The Malvern Hills stand majestically above the Severn Plain in Worcestershire and the rolling wooded hills of Herefordshire, offering far reaching panoramic views across a variety of landscapes from a multitude of viewpoints. The area is famed for its steep dramatic hills rising out of flat vales and for the pure spring water that flows from them, but it also offers a rich cultural heritage of forts, castles and priories in a landscape of ancient woodland, rolling pastures and wild, open commons.
The circular route rises through the town past all important landmarks and ascends the famous 99 Steps to St. Ann’s Well, but then heads southerly, mostly through ancient woodlands along the foot of the hills, to lunch. It then rises up through the mid slopes of scrub, grass, rock and bracken, first to the Herefordshire Beacon and then returns along the top of the ridge via the Worcestershire Beacon to Great Malvern, with its grassy commons maintained by livestock grazing, in places with Bilberry and Common Heather.
There are several walk options, and all in they cover all but four of the 22 notable hilltops in the range. The completist starts from Colwall and includes the two extensions, starting out along fields and through oak woods at the westerly base of the hills to then return north to Malvern along the top of the ridge.
Great Malvern Circular:
Taxi from the station to Wyche Cutting/The Wyche Inn or The Malvern Hills Hotel/British Camp (£7/£12 resp., 50% more on Sundays, taxis usually on stand, else try: 01684 578 749 or 07730 573 738).
Bus 44B to/from Wyche Cutting and British Camp (hourly, Jun-Sep Saturdays only, from near the station).
Bus 675 to/from Wyche Cutting (Mon-Sat, from outside The Mount Pleasant Hotel, 1.5 km into the walk).
Outward and return route are never far from each other (if mostly at much different height), therefore there are several ways to pick up the return route to Great Malvern earlier than described:
· at the Gold Mine stone dial (7.9 km/4.9 mi, 457m ascent, 3/10);
· at the Wyche Cutting/The Wyche Inn (9.1 km/5.6 mi, 519m ascent, 4/10);
· at The Malvern Hills Hotel (17.2 km/10.7 mi, 884m ascent, 9/10).
Finish at The Malvern Hills Hotel after going up to British Camp (12.9 km/8.0 mi, 737m ascent, 7/10).
Colwall to Great Malvern:
A Shortcut at the Silurian Pass cuts the tops south of British Camp and 5.2 km/3.2 mi and 305m ascent.
An Extension to the two southerly tops adds 3.4 km/2.1 mi and 180m ascent.
An Extension to the four northerly tops adds 2.0 km/1.2 mi and 111m ascent.
|Lunch/Tea en route
The Wyche Inn 74 Wyche Road, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4EQ (01684 575 396). The Wyche Inn is a traditional pub, located 4.8 km/3.0 mi into the walk if starting from Great Malvern, and 4.1 km/2.5 mi from the end of the walk. Open 12.00-21.00 Mon, 12.00-23.00 Tue-Fri, 11.00-23.00 Sat and 11.00-22.30 Sun. Food served 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-20.30 Mon-Fri, 12.00-20.30 Sat (snacks only 14.30-17.00) and 12.00-15.30 and 18.00-19.30 Sun.
Café H2O at the Malvern Hills GeoCentre Wyche Innovation Centre, Walwyn Road, Malvern, WR13 6PL (01684 252 414). Café H2O is located 4.8 km/3.0 mi into the walk if starting from Great Malvern, and 4.1 km/2.5 mi from the end of the walk. Open 09.30-16.30, but closed on Wednesdays.
The Malvern Hills Hotel & Restaurants Wynds Point, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR13 6DW (01684 540 690). Open all day. Food served all day. Closed Xmas Day.
Sally’s Place Wynds Point, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR13 6DW (07790 209 288). Sally’s is a mobile café. Open all day. Food served all day. Closed Xmas Day.
The Malvern Hills Hotel and Sally’s Place are passed twice on the circular walk: after 9.4 km/5.8 mi and again 3.5 km later; from Colwall they are 2.7 km/1.7 mi into the walk if taking the early diversion, and 10.9 km/6.8 mi on the full walk.
|Tea in Great Malvern
The Red Lion 4 St. Ann’s Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4RG (01684 564 787).
Malvern Cellar 2 St. Ann’s Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4RG (07970 123 808). Local cider by the glass; local beers, wines and spirits by the bottle.
The Unicorn 2 Belle Vue Terrace, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4PZ (01684 574 152).
