Footprints made its second visit to Great Malvern with 14 members venturing into Worcestershire and Herefordshire for this trip who were able to enjoy the picturesque surrounding countryside and the town. It was good to see the landscape of England green again following months of dry weather conditions starving the ground of much needed rain.
The group were based at the Abbey Hotel with its landscaped gardens and standing on the site of ancient monastic buildings. Today the Priory Church and Gateway (now a museum) are all that remain of Great Malvern’s Benedictine monastery after the monastic community was disbanded during Henry VIII’s reign. In 1842 Doctors Wilson and Gully brought the Water Cure to Great Malvern, which swelled the number of visitors to the town putting pressure on the hotels and lodging houses and the Abbey Hotel was built soon afterwards. During World War II, the Abbey was first commandeered by the Ministry of Information, who held secret meetings there. The building then acted as the headquarters for Belgian refugees before being taken over by the RAF.
The hotel lies at the foot of the Malvern hills, which club members explored during the weekend. The views from the hills extend to the Cotswolds in the east to the Black Mountains of Wales in the west.
On Saturday we took the bus to Colwall and walked over the footbridge at its railway station then through the fields. Most of the group went up to the Herefordshire Beacon and its Iron Age hillfort known as British Camp in the mist, which thankfully cleared enough to allow us views of the surrounding countryside of the two counties. We then carried on along the Malvern hill ridge and up to the high point, Worcestershire Beacon at 425m where there is a trig point and a viewfinder. We continued along the trail, with most of the party turning down to the town and a few continuing up North Hill and/or a small extension via Sugarloaf Hill. Back in the town most of the party found the perfect way to end an enjoyable day’s walking with a visit to one of the ‘must do’ tea shops of Great Malvern to partake of the fine refreshments – well deserved don’t you think!
The writers CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to meet in the Unicorn pub in Great Malvern and went walking in the hills. The composer Sir Edward Elgar also lived in the area and there is a statue to him close to the Abbey Hotel. CS Lewis is said to have been inspired by the Malvern gas lamps for his opening description of Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. At the start of our walk on Sunday we passed through the park where there is a memorial to CS Lewis beside a gas lamp (fortunately no lions). The park also features an interesting sculpture of two buzzards. We climbed up to St Anne’s Well, which most of the group had passed on Saturday. The building, which now houses a café, dates back from 1813 and has a carved water spout. During the early 20th century Malvern water was bottled and sold from this source.
We walked through the village of West Malvern past a Conference Centre owned by the Elim Pentecostal Church. As the rain began to fall we stopped for lunch at the church in Mathon, which provided a welcome shelter during the spell of rain. The party then proceeded over the fields and back along a track at the side of the hills into Great Malvern, where a tea shop was visited again.
Many thanks to Peter for organising this very enjoyable weekend and co-ordinating the walks, along with leadership from William.