A full-blown slice of heaven where the zephyr of change has done little more than rustle the leaves
Icannot think of anywhere I would rather be on a darkling autumn evening than at the bar of the White Horse in Clun. Unless it were in one of the two other pubs in the village. Clun might look deserted around 6pm (‘‘the quietest place under the sun’’, AE Housman called it in A Shropshire Lad), but the bar of the White Horse is full of good-humoured people, enjoying an excellent range of bitters amid a décor of horse halters and brass plates.
With its Mace convenience store hidden away discreetly inside what looks like an old bank, its library (in the garage), doctor’s surgery, primary school and two – two! – butchers, Clun is the village from heaven. Add to that the presence of Fothergill and Hatt, global headquarters of leather designer Matt Fothergill whose bags sell in the Conran Shop (his grip was described as a ‘‘hymn to masculinity’’ by GQ magazine) and I am ready to swoon.
To call it a village at all risks controversy. There is a castle, or the ruin of one, and it was once a borough. However, since the two silver maces were surrendered to the adorable little museum (a sweet building – pebbledash with stone trim, topped off by a tiny clocktower and weathervane) in 1924, it has presumably renounced its pretensions to being a town. The luminous green landscape of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty starts as soon as the last farmyard is passed. Seen through filmy October sunshine when I visited, this Elysium can’t have changed much since Housman’s day.
Tree-fringed streams, sheep (whether or not of Clun’s own breed) dotting the fields like large puffballs, buff-coloured cattle, square-towered churches, the occasional white-walled farmhouse and hills, hills, hills – it tugged at the heartstrings like a Bertolucci film. Matt moved here from London four years ago, and is buying his daughter’s first pony next month.
During the week, this is still Land-Rover and horsebox country.
Architecturally, it doesn’t go in much for prettiness. It remains a working community, and if the shop fronts are oldfashioned, that is probably because no one wanted to spend the money to change them. But taken together, the mixture of materials is pleasing. Brick mixes with stucco, sometimes painted yellow or pink; doorcases are trimmed in stone. The eaves to the houses may have decorative bargeboards – a local characteristic. The whole place gives the impression of being a long way from London (it is difficult to imagine the playwright John Osborne being an Angry Young Man at his home called The Hurst, a couple of miles outside Clun; it is now a foundation).
Birmingham, Worcester and Telford are also too far away to commute to. The mood changes at weekends, as people come to walk Offa’s Dyke and occupy their second homes. A house on the market now is called the Old Bake House, a sign of the times, and others are offered as investments or holiday lets.
But otherwise the zephyr of change has done little more than rustle the leaves.
Property sold slowly over the summer; the medieval bridge was closed. But now that it’s open again, you have to move quickly to buy. A two-bedroom cottage costs in the order of £150,000. McCartneys of Bishops Castle (01588 630070) is offering a very attractive four-bedroom cottage just outside Clun for £350,000. From its hillside position, the views are glorious.
Meanwhile, £369,000 would buy a townhouse in the conservation area, over four floors (three double bedrooms, two more in the attic). That property, Chances House, is now under offer with Lane Fox of Ludlow (01584 873711). But the house which has nearly caused a marital rift in our household, as I impetuously try to persuade Mrs Aslet to sell up and relocate here at once, is Lake House, a listed stone farmhouse with three cottages, any number of bedrooms and a landscape that would have made Adam and Eve feel that they had never tasted the apple. It comes with nearly nine acres. Ludlow with its Michelinstarred restaurants is not far away. It won’t happen, but I can dream.
Happiness to the folk who do have the £650,000 to buy it. Phone Lane Fox on 01584 873711 and that’s you.
Clive Aslet is Editor at Large of Country Life.