20080927-28_Malvern Hills Walk and Elgar Pilgrimage

20080927-28 Malvern Hills Walk and Elgar Pilgrimage
When : 27 + 28 September 2008
Who : Me and Justine
Where : Malvern, Worcestershire, England
Approx distance : 6½ km : 4 miles
Significant height : About 260 metres climbing but spread over several sections – highest single climb approx 100m
Maps used : 1:50000 OS Landranger Map 150 Worcester, The Malverns & surrounding area.
1:10000 scale map “The Malvern Hills sheet-3” British Camp to Chase End Hill, published by The Map Shop, Upton Upon Severn [bought many years ago].
Start+EndGrid Ref : 763,403
Obelisk Grid Ref : 752,378
Parking : Car Park on A449 at junction with B4232
Public Transport : I believe bus routes do exist but we didn’t use them.

Route Summary : A449 car park – British Camp / Herefordshire Beacon – Broad Down – Hangmans Hill – Swinyard Hill – Gullet Wood – Obelisk in Eastnor Park – Return same way except incl. British Camp Reservoir.

Other Interests : Elgar Graves at St. Wulstans Church, Little Malvern – The Malvern Spa Hotel – Elgar’s Birthplace, Upper Broadheath, near Worcester.

A rare opportunity had arisen to spend a little time with just my wife, as both kids were off doing exciting things elsewhere during the week-end. Our time scale was limited by drop-off and pick-up times on the Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, but we decided there was enough time to :-
Do a bit of a walk on the Saturday somewhere on the Malvern Hills:

  • Spend a night in a local Hotel.
  • Visit Elgar’s Birthplace on Sunday morning.
  • Return home by just after lunch to pick up Craig.

We’d found a brand new spa hotel in Malvern Link on-line, http://www.themalvernspa.com/ and booked an overnight, splashing out on a bit of unaccustomed comfort (the youth hostel could have sufficed at a fraction of the cost, but I don’t think they’ve got a sauna and all the other nice spa stuff, and bunk-beds didn’t appeal this time some-how). You can see our review along with other guests comments at http://www.laterooms.com/en/hotel-reviews/152330_malvernspa-worcestershire.aspx

Leaving Rugby after 10am we had to contend with thick mist-cum-fog for most of the way on the M40/M42/M5, which kept speeds down, but that was nothing compared to the traffic jam we found ourselves in after leaving the M5 at junction-7. From here all the way to Malvern we crawled along at a snails pace for no apparent reason. We were later to find out the Malvern Autumn Show (a major event) was taking place at The Three Counties Showground near Malvern itself … just our luck!

Anyway, eventually we branched off the main road, to find our hotel and check in, being very surprised to find it on a business park. Once booked into our room, we set off again, the fog still hadn’t lifted and we were thinking we weren’t going to get any views during our walk … Happily, how wrong we were.

As we drove up out of Malvern Wells towards the car park beneath British Camp there were one or two tantalising glimpses of brightness and even a splash of blue sky peeking through the mist.

We arrived at the car park just after noon, a little later than we’d probably intended, but we paid our £2.00, quickly donned our boots and headed off, starting up the tarmac path behind the modern info’ board, we soon passed the much less gaudy older welcome stone set back up a grassy bank with some charming little cyclamen blooming in front. The path, rising quite steadily, is at first slightly wooded but opens up as it reaches the first of the embankment rings.


We were pulled upwards towards the summit of British Camp with the promise of sunshine; we weren’t disappointed. The views as we reached the top were super, if a little hazy. To the east of the hills, the mist hung around on the steeply wooded slopes and hollows below us.

It’s a bit of a pull up to the summit of British Camp, otherwise known as Herefordshire Beacon. However, the path has a good surface and snakes up through the lines of earthworks and is really quite straightforward, in fact it’s a bit of a tourist route and boots are not really needed at-all. In fact, I felt a little over-dressed in full walking attire and ruck-sack, compared to what some were wearing.

It only took about 10 minutes to reach the top and although there were a few people about, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds … this is a VERY popular place and a bit of a honey pot when the weather is fine. I suppose I could research the very long history of this iron age fort (going back to B.C.) but it’d be too long to write here; a whole website could be filled just on this one subject alone. Unsurprisingly it’s been done already by the “Malvern Hills Conservators”, so I’ll leave them to do what they do best at http://www.malvernhills.org.uk/ .

I’ve also created a separate page with a bit of info’ which you can access at https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/20080927-28_malvern-hills-some-extra-stuff/ ).

At British Camp we stopped for lunch ; just 10-15 minutes into a walk has got to be a record, even for me! My renowned appetite normally has to wait at least an hour or so before the sandwiches are broken out.

But we had started late and it was nice being able to relax in the warmth of the autumn sunshine, without having to keep half-an-eye on the kids … a novelty we were determined to enjoy, although it did feel quite odd.



After about ½ an hour we managed to raise ourselves and headed south, deciding we’d head over to the obelisk standing prominent on a wooded hillside some distance away. It was nice being able to hold hands as we followed the obvious path along the top of the ridge without the kids vying to separate us or hang on our other hands.

