There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Great Whitley to Upton-on-Severn via the Malvern Ridge: Days 4 to 6 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

Day 4 28/05/09

A year later, on another fine and sunny day, the same five people assembled in the same pub car park in Great Whitley for the second installment in the South West Odyssey.

Brian, David, Alison, Francis and Mike ready for part two
We set off over the rich Worcestershire  farmland, past oast houses....

Oast Houses
....across fields of broad beans...

Brian among the beans
...and asparagus, the pickers riding up and down the rows lying in small carts,....

Asparagus field, Walsgrove Farm
...before embarking on the long, gentle and shaded climb up Woodbury Hill...

Up Woodbury Hill
...from where we had our first view of the Malvern Hills, our target for the next day.

The Malverns in the distance
In Shropshire many of the footpaths were unsigned, unmaintained and, too often, unwalked. The same was not true of Worcestershire, where in some places farmers made it abundantly clear where they wanted us to walk.

The path across Rodge Hill Farm

We moved from arable land into an area of rough pasture and woodland as we descended towards the River Teme. The Teme rises over the Welsh border in Radnorshire and flows for 130 Km through Knighton, Ludlow and Tenbury Wells before joining the Severn a little south of Worcester. Despite its variable water level the river is clean and healthy enough for salmon to migrate upstream and spawn in its upper reaches. Here, between Tenbury and Worcester, the Teme turns south, running for a short while parallel to our route.
Down to the River Teme
For several kilometres we followed the river, sometimes in the valley and sometimes on the slopes of the flanking hills. We stopped for an early pint of refreshment at The Admiral Rodney in Berrow Green. The pub is named after the commander of the British fleet at the battle of Cape St Vincent - as, apparently, are all the little dipsticks and plonkers subsequently named 'Rodney' (whether they know it or not). Fortified we rounded Berrow Hill.

Around Berrow Hill
By now the Malvern Hills looked much closer....

The Malvern Hills
A little further south the Teme resumes its westward course, so we crossed it at Knightwick, stopping briefly for a late pint of refreshment in the riverside garden of the Talbot Inn.

From here, paths over pastures populated mainly by sheep brought us to the village of Alfrick...

Approaching Alfrick
...and took us on to a bridge on a minor road where Lynne and Hilary were waiting to whisk us to Wyche Keep Country House B & B. The house perches on the side of the Malvern Hills giving our rooms fabulous views across the Severn Valley and the next stage of our route.

Day 5 29/05/09

Lynne and Hilary returned us to the rather non-descript point where the previous day's walk had ended.

Lynne & Hilary discuss what to do with their day.

We continued our approach to the Malverns. This being Worcestershire it was inevitable that we would pass through orchards....

Worcestershire Orchards
...and hardly surprising when we came across fine old buildings undergoing restoration. Had this building, we wondered, been moved here from another site?

Restoration near Norris Wood
By 11 0'clock we were quite close to the first hill of the Malvern ridge, a smallish tump rather unimaginatively called End Hill.

End Hill
The Malverns are the product of a fold along a line between two terranes.  The hard igneous and metamorphic rocks here forced to the surface are pre-Cambrian in origin and, at some 680 million years old, among the oldest in Britain. The rock is non-porous but has many narrow fissures, resulting in a line of springs around the base of the hills. This naturally purified water has been appreciated since the middle ages, when clean water was a rarity. The first record of bottled Malvern Water dates from 1622 and large scale commercial exploitation started in 1850 when Schweppes built what may have been the world's first bottling plant at the Holywell in Malvern Wells. I remember in my teens - and  I was a teenager long before the current fashion for bottled waters - the mark of a pretentious pub or club was a bottle of Malvern water standing on the bar for mixing with whisky.

There are 70 sources around the hills. We passed the Beauchamp Fountain as we rounded End Hill.

Malvern Water - The Beauchamp Fountain
Having not bothered with End Hill, we had to climb the next one....

Ascending Table Hill
...from where we had a fine view over Malvern and the haze in the Severn Valley.

Malvern and the Severn Valley from Table Hill
Having toiled up to the 373 m summit we immediately descended to the village of West Malvern for refreshment. It was a warm day, and with the prospect of climbing the Worcestershire Beacon to the Malvern's highest point straight after lunch,  real ale man Francis chose to forsake his usual beverage in favour of a doubtful concoction whose advertisers would like you to think of as The Real Thing. I don't think it could have done him any good. Warning: the photograph below is not suitable viewing for beer drinkers of a nervous disposition.

Francis and 'The Real Thing'
However we had refreshed ourselves, the drag up to the 425m summit of the Worcestershire Beacon, was slow but steady.

On top of the Worcestershire Beacon
We stayed on the summit ridge until we reached the Wyche cutting, from where is was a short walk back to our B & B.

Day 6 30/05/09

We set off from Wyche Keep in glorious morning sunshine...

Preparing to leave Wyche Keep
...and returned to the Wyche cutting. This pass through the hills was once part of the salt route from Droitwich to South Wales and a hoard of metal money bars found in the 19th century suggests it was in use as early as 250 BC.

We used the path from the cutting to climb back onto the ridge. It was distinctly breezy along the top and we stopped to watch the para-gliders. Their colleagues on the ground said the wind strength meant they were safe on the windward side of the hill, though they could not cope with the turbulence on the other side, and if the wind got any stronger they would have to pack up and go home.

Along the Malvern ridge watching the para-gliders.
We descended towards the A449, the main pass through the the hills before climbing up and over the Herefordshire Beacon. The summit is covered in earthworks, some from 'British Camp', an iron age hill fort, and others from a later medieval castle. British Camp, like Caer Caradoc, has been touted as the site of Caractacus' last stand. The story comes from Tacitus, whose description places the battle far closer to the River Severn than either contender we encountered, but as he wrote fifty years after the event and never visited Britain, his accuracy may be questionable. It almost certainly happened somewhere, and the location of that somewhere is, and will probably remain, unknown.

British Camp on the Herefordshire Beacon

As the ridge began to peter out we turned east and descended into the broad, flat Severn valley.

Across the Severn Valley
Despite being in more heavily populated farmland, our route provided no suitable pub for lunch. We arrived in Upton on Severn early enough to enjoy a cup of tea and a cake - a process which Mike always seems to  find unreasonably pleasing - and a have a stroll through the market. Lynne bought two of the largest cauliflowers I have ever seen.

Walk over - posing by the Severn at Upton
And that was it for 2009, now for 2010