Thriving market towns are thin on the ground these days, and the shopkeepers on which they depend haven’t been helped by the recession. Which makes it a joy to visit Ledbury, still giving every impression of being a bustling centre of commerce, despite the prevailing woes. What is its secret? A railway station with the occasional direclit service to London may be part of it.
But friends tell me that the real basis of Ledbury’s prosperity lies in the parking. Long ago, before the Victorians wrinkled their noses, there was a shambles in the middle of the High Street, convenient for the cattle market that was held there. When the butchers’ shops were swept away as part of a general scheme of improvement, this left an unusually wide road. To a later generation, this has offered plenty of space to park. You can leave a car here for an hour before having to pay. As a result, independent traders have flourished.
So many towns have been martyred on the cross of their car parks. But don’t think Ledbury is off the hook. Not content with already having one store in the town, a large supermarket chain wants to close it and build a whopper further out. Fetch the stake and garlic.