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Published: March 6th 2016
The Malvern Hills
18th-25th February 2016
Listen a moment.
Above the whisper of a chill winter breeze a buzzard calls, a shrill mewing cry from high up there beyond the hills, soaring gracefully on broad wings across a cloud scattered sky. Such is the joy of the English countryside; those special moments when nature surprises us all with its delightful sights and sounds.
Enjoy the panorama slideshow.
The Buzzard has become a common sight across the UK in recent years after decades of persecution and it is now known to nest in every county in the country. Its significant presence above the Malvern Hills of Worcestershire and Herefordshire is recognized by a recent sculpture by Polish sculptor Walenty Pytel in the Rosebank Gardens of Great Malvern, commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.
This time we’re here for the walking. Lost in the annals of time is a vague recollection of having visited the area before and a search through ancient diaries reveals a passing through in our trusty motorhome on a bleak rainy day back in 2009. On this occasion, Bertie, our present motorhome, is staying at home and we’re taking
the most unusual step of renting a cottage for a week. Woodland Cottage is a neat and somewhat beautifully quirky converted coachman’s cottage: a warm and cosy hideaway for two at the foot of the hills in Malvern Wells and a fine centre for many a hike as we were about to discover. Victorian gas lamps lining the road from Malvern Wells to Great Malvern prompt a local myth with a tenuous link to C S Lewis. A pupil at Malvern College just prior to the First World War, he is said to have been inspired by these very gas lamps, still in operation to this day, in his Narnia stories. We followed the road on foot for a short while before heading out across the Worcestershire golf course and into Great Malvern via the fields of Malvern College.
Great Malvern is home to the annual Royal Three Counties Show, (Worcester, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, one presumes) a magnificent Priory, tempting produce stalls on the Saturday Farmer’s Market - and Morgan cars of course, as the boys amongst you will be aware. At £20 per person for the Morgan factory tour, we opted to go walking in the hills.
It’s a steep climb from town up to St Ann’s Well, the source of Great Malvern’s natural spring water at the heart of the ‘water cure’ fad of the mid-nineteenth century. Such was the interest in Malvern water that the town grew in celebration and many fine houses were built on the hillsides overlooking the vast green fields of Worcestershire. There’s a café at St Ann’s Well these days offering the opportunity for a brief break before heading further on into the hills. Well-marked footpaths now meander across the numerous peaks and many offer ‘relatively’ easy access for the ‘relatively’ fit. Our somewhat naïve approach rarely includes those ‘easy’ routes as you might imagine, though none of the peaks here are particularly high and within our few days we managed a good set of peaks: North Hill, Worcestershire Beacon, Perseverence Hill, Pinnacle Hill and Herefordshire Beacon (otherwise known as British Camp) amongst them. The reward for our, often strenuous, hikes was breathtaking.
There is freedom at the summits of The Malvern Hills on a clear winter’s day despite a fierce wind from the north: wide skies stretch westwards towards the gentle hills and tree-lined fields of Herefordshire, bright in
pools of sunlight between shadows of fleeting cloud, and the urban red-stone buildings of Worcestershire nestle in the lee of the hills to the east. And above, the buzzard calls, mobbed by a pair of angry crows…… to vanish as a speck on distant horizons green and grey in a hundred hues.
Peace – glorious peace. We’ll be back.
Round and about:-
A short drive to the north lies the city of Worcester. You will have heard of Worcester apples, Royal Worcester porcelain and Worcestershire Sauce, but there’s plenty more to Worcester to keep you out of mischief for a day or two. Try the National Trust’s Tudor House on Friar Street and the Guildhall (now the Town Hall) on High Street for a few surprises and take your pick of the many restaurants for a bite to eat. We popped into Worcester for a brief nose around; in particular to visit its splendid cathedral, the final resting place of King John, where his passing will be celebrated this year, the 800th
anniversary of his death. Now, that’s something I didn’t know about Worcester.
This sojourn in the Malvern
Hills also led us to seek out the graves of Edward Elgar and his wife in this little piece of our ‘land of hope and glory’,
but insufficient research led us not to St Wulstan’s Church in Little Malvern, but to Little Malvern Priory, a short distance beyond. Our arrival at this wonderful little church coincided with a meeting of the local congregation, just in time to share tea and biscuits in the pleasant company of the ever-smiling rector.
If you’re travelling this way, be sure not to miss the nearby market town of Ledbury, with its trademark Clock Tower and Market House on the High Street. Beside the Market House is the narrow cobbled Church Lane, cradled between quintessentially English timbered Tudor houses framing the spire of St Michael and All Angels church beyond. If you’re feeling really naughty you might want to check out the cream teas in the Foley Arms Hotel. The less naughty amongst you might choose to share a single portion!
There’s another great option on a dull winter’s day best suited to a driving tour: out along country lanes winding through the small green fields and smart hedgerows
of Hereford to the west. Pick up the leaflet and head off for a spin to the Black and White villages where you’ll be sure to get the camera into top gear. There are numerous pubs and cafes on offer should you want to make a day of it.
David and Janice
The Grey Haired Nomads
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