The Foley Arms Hotel 14 Worcester Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4QS (01684 580 350). The Foley Arms is a Wetherspoon’s pub.
The Mount Pleasant Hotel Belle Vue Terrace, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 4PZ (01684 561 837).
The Morgan 52 Clarence Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3EQ (01885 490 505). The Morgan is owned by the Wye Valley Brewery. No hot food, but tasty rolls are served in the evening.
Lady Foley’s Tea Room Great Malvern Station, Station Approach, Malvern, Worcestershire, WR14 3AU (01684 893 033). Open 09.00-18.00 Mon-Sat.
Great Malvern is an area of the spa town of Malvern at the foot of the Malvern Hills AONB, on the eastern flanks of the Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill, and is the historic and modern centre of Malvern.
It is a designated conservation area in recognition of the special architectural and historic interest of the area. The growth of Great Malvern began with the founding of an 11th-century priory. The health-giving properties of Malvern water and the natural beauty of the surroundings led to the development of Malvern as a spa, with resources for invalids and for tourists, seeking cures, rest and entertainment. Local legend has it that the curative benefit of the spring water was known in medieval times. Only in the 19th century, especially after the arrival of the railway in 1860, though did it become a popular centre for hydrotherapy and swelled to include the bordering settlements of Barnard’s Green, Malvern Link, Malvern Wells (South Malvern), North Malvern, and West Malvern, collectively referred to as The Malverns. Following the collapse of the spa industry, many of the hotels and villas became schools, and some have since been further converted to apartments, while some of the smaller hotels are now retirement homes.
The River Severn runs roughly north-south about 6 km to the east of the town.
There are many specimens of mature trees in Great Malvern due to Lady Foley, the widow of large landowner Edward Thomas Foley stipulating that all plots around the town centre should be planted with trees when she sold off parts of her estate in the 1800s.
The Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills dominate the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern. The highest summit of the hills affords a panorama of the Severn Valley, the Cotswolds, the hills of Herefordshire, the Black Mountains and the Welsh borders, parts of thirteen counties (some say fourteen), the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. The range is about 13 km long but only about 1 km wide at its widest points.
The hills are known for their spring water – initially made famous by the region's many holy wells, and later through the development of the 19th century spa town of Great Malvern, a process which culminated in the production of the modern bottled drinking water.
The Malverns are formed from some of the oldest and hardest rocks in England, around 680 Million years old, from the late Precambrian. Being largely hard igneous rocks (mainly granite), they have resisted erosion better than those of the surrounding countryside and the result is the striking line of hills.
The name Malvern is probably derived from the ancient British moel-bryn, meaning "Bare Hill".
St. Mary and St. Michael, Malvern (Great Malvern Priory)
Founded as a Benedictine Priory in 1085, it was a monastery for 450 years when the citizens bought it to save it from destruction in the dissolution. A parish church since then, it has retained its medieval stained-glass windows, some of Britain’s finest, as well as a collection of medieval tiles and beautifully carved Monk’s Stalls/Misericords.
The Worcestershire Way is a 50 km (31 mi) waymarked linear Long-Distance Path, hugging the western edge of the County. It runs from the Georgian town of Bewdley to the Victorian spa town of Great Malvern, initially along the River Severn then via the Abberley Hills and the hills of Penny and Ankerdine and the River Teme and the Suckley Hills to cross the northern main Malvern Hills. The route over the northern Malvern Hills is waymarked with stone direction markers which can be difficult to find.
The Sabrina Way
The Sabrina Way is a waymarked 327 km (203 mi) new addition to the National Bridle-route Network, developed for The British Horse Society. It runs from Gloucestershire through five counties to Derbyshire, and provides a link between the Ridgeway and the Pennine Bridleway.
The Holy Well/Malvern Water
The Holy Well is set on the slopes of the Malvern Hills above Malvern Wells. The well is believed to be the site of one of the oldest bottling plants in the world. The Malvern spring water was first bottled on a commercial scale at the well and the building now houses a modern commercial bottling plant.
Edward Popham of Tewkesbury was partially cured of his gout at the Holy Well in 1747 and as a vote of thanks erected a small bath that probably resembled a modest stone sink.
In 1853 the Holy Well and nearby Bath Cottage were purchased from squatters by Thomas Charles Hornyold, who extended the building that housed the baths and spa at a cost of £400.
The building was listed as Grade II and of Architectural Interest in the 1970s.
