Unmissable Malvern Hills
There are so many wonderful places to visit on and around the Malvern Hills. I don't expect you want to still be reading this blog tomorrow, so I have restricted myself to 17... this time! There may be more in the future!
#1/17 Worcestershire Beacon
This is the highest point in Worcestershire, known locally as 'The Beacon'. It's often wild and windy - one of my favourite places to blow the cobwebs away. I have walked up here at all times of day and night - to see the sun rise, to watch it set, even in the middle of the night to bring in the new year, or just to be on my own in the dark.
Sometimes, you're above the clouds. At others, you're shrouded in them at the top. You can often watch all kinds of weather scooting across the patchwork of fields and woods below. There's something magical about the Malvern Hills...
#2/17 Earnslaw Quarry
This is possibly the most peaceful place on the Malvern Hills. You turn the corner into the quarry and all noise from the outside world just melts away. Lillies flower in the water, damselflies skim above it and once - just once - I saw a kingfisher darting across the quarry face in front of me.
Of course, it's not quite as quiet when there are children or dogs splashing about in the water, but I for one am not complaining about the sound of the sheer joy of life!
#3 St Wulstan's Nature Reserve
This was once a field hospital for shell-shocked US troops involved in the Normandy Landings. Later, its buildings were repurposed as a hospital for people suffering from TB. Although there are no buildings left there now, the history of the site is reflected in the variety of non-native trees that are retained, including this splendid Blue Atlas cedar.
For a totally flat walk with great views of the hills, you can't beat it!
#4 Malvern Community Woodland
This is a real gem. Cross Townsend Way from The Malvern hotel and spa, Premier Inn or retail park and dive down one of the paths opposite into another world. Here, birdsong rises above the traffic noise, bluebells carpet the ground (in places) and ancient trees stand alongside young whipper-snappers. Unfortunately, these Michaelmas daisies are invasive here, so although they adorn the paths with beautiful stars, I have been known to dig them up and scythe them down to stop them from spreading - as a volunteer with Malvern Community Forest, I hasten to add. If you love the flowers, don't worry - the efforts to date have not been effective at removing them!
#5 Priory Mansion (AKA The Council House)
This grand Victorian building used to be the home of Alfred Speer. He created eight acres of gardens around the house. Victorian plant hunters were discovering new species of trees as they travelled around the world, and planting them in your garden was a real status symbol. You can just see a magnificent cedar tree in this photo. It was probably only 2-3 metres tall by the time Alfred Speer died in 1894. What a legacy to leave! His gardens are now owned by the council and known as Priory Park. Malvern's Marvellous Trees has a guide to the trees in the park (Route Two) if you'd like to know more about this incredible treescape. You can grab a copy from www.malvernsmarvelloustrees.org, the bookshop, the Tourist Information office or the Priory giftshop.
#6 British Camp Iron Age hill fort (AKA Herefordshire Beacon)
The distinctive ridged outline of the British Camp Iron Age hill fort can be seen from miles around. It is also the highest point in Herefordshire, with far-reaching views north/south along the length of the Malvern Hills, to the Cotswolds in the east and the Black Mountains in the west. There's plenty of parking nearby and refreshments available at the kiosk and neighbouring hotel, which makes it a popular spot for both locals and visitors.
#7 Six Acre Wood
I discovered this wood during lockdown. The path through it runs along a ridge for about a mile. The ridge was at least in part created by quarrying for limestone, and in the past, all the trees would have been coppiced like this to provide fuel for the lime kilns. Look out for the fields of bluebells nearby in spring.
#8 Great Malvern Priory
This beautiful multi-coloured stone church in the town centre is well worth a visit if you like medieval stained glass, tiles and misericords. Look out for a green man high on the north wall inside the church and the grave of Charles Darwin's daughter in the cemetery.
The Victorian trees in the churchyard are impressive. The huge holm oak is made for climbing (please be careful - of yourself and the tree if you do!) and the Monterey pine crackles on hot summer days as its seeds pop from the confines of their cones, but my favourite tree is the young ginkgo biloba opposite the main door of the church. Fossils indicate that relatives of these trees have been around for hundreds of millions of years. There's a Malvern's Marvellous Trees guide to the churchyard too, if you're interested.
#9 Little Malvern Priory
Just a few miles south of Great Malvern, Little Malvern has its own priory. As you might expect, it is far less grand than Great Malvern Priory, but still a significant feature in the landscape. Look out for the hinged misericord seats, the medieval tiles in front of the altar and the stained glass in the east window that depicts Edward V when he was a child.
#10 Midsummer Hill
This Iron Age hillfort is not as distinctive as British Camp because trees have been allowed to grow close to the summit. It has a huge area at the top, split by a steep-sided ravine. There were almost 500 buildings here, which indicates a significant population.
It is one of the best places on the hills to watch the sun set.
#11 Lark Ascending
Both of the Walenty Pytel sculptures in Rose Bank Gardens are striking. Larks abound on the hills and commons, but the birds are often so high in the sky that it's hard to see what they look like. That's not the case here, with this larger-than-life metal sculpture.
#12 Eastnor Castle
Eastnor Castle was designed to be impressive, rather than a fortification. It was built in the early 19th century, and the same family has owned it for over 200 years. The gardens provide a beautiful backdrop for a day out, and a number of festivals are held in the deer park in the summer months.
#13 Eastnor Obelisk
The obelisk is visible from miles around - it's far more prominent in the landscape than the castle. Although it looks like it's solid, it's actually hollow. The Earl of Eastnor's son was killed in the Napoleonic Wars that were raging when the castle was being built, and the obelisk is a monument to him.
#14 Lady Howard de Walden Drive
This carriage track around the northern hills was built for Lady Howard de Walden so she could take the air without having to expend too much energy getting there. Less monied visitors would ride ponies up the hills, and these days almost everyone walks under their own steam.
This track provides a welcome flat-ish walk after climbing the steep flanks of the hills, with fabulous views in all directions.
#15 St Ann's Well
From the town centre, the paths leading onto the hills are steep - there's no getting away from it, unless you drive up to the Wyche Cutting and walk to the top from there. The road up to St Ann's Well zigzags up a steep valley, but at least there's a cafe at the well where you can rest for a while with a welcome cup of tea or ice-cream.
#16 Holy Well
Malvern water is famous for containing nothing at all. Although it comes from springs, it moves through cracks in the rocks rather than through the rocks themselves, so picks up no minerals on the way. As long ago as 1622, water was being bottled at Holy Well, and it is again today.
The only spring in Malvern that is filtered spouts from Malvhina on Belle Vue Island at the top of Church Street. It is actually the water from three different springs, and the fountain was designed by Rose Garrard in 1998. You can usually fill your water bottle here on your way up onto the hills, but occasionally, there's a queue. It is quite delicious and truly refreshing!
There are so many other places I love in the area - I will probably revisit this blog with another 17 at some point. What would you include on your list of unmissable places in the Malvern Hills?
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