Seeking Comfort in the Hills: Why Malverns Are Great for Wandering | Worcester Holidays


ohOn the western side of the Malvern Hills, along the Worcestershire and Herefordshire border, there is a hairpin junction where a small lane descends from the main road into the woods. It’s common to see groups of vehicles here, and if you stop to investigate you’ll find yourself among an ever-growing but loyal coterie, some of whom have traveled many miles. They are gathered around a spout in the side of the hill which gushes out a constant stream of water, directly from the ancient rock. This is the Evendine Spring, one of over 100 natural springs in the Malvern Hills, and according to regulars, the tastiest of all. Some of the visitors drink from cupped hands, most fill plastic bottles, and older lags carry several jerry cans in their vans. On the weekends you might have to wait a bit, but the vibe is still friendly, like you’ve stumbled upon a secret society.

‘A scene that could have been from the Alps.’ Photograph: Richard Sheppard / Alamy

I discovered the Evendine spring for the first time during winter confinement 2020. Overwhelmed by a long Covid, I holed up with my husband in a cabin on the banks of the River Severn near Hanley Castle, overlooking the Malvern Hills to the west. As part of my recovery, I planned to walk a little further each day in an effort to catch up to the ridge line. There were routes to suit all moods or energy levels, from winding woodland paths to stony moorland tracks and even “99 Steps,” a Victorian-built staircase. Although steep, none of these could be considered long walks, but they were only small steps. The previous winter I had happily traversed the Egyptian Sinai Desert on foot, so there was a certain degree of physical and emotional adjustment to my new situation – from a life of action and adventure to wrestling. to walk and breathe. The Malverns seemed like ideal rehab hills – small but perfectly formed, sandwiched between the towns of Worcester and Hereford, stretching just eight miles from north to south, with a maximum elevation of 425 meters.

My search for solace in these hills was nothing new. There is evidence of human settlements dating back to the Iron Age, as well as burial mounds from the Bronze Age and ancient traces of herdsmen. In the 1850s, the fashion for hydrotherapy saw visitors flock to Great Malvern, a classic Victorian spa town in the eastern foothills – all gabled villas and decorative bus shelters. The natural springs were transformed into official tourist sites, housed in typically decorated buildings such as St Ann’s Well and Holy Well, which survive today. The city’s healing vibe remains strong: it has evolved into a well-heeled hippie hotspot of health food stores and alternative therapy.

Hangman's Hill.
Hangman’s Hill. Photograph: Paul Weston / Alamy

But it’s the hills that keep pulling you back. Ever present, overlooking the city, prompting you to leave primitive Victoriana and climb to higher peaks, drink from the springs that flow from the Precambrian rock and gaze out at the nation from the windswept ridge. Although tiny compared to other British hills, the Malverns have a mountainous feel that contradicts their humble dimensions, springing, steep and sudden, from the otherwise flat and featureless Severn Plain. Approaching from the east is the British equivalent of crossing the prairie of the Midwest and seeing the Rockies looming in the distance. Each week, as I extended my walks for a few minutes, it was this promise of elevation that made me go out, put one foot in front of the other, climb the slopes in all weathers, motivated by a primordial desire to stand right on the heights.

Source evendine on the western slope of Black Hill.
Source evendine on the western slope of Black Hill. Photograph: Paul Heinrich / Alamy

In the pre-Covid era, I took annual trips to the Spanish Pyrenees, where one of the great pleasures is drinking fuentes, spring water gushes out in the mountain villages. With no overseas travel on the agenda, my hikes in Malvern became a scaled-down, pandemic-friendly version of these adventures: we walked through the hills, looking for places where water pierces the old. rock. The wells and springs of the Malverns range from indescribable depressions in the ground to pipes protruding from stone walls to elaborate Victorian structures and fountains. Some of the springs are easy to find – in the streets, formalized for public use, while others are hidden deep in the wooded slopes, just a trickle in a valley. Not all of them flow as freely as Evendine; a few have dried up over the years, or have been sealed and are now only identifiable by telltale clues: an old brass faucet in a wall or a weed-choked stone trough by the side of the road.

My walks were lengthening little by little and my determination was rewarded when a few days after Christmas (Zoom-heavy, alcohol-free), we woke up to a magical spectacle: snow had fallen on the Malvern Hills. It would be ridge line day. Along the swift curves of Jubilee Drive, the road that follows the outline of the western side of the hills, the pine branches were sloping, heavy with fresh snow, in a scene that might have passed for the Alps. As I stepped outside and started walking, the rare and exciting crunch underfoot prompted me to continue. The trails were bustling with sleds and dog walkers, families and solo hikers, with everyone blinking and smiling at each other in the brightness and euphoria of a moment’s respite from the horrors of the past year.

Priory Church, Great Malvern
Looking down on Great Malvern Priory. Photograph: Ian Butler Photography / Alamy

The Malverns are a line of 22 hills, including Hangman’s, Tinkers and Perseverance, with the evocative name. I chose the latter. Slowly, out of breath, I walked up its rocky path, until the ridge appeared in front of me, and with just one more step, as if a curtain was raised, I found myself in front of a frosty panorama. , pure white, stretching across the Severn Valley to the distant Cotswolds. Behind me, to the west, the snow-capped Welsh Steps and Black Mountains, also sparkled in the winter sun. The whole nation was sparkling in all directions.

They say on a clear day you can see 13 counties and up to 200 miles from Malvern Ridge. I’ve come back to this point of view every season since – in the spring, when bluebells and wild garlic carpet the slopes, and in the summer when you share the hills with butterflies, a lark if you’re lucky, and dedicated hikers doing the “end to end”. Now the days are shorter, but the gold and amber of autumn brings sweetness to a late afternoon walk and the holly bushes are already dotted with berries. The Malverns might not be as expansive as the Brecon Beacons or as tickable as Snowdon, but they offer everything you need from a mountain hike: a sense of accomplishment and a higher perspective on all that. distresses you.

The Evendine spring runs all year round and I always make sure to stop there before going up the hills; there is a fundamental pleasure in drinking water straight from the ground, as if it were drawing from ancient knowledge. Local tradition claims it started with Saint Oswald, a first century Archbishop of York, who knew The healing properties of Malvern water and revealed it to a hermit who lived in the hills. Centuries later, in the 1920s, Alfred Watkins, the Herefordshire antiquarian who theorized the idea of ​​the ley lines, claimed to have discovered a line that connected a number of wells along the Malvern Hills. True or not, a reverence for the waters remains. On my last visit, its merits were discussed with the language and reverence usually reserved for fine wines or craft beer.

“Tough… but also quite sweet,” thought one of Jerry’s canners, who makes regular visits from Bristol. Another speculated that its flavor came from the limestone that Evendine runs through, the only Malvern source to do so.

“I won’t drink anything else,” he said. “There is something magical about it. I don’t know what, but it gives you the power of good.

I fill my bottle and start walking to the ridge. I think he might be onto something.


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