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Archive for December 9th, 2016

…okay well in practice it was two hills, but at the time it felt like a mountain and if I put one on top of the other it would qualify as a mountain…right?

I had a few days between assignments; one in Preston Lancashire and the next (where I am as I write) in Worcestershire.  I was due to start work in Great Malvern on Friday last and finished the assignment in Preston on Monday of last week. Never one to miss an opportunity to explore I stayed at a B&B on Monday night to explore Preston (more on that later) before heading down to Malvern Link on Tuesday where I was booked to stay for three nights.

climb the malvern hills

view of North Hill from the B&B

My goal was to climb the ‘mountain’; Worcestershire Beacon, which is located right above Great Malvern (or is GM located right below?). Worcester Beacon, at 425 metres (1,394 ft) above sea level, is the highest point of the Malvern Hills. I have worked in Great Malvern before but because my breaks are only two hours per day, there is no way I would have time to climb to the top and back again….and so it proved to be….in total it took me just over 4.5 hours door to door. Mind you, I did climb North Hill first so maybe….

Britain as a whole had been blessed with the most extraordinarily beautiful weather this last week, the kind of weather you only get in winter…crisp, cold, fresh days that take your breath away, and on the day I had planned to climb, the day dawned clear and cold…..and very frosty, as one would expect at this time of year.

climbing the malvern hills

frost – the patterns of frost are intriguing

I set off after breakfast and headed uphill, puffing and panting I might add, towards the rather marvellous Edwardian clock tower that resides on the lower slopes of North Hill at Tank Quarry. In order to reach the Beacon from where I was located I had to climb North Hill first. The houses on the slopes of North Hill have the most amazing views across the valley.

climbing the malvern hills

the Clock Tower and houses with a seriously amazing view

The slopes are steep and rough and I had to tread carefully in order that I didn’t twist an ankle or fall……But my trainers are sturdy and I made steady albeit slow progress with lots of heavy breathing LOL.  If you heard me coming up behind you, you would have been forgiven for thinking I was a stalker!!  I haven’t done much by way of long distance walking since July and I am certainly not anywhere near as fit as I was then. But I persevered and strode on upwards and upwards and upwards.

climbing the malvern hills

perfect day to conquer a mountain

Oh my word…the views across the Severn valley were extraordinary. The higher I climbed the more I could see and the valleys in the distance were hidden beneath a hazy layer of cloud or mist. The sun shone brightly (mostly straight into my eyes depending on which section of the zig-zag slope I was on.

climbing the malvern hills

the views across the Severn Valley are amazing

I stopped frequently to take photos and posted them to instagram as I went. I passed fellow climbers, dog-walkers, a few joggers and a couple of daft buggers on bicycles! I mean who in heck rides either up or down a mount….I mean hill. Seriously!!

It was lovely to share a cheery greeting of ‘good morning’ – fine day for it! I was surprised to see a number of climbers who were clearly older than me…some of whom strode by and left me in their dust!!! LOL

Suddenly I was near the summit of North Hill and the beacon was within my grasp…or not!

climbing the malvern hills

the summit of North Hill…..looks different to what it did from down below

No, not quite…..I still had a ways to go but thankfully the section between North Hill and Worcester Beacon was relatively flat and stretched between the two for quite a distance which gave me time to catch my breath and just enjoy the scenery and the peace. It was remarkably quiet and at times all I could hear was bird-song, and in the distance the lowing of cattle.

climbing the malvern hills

the stretch between North Hill and Beacon Hill

The ground and surrounding areas on the way up was very frosty and in some stretches very slippery….a state of affairs that remained on my way back down 3 hours later!!! The sun simply didn’t reach some areas of the hills and I imagine the frost would stay until it warmed up a bit. In the distance I could see the crest of the hill and I was certain I could see the beacon….at least I thought I could. It looked to be an easy stretch but in reality the climb up Worcester Beacon hill was really strenuous.

Suddenly I reached the crest between the two hills and there before me was Herefordshire!! And not only that but I could see the Black Mountains in Wales!!! Wow!!! The highest summit of the hills (where I was headed) affords a panorama of the Severn valley with a view of the the hills of Herefordshire, the Welsh mountains, parts of thirteen counties, the Bristol Channel, and on a clear day the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. Obviously with all the mist hovering in the valleys I couldn’t see them at all. But oh! How beautiful it is!!

climbing the malvern hills

Herefordshire and in the far distance the Black Mountains of Wales…wow!!!