Malvern water has been bottled and distributed in the UK and abroad from as early as the reign of James I, with water bottling at the Holy Well being recorded in 1622. Various local grocers have bottled and distributed Malvern water during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but it was first bottled on a large commercial scale by Schweppes, who opened a bottling plant at Holy Well in 1850. As official caterers to the Great Exhibition of 1851, Schweppes introduced the water as Malvern Soda, later renaming it Malvern Seltzer Water in 1856. In 1890 Schweppes moved away from Holy Well, entered into a contract with a Colwall family on the other side of the range, and built a bottling plant in the village in 1892. The Holy Well was subsequently leased to John and Henry Cuff, who bottled there until the 1960s. The Holy Well became derelict until 2009 when Schweppes’ owner Coca-Cola shut down production and refused to sell on the rights to the name. Only after public pressure they relented and sold the Malverns brand to some local entrepreneurs, and with the aid of a Lottery Heritage grant, production of 1200 bottles per day of Holy Well Spring Water was recommenced by an independent family-owned company.
The quality of Malvern water is attributable to its source. The rocks are characterised by low porosity and high secondary permeability via fissures. Malvern water is rainwater and snow meltwater that percolates through fissures created by the pressures of tectonic movements about 300 million years ago when advancing sedimentary layers of Silurian shale and limestone were pushed into and under older Precambrian rock. When the fissures are saturated, a water table forms and the water emerges as springs around the fault lines between the strata. There are over 100 springs around the hills. Depending on rainfall, the flow can vary from as little as 36 litres per minute to over 350 litres per minute.
According to folklore, the Shire Ditch or Red Earl’s Dyke was created in 1287 by the (red-haired) Earl of Gloucester, following a boundary dispute with the Bishop of Hereford. It was erected along the whole Malverns Ridge to separate his hunting forest from the one to the east, and in such a clever way, that deer could jump east to west across it, but not back to the east.
Recent research has shown though that the Shire Ditch might actually be much older. Indeed, there is some evidence (namely that the ramparts of Midsummer Hill’s fort, built 470BC, overlay the ditch) that it may have started life as a prehistoric trackway in the late Bronze Age, as a boundary earthwork running from Midsummer Hill fort to the Worcestershire Beacon, possibly dating from around 1000 BC.
Three Choirs Way
The Three Choirs Way is a 161 km (100 mi) waymarked circular Long-Distance Path between Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester through a countryside of hopyards, vineyards and orchards with a theme linking the walk to the ancient Three Choirs Festival celebrated annually for over 300 years in the three Cathedrals. Each year one of the three Cathedrals takes it in turn to host the festival.
Eastnor Castle lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, surrounded by a deer park, arboretum and lake, and is the home of the Hervey-Bathurst family. It was built in the early 19th century, replacing an earlier building, aiming to look like a medieval castle. Wood was in high demand for shipbuilding for the Napoleonic Wars and therefore expensive, so the roof trusses and beams were made from cast iron.
The Obelisk was erected in 1812 to commemorate four of the Somers Cocks family (maternal ancestors) and is listed Grade II*. https://eastnorcastle.com/
British Camp or Herefordshire Beacon
British Camp is an Iron Age hill fort located at the top of Herefordshire Beacon. The fort is thought to have been first constructed between 700 and 200 BC by the Dobunni tribe. A ringwork and bailey medieval castle, known as Colwall Castle, was built on the site much later. The extensive earthworks remain clearly visible today and determine the shape of the hill. There are around 100 generally round hut platforms on British Camp, which may well suggest a permanent occupation. However, Midsummer Hill fort is just a mile south of British Camp, and it is unusual to have two major hill forts so close to each other. The ditch and bank around the entire site cover three hills (those to the north and south are little more than spurs though), and with a perimeter of 2100m the defences enclose an area of around 18 ha.
Ancient folklore has it that the British chieftain Caractacus made his last stand against the Romans at the British Camp. The story remains disputed, however, as Roman historian Tacitus implies a site closer to the Severn. There is therefore no evidence that Roman presence ended the prehistoric settlement at British Camp. However, excavations at Midsummer Hillfort, Bredon Hill and Croft Ambrey all show evidence of violent destruction around the year 48 AD. This may suggest that the British Camp was abandoned or destroyed around the same time.
The Geopark Way is a 175 km (109 mi) waymarked linear Long-Distance Path from Bridgnorth to Gloucester, through Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. It was established as a Landscape and Geology walking trail through the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark, and explores 700 million years of geological history. http://geopark.org.uk/pub/category/explore/the-geopark-way/