
That buzz has seemed an impossible ambition in recent weeks with Ludlow’s famous market operating at less than half its capacity. With Ludlow Castle closed. And our pubs, cafes and restaurants closed.
Many of us have felt like we were walking through a ghost town. We felt uncomfortable at times. Should we be there at all? Are we allowed to parade in our town? Can we hope to shop in our town?
From 4 July, that should all change. Social distancing restrictions will be eased. It will not be business as usual but it will be business in Ludlow. Ludlow will be open!
Ludlow is a historic town with a streetscape full of cafes, pubs and restaurants. It is a haven for independent traders. Our town has one of the best open air markets in England. But the market has been limping along since it reopened a few weeks back. There have been only one in three stalls in use. Some of our most popular traders complain they have been banished from the east side of the market, Post Office Square, to the remote Events Square by the Castle. Traders and customers speak with one voice that they do not know who will be selling what, where and when.
The change to a one metre social distancing rule announced today by Boris Johnson will allow more retailers to trade on the market. It means we can shop at our regular traders in their regular places.
More people will come to shop in Ludlow if we have more on offer. We need more people to shop in Ludlow.
The Castle will reopen. Cafes and restaurants will at last be open to customers to eat and drink on premises.
Pubs will spring back into life. From what landlords are telling me, they are going to be more continental in their style. It will be a table service. More people outside than in. The friendly chatter of people leaning against the bar will be all but banished. That’s the sad. The experience of casual encounters and talking about nothing of importance with someone you have never met will have gone. Inconsequential conversations with people who will very quickly become great friends will be lost as people have to order their drinks and food from suitably distanced tables. It will be like Groundhog Day in Wetherspoons. I hope that will not be forever.
It is time for Ludlow to bounce back into action. If our retail economy doesn’t thrive, Ludlow won’t be Ludlow.
We don’t have a roadmap to recovery. But recover we must. Ludlow must thrive.
No one should take any risks. Everyone one of us must make our own judgments on where we should be out and about, and when it is appropriate to do so.