Conditions were ideal for walking and we took our time descending the ridge in a southerly direction in a series of gentle downs and ups (the next up never quite matching the previous down). Our route taking in Broad Down, Hangmans Hill and Swinyard Hill.



It was on the approach to Hangmans Hill that I spotted a huge mushroom like fungus growing out of the short grass just beneath a scraggy hawthorn bush. It was the size of a small-plate and was opened up, perfectly displaying the gills on its underside … fascinating..



I think it may be called a Parasol fungus (I defer to anyone with better knowledge) … it had apparently avoided damage by sitting under the spikey bush.

Shortly after the “summit” of Swinyard Hill we turned right where route finding, although not difficult, was aided by a large circular waymarker, where we dropped into Gullet wood, picking up a track heading roughly south west.


The woods made a lovely contrast to the open hills as we continued downhill eventually meeting another track at a muddy junction; the track here deeply rutted by vehicle tyres. We turned right and after passing through a large kissing-gate stile (kiss exchanged of course, ‘cause you’ve got to haven’t you!) we had to make a decision: continue on the gentle rise of the track, or take the steep but grassy path slightly to the right. We chose the harder path, quickly climbing between thickety-shrubby plants (brambles etc) and spaced out trees.

I was wondering how long it would be before we’d see the obelisk again having lost sight of it whilst we were in the woods, and then all of a sudden, there it was, large in front of us, quite amazing how such a tall object had been out of view despite our proximity to it.



We were now in Eastnor Deer Park, and after a quick circumnavigation of the really quite stark structure we settled down on the grass for a rest (not that we really needed one) but the setting, warmth of the day and the fact we’d reached our objective dictated a brief lie down in the sun.

It was a little disappointing to find the stone spike was put up in esteem of family members (albeit they had held high office), but somehow it smacked of self-importance and sycophancy … something that doesn’t necessarily sit comfortably with a lot of English people. Now if they’d built and dedicated the edifice to fallen heroes from past wars or the like, then I think I’d have been much more impressed. I.e. Self-sacrifice of the ordinary person paid for and recognised by the landed gentry from a position of privilege.

The return journey was a direct retrace of our outward route, starting off downhill taking the track we’d earlier ignored and enjoying the views over to Midsummer Hill.


We briefly discussed dropping past Gullet Quarry to pick up a lowland path, but instead decided to stay as high as possible, to again enjoy the views over the farmland below.

So, once through the kissing gate again, we climbed back through Gullet Wood, very soon regaining the top of Swinyard Hill and the ridge.



Steadily gaining height, we again followed the line of The Shire Ditch, now heading northwards. It was a little more strenuous in this direction, being more uphill than down, and it had become quite warm. Upon reaching the Broad Down area, I branched off briefly to take a look at “Clutters Cave” hewn into the hillside slightly to the west of the top path.  http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/hsmr/db.php?smr_no=3732 .

The whole area was now much busier, with families and fellow walkers much more in evidence than earlier in the day. We decided at this point, that instead of making the final little climb back up onto British Camp, we’d instead take the well made path contouring around the hillside above British Camp Reservoir. The views were super, the reservoir a rich blue colour reflecting the sky above. I again now felt over dressed as we passed several push-chairs being pushed around the sweeping curve of the path, which quickly lead us directly to the car park and the end of the walk.

After a short drive on the A449 in the direction of Malvern, we stopped in a lay-by to visit the extremely well tended Elgar Graves, including Edward, one of our greatest and most loved composers, at St. Wulstan’s Church positioned right next to the main road. This is obviously a very old building, which in some ways resembles a castle rather than a church.  http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/4056/tour11.html .


We then drove back to our hotel; cleaned ourselves up and headed off to the spa area. I’d like to say it was to soak away the aches and pains of our exertions, but that would be stretching the truth somewhat, the walk completed being quite easy really. Still the spa with its 4 different sauna types, different showers, ice rub and the indoor-outdoor pool with its different styles of air bubblers/jets was enjoyed as we relaxed, before heading back into Malvern for supper at an Indian restaurant … excellent food and very quick service [I think it was called the Bengal Brasserie].  


After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we reacquainted ourselves with the spa facilities and later the grand salon as we relaxed with a bit of reading (a news paper for Justine and the National Geographic for me).

I found it quite hard making myself do pretty much nothing. I did succeed but just for a while.

After checking-out we headed for Elgar’s birthplace in Upper Broadheath, near Worcester, just a short drive away. The cottage has been turned into a museum with commentary by means of a head-phone set. An additional building displays more about his life and his music. An excellent end to our little trip.



The journey home was uneventful, and we were back in time for a happy reunion, with Craig (first) and Katie (later). It was good being back all together again … I can’t see how people go on holiday for a week or more without their children … 16 hours or so was enjoyable but quite long enough …. and as most parents would probably agree we never stopped thinking about them and what exciting things they were doing without us.

My next walk(s) … probably a couple of days in the Lake District, with one of my sisters at the end of October, based in Grasmere.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….


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