At the point where I could see Herefordshire and the Black Mountains was a beacon showing the way to the Beacon!! there were also a few cows grazing on the green slopes which explained the lowing I could hear from North Hill. I stopped for a while to just enjoy the splendid views and chat to the cows…no not really, hahaha. I did take some photos though, and they in turn eyed me out with disdain.

climbing the malvern hills

not the real Beacon…but directing me towards the real deal. Oh and some cows…or are they bulls. I never thought to look 🙂

Then I was onto the final push up the very frosty, slippery slopes. It was difficult to see where the original path was as it appears that over the years people have kind of forged their own paths and there were a multitude of routes to take. As I slipped and climbed, breathing heavily, I notice an elderly gent climbing ever so sprightly along a hidden path…I headed towards that and found what I surmised was the original…..it looked more like it was anyway. It was also not quite as slippery. So with the sun directly in my eyes, I made my way gingerly uphill.

climbing the malvern hills

slippery slope. very frosty. totally beautiful

And then finally I was at the top of the hill and just a short walk to the beacon. I made it!! I was on top of the world.

climbing the malvern hills

The real Beacon! Erected in Commemoration of the Sixtieth Year of Queen Victoria’s Reign 1897

The views are breath-taking and I spent a good half-hour or so just absorbing the views, studying the map on the beacon to see where places were…to my delight I noticed the source of the River Thames that starts below the Cotswolds which, had it been a clear day, I’m sure I would have seen them…..the valleys were still covered in mist, and quite frankly looked exquisite.

climbing the malvern hills

The Beacon!! 360 degrees. Views in every direction…amazing

The air was so fresh and clear and by now I was breathing more normally. I chatted to everyone who approached the beacon and we discussed the various landmarks and where they would be. One gentleman with his dog tarried a while and I found out that he and his wife have a campervan that they use for trips around the country. I told him of my dream to travel around the UK in a motor-home or campervan (whichever I can afford). We shared a few stories of travels past….and he gave me a few tips for campervanning that I have since forgotten LOL

It was really interesting to see all the landmarks and just before I left to head back down I took a photo showing the direction of the River Severn (which I was to encounter just the next day during my visit to Worcester!) and the Bristol Channel.   It’s extraordinary that one can see so many counties and especially the Black Mountains in Wales. Before too long I had to leave and make my way back down, the sun was beginning to slide towards the horizon and I didn’t want to have to stumble down in the dark. After one last photo in the direction of the Bristol Channel I waved goodbye and set off downhill.

climbing the malvern hills

looking towards the Bristol Channel…..what a view!!

My walk down was a little more difficult on the old knees and shins what with the jarring movement going downhill and I had to tread very carefully.  On the way down some chap on a bicycle passed me!!! I mean hello!! I did give him a bit of a jibe about riding down a hill on bike, but he just laughed and carried on.  I passed a very jolly party of 4 going up the hill, stopped to take some group photos for them and ended up chatting about politics, Brexit and Mr Juncker and his substantial salary increases. Needless to say we all agreed on the results! I waved hello to a group of 6 Pakistani gentleman walking uphill, having a great chat and eating Kettle chips (?)….I passed a lady that I had met earlier going up who was climbing to the top to take a photo of the beacon for her son in Singapore….we marvelled at the age of technology where you could stand on the top of a ‘mountain’ in the UK and chat to someone on the other side of the world in the far east.

It was still very frosty.

climbing the malvern hills

I conquered a mountain……well it felt like a mountain 😉

In due course I reached the bottom of North Hill once again at North Quarry and congratulated myself on my achievement…..I had conquered a mountain and achieved my goal.

climbing the malvern hills

North Hill on the right and Worcester Beacon Hill……my mountains LOL

I was also totally astounded at the stats……I had switched on MapMyWalk before I left and to my astonishment I had  climbed an elevation of 373m, walked 12.2km’s and taken 25,744 steps!!! wow. Interesting.

A few facts about the Malvern Hills.

The name Malvern is probably derived from the ancient British moel-bryn, meaning “Bare-Hill”.
The Malvern Hills are formed of some of the most ancient rocks in England, mostly igneous and metamorphic rocks from the late Precambrian, known as the Uriconian, which are around 680 million years old.
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire.
They 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.

climbing the malvern hills

Malvhina Spout – Malvern Spring Water.

The rocks of the Malvern Hills are amongst the oldest and hardest found in England.
The Malvern Hills have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England. Species include Dormouse, Barbastelle (bat), Skylark, High Brown Fritillary Butterfly, Great Crested Newt and Adder of which I saw not one!! also Black Poplar although it’s entirely possible I saw one of these without knowing what it is.
Flint axes, arrowheads, and flakes found in the area are attributed to early Bronze Age settlers.
During the medieval period, the hills and surrounding area were part of a Royal forest known as Malvern Chase. Riots by commoners and legal challenges from land owners ensued when King Charles I attempted to deforest the Chase in 1630.
The landscape itself was irrevocably changed by extensive quarrying in the area changing the Hills forever. This created new habitats for frogs, toads, newts and other small animals. The new cliffs also provide nesting sites for certain birds.

climbing the malvern hills

North Quarry

You can walk the Worcestershire Way that takes on a route between the Georgian town of Bewdley and the grand spa town of Malvern.

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