Roz and I revisited Ludlow, and this time we stayed in a charming artist’s studio that was once home to Hugh McKinnon. The studio is an upside-down building with a large decking area on the upper floor that is set amongst native deciduous trees and surrounded by wildlife. I was up at 04:00 hrs most mornings to experience the amazing dawn chorus. The decking provided easy access to a forest that I was eager to explore with my camera and I was not disappointed with my expedition.
THE ENCHANTED FOREST
The entrance to the forest had the appearance of an unguarded post. As though men-at-arms had recently absented for breakfast. I then discovered a second entrance with a door swung wide open; is this a trap? I am being lured into oblivion. Will I ever find my way out of the forest? At first, I didn’t see the eagle positioned high in the trees and peering down at me, as if guarding the entrance to some enchanted wood and scrutinizing all that continue along the path. Further-on I discovered a fire pit with still warm embers and the remnants of what was possibly last night’s feasting. I was intrigued, and continued with caution and sensing that my every move was being observed by the eagle. As I advanced up the track, I chanced upon what appeared to be a gathering of Tylwyth Teg (Welsh Pixies), perhaps they too were spying on me and were in communication with the safeguarding eagle. If I revisit this woodland path, I must remember to bring some milk with me as I am aware that Tylwyth Teg enjoy a bowl of milk, and this may ease my journey next time. My curiosity had now got the better of me and I felt compelled to continue with my exploration, but ever-aware that I was certain that my every move was being monitored and reported.
Further up the pathway was another, grander, entrance that spanned the path between two trees. I continued cautiously, and as I rounded a corner, I was able to see, through the trees, the unmistakable outline of castle embattlements. Further progress revealed an amazing castle in the sky, amongst the trees.
Upon entering the still seemingly unprotected castle, I discovered a lavishly decorated chest adorned with randomly discarded clothing, an elaborate tunic, and a gold headdress. There was a ladder to what appeared to be an upper bed chamber; I warily climbed the ladder and discovered a still-warm bed with a lavish sheep’s fleece cover. Peering over the battlements from the bedchamber I noticed a fair maiden with her faithful companion dog making her way down the track that I had ascended.
From a look-out point I could clearly see far into the distance up into the forest and sensed the presence of on-coming soldiers and decided that I should vacate the castle and make my way back to the relative safety of the Studio on the fringes of the forest. I thought it would be smart not to follow in the footsteps of the fair maiden that I had seen earlier, and took a steeper, yet safer route with hand rails to guide any unsuspecting visitor.
On my descent, which was without incident, until I rounded a bend in the pathway and almost tripped over a dragon hiding in a pile of logs and fallen branches. It gave me such a shock, but I think it was asleep, so I tip-toed past with extra caution. The dragon reminded me of a dragon I had seen a few years earlier in Kidwelly; there appeared to be some familial resemblance. The Kidwelly dragon, although breathing fire, was a friendly beast and had recently flown from Caerphilly Castle. Eager not to awaken the sleeping dragon I proceeded with extra attentiveness.
The winding path took me to a lovely secret garden; it had the appearance of a place of solace and rest, perhaps after a battle or bouts of jousting.
After my adventure I was pleased to arrive back at the Studio and a welcoming cup of tea with my wife Roz and my faithful dog Ella.
Interestingly, on a subsequent visit to the enchanted forest I came upon a fairy grotto that I am sure wasn’t there previously, perhaps these were transient fairies, just passing through; or were they part of the castle’s early warning system? There were also signs of refurbishment and extension to the castle curtain wall and grand entrance. At the bottom of hill to the castle is a small pond, which could be the remains of an original moat, the moat is now home to sociable chickens, ducks and two charming lambs.
I shall return to continue my exploration of the enchanted forest and the castle in the sky.