We’d been invited to my Mum and Dad’s to celebrate Dad’s birthday on Easter Saturday so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to stay over and walk the length of the Malvern Hills the following day.
The Malvern Hills hold a special place in my heart, they’re the landmark that tells me I’m almost home and I’ve walked many of them individually over the years. It must be 20 years since I walked the length of the hills with school as part of the annual sponsored walk. Aged 12 years old I certainly wouldn’t have seen myself choosing to go walking in the future.
Not helped by the loss of an hour with the clocks changing we didn’t reach our start point until 10:30am, but had been supplied with a breakfast of pastries by my Mum together with a packed lunch and given a lift to the car park at North Quarry by my Dad. The plan was to walk the length of the Malvern Hills to Chase End Hill where we would phone for a lift home.
The walk up North Hill was nice and gentle with good paths zig-zagging the hill before turning off on to the grassy top. There are two other hills at this northern end, the aptly named End Hill and Table Hill, which we omitted to climb. Despite the weather forecast the day had started off bright and sunny and there were plenty of families out on the hills. The wind was fairly strong and most people were wrapped up in coats, we had started this way but quickly stripped off as we soon got too warm when we started walking up hill. From North Hill we headed over the smaller Sugarloaf Hill before heading up the Worcestershire Beacon and the highest point of the day. With the sun shining and the skies clear we were treated to excellent views over Malvern and the Worcestershire countryside.
Carrying on across the well trodden paths we reached the Wyche Cutting and made a quick stop to use the toilet, makes a nice change to have a public toilet en route rather than needing to find a conveniently placed bush. Onward we trekked and soon British Camp loomed ahead, busy with walkers. We resisted the temptation to stop for ice creams, or in Alex’s case a bacon bap as advertised on the sign outside. Seemed a bit of a slog to the top of British Camp and as we stood at the top the weather started closing in. We had planned to stop for lunch here so ventured down into one of the ditches to try to escape the cold wind, it didn’t work as the ditch seemed to act as a wind tunnel so even with my back to the wind it was cold and we quickly pulled our coats on. Finishing lunch the weather took a turn for the worse and as we descended it was hoods up and faces down to avoid the cold sleety rain blowing in our faces. Luckily it didn’t last long and soon the skies were clearing again as we started descending towards the Gullet Quarry at the base of Midsummer Hill. This was the only point we went slightly off course heading to the top of the quarry rather than turning off to descend, but we quickly realised our mistake and headed through the wooded area to the edge of the quarry. As a child I remember the all too frequent stories of people drowning in the waters here, today there was only a dog taking a dip.
This seemed to be hardest part of the walk as the last three hills are more separate so there is more up and down than on the rest of the hills. Rather than taking the main track up Midsummer Hill we headed up the path tracing Shires Ditch through woodland, there were plenty of short rest stops to catch our breath but eventually we reached the grassy plateau and the concrete shelter at the top of the hill. We stopped to take in the views over Eastnor Park which open up towards the Obelisk and the castle, before descending to the Hollybush.
Dad had given us instructions to turn right and follow the road to a gate that takes you onto the Ragged Stone. I think you can take a path round the back of the hill which is a gentler slope but we chose the shorter, steeper route with an equally steep descent the other side. This was the only point on the walk where we did have to consult the map for directions as again you have to head down the lane before taking the footpath that leads to the top of Chase End Hill. A steep final ascent and we reached the top, a couple already there commented that we had chosen the hardest route up, but as we had to come from that direction we had little choice. Finally we could make out Mum and Dad’s house, and gave them a ring to come and collect us. After the obligatory selfie sat next to the trig point it was a nice gentle stroll down to the layby where were soon picked up and taken home for a cup of tea.
It’s about 10 miles across the length of the Malvern Hills with good footpaths throughout and extensive views across Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. There are no really difficult sections, although a few steep ascents towards the end, so it is a great day walk. We were lucky in that with my Mum and Dad living nearby they were able to give us lift, otherwise one option is to have two cars and leave one at the end of the route to drive back in, or I have heard of people extending the walk and starting at the train station in Malvern (either Malvern Link or great Malvern) and finishing at Ledbury train station (or vice versa). There are bus links at the Hollybush, but I wouldn’t want to comment on the frequency of these being in the country!