Many of us have happy memories of places shared and enjoyed with parents, relatives and friends that can bring laughter and joy as well as sadness and whistfullness in remembrance.
For me one place that brings back happy memories of time spent with my parents are the Malvern Hills. They lived about 25 minutes drive, away and would regularly walk the hills with their dog. I lived a long distance away, but when I visited I would always look forward to joining them on good walk over the Malverns, watching our dogs run themselves ragged up and down the hills as we walked the paths and admired the views. When we were young, family picnics at Castlemorton Common and the Golden Valley, in the lee of the hills were a special treat. The hills were also a favourite running route, especially the track around the North Hill and back over the Worcestershire Beacon.
For those unfamiliar with the Malvern Hills, they border the counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and just jut into north Gloucestershire. They get their name from the nearby town of Malvern, noted for being a spa (it’s spring water is said have medicinal properties and be a favourite of the Queen) and being the home of the Morgan sports car company. The town also has famous cultural links, with the hills being a favourite place of the composer Edward Elgar, who regularly walked, cycled and flew kites here. Indeed just before he died in 1934 he said to friend “If ever, after I’m dead you hear someone whistling this tune (from his Cello Concerto) on the Malvern Hills, don’t be alarmed, it’s only me.” Another who found inspiration in the hills was JRR Tolkien who, though born in Birmingham, was introduced to the hills by his friend, the poet CS Lewis. The two of them, often accompanied by friends used to walk the hills, and Tolkien remarked that parts of the hills reminded him of the White Mountains of Gondor, which appear in Lord of the Rings.
Back to my memories. After my Father died in 2003 I would visit the hills to walk and run just to feel closer to him and feel his spirit around me, remembering how our dogs used to play up and down the hillsides. When my Mother passed away in 2015 I promised myself I would return and walk the hills in their memory, remembering those happy days. And so it was, at the end of October, Lyn and I went back to Malvern for the first time since 2015, to fulfil that promise I made to myself.
We started from the town centre, walking through the Rose Garden, itself an interesting place set into the side of the hill, overlooking the town. We climbed the steep trail to St Annes Well, the place where the famed Malvern Water spring runs into an ornamental basin in the building next to the cafe. From here the steep path continues to a junction between The Worcestershire Beacon on the left, and North Hill on the right. The North Hill was my Father’s favourite walk so we turned right and followed the path.
Clockwise from Top Left: Malvern Church from The Rose Garden; Malvern Buzzards Sculpture; Lark Ascending sculpture; St Annes Well
Walking around and over the North Hill, on to Table Hill, the Worcestershire Beacon looms large ahead. The highest point in the county, beacons have been lit in celebration of notable national events, such as royal jubilees and to celebrate the turning of this Millennium. The beauty of the Malverns is that on a clear day from almost anywhere on the hills, you are afforded some of the best views in England; to the East, across the Severn Valley to the Cotswolds and Bredon Hill, to the West, the Brecon Beacons of Wales and The Black Mountains. From the top of the Worcestershire Beacon the views in all directions are stunning, and we were blessed with a sunny but cold day. Yes, showers were threatening but the beauty of being on the hills is that you could see them coming!
Clockwise from top left: From North Hill Looking North; A little fooling around; The Malverns; Coffee Time: View towards the Worcestershire Beacon.
Clockwise from top left: Panorama towards The Worcester Beacon; Looking south from the Beacon; Selfie – us on the Beacon; Me at the Trig Point on top of The Worcester Beacon; Lyn does yoga with the beacon in the background; Where did the sun go? A short sharp downpour.
From the beacon the paths descend and converge on the Wyche Cutting, literally a cut in the rock through which the road down to Colwall passes. The “centre section” of the Malverns follows the Jubilee Drive towards the Herefordshire Beacon and British Camp.
British Camp is an Iron Age Fort built on top of the Hereford Beacon and is composed of a number of extensive earthworks that have been compared to a giant wedding cake. As well as the defensive battlements and trenches, there are a number of generally round platforms on British Camp, which may well have been huts and evidence of permanent occupation. Legend has it that a tribal chieftain named Caractacus fought his last battle here against the invading Roman army. He must have had a stunning view of the approaching legions, as we could see for miles, despite the rainstorms chasing down the Severn Valley.
Top Left: Looks like rain again; Top right: Looking south from the top of British Camp. Bottom Left: Looking North from British Camp; Bottom right: Rainbows in The Severn Valley.
Some shots of us enjoying the Malvern Hills
It was wonderful to walk the hills again after so long away. They have a spiritual quality that is unique to me. My mother always used to say she always felt better for a walk on the Malverns, “it’s the air you know” she used to say! Malvern is a special place for me.