Welcome to LEJoG Day 28
Day 28 pre-amble
As indicated yesterday, that’s how they promote the Malvern Hills, which dominated today’s stage. You know how it’s a bit of a cliche to say that many places around the world don’t live up to expectations, but the Grand Canyon does? Well, the Malverns aren’t exactly the Grand Canyon. However, they really are a superb playground for a walker, and every bit as outstanding a landscape as they appear from the motorway. I think #28 was the best single day’s walk between the South West Coast Path and Dovedale. The clincher: they were even good enough to make #27’s exasperating shenanigans wholly worthwhile.
LEJoG Day 28 (Saturday 4 August 2018)
Ledbury to Great Malvern (12 miles)
Cumulative: 400½ miles
Facts: Time on walk: 4 hours. Average speed: 3.00 mph. Weather: Warm with cloud and breeze; very warm when off hills (especially in Great Malvern itself).
Practicalities: On Thursday 2 August, I completed on the house purchase, which was probably the most significant event of 2018.
Maps used today: OS Explorer 190 (Malvern Hills and Bredon Hill)
Friday afternoon train to Ledbury listening to Chart Music #22. Walked from the station, and checked into the Feathers Hotel around 5pm. This is a grand place, ideally situated and obviously popular for weddings. The food and drinks were quite expensive, but the room (£54) was remarkable value for money. I assume this was due to paying five months in advance via booking.com. Today I can’t find a room for under £100 at the same time of year.
Apart from enjoying an evening meal at the Feathers on Friday night, I listened to a couple of podcasts, including Chart Music #23. Probably the best title, one of the most eclectic TOTPs yet covered, and certainly one of the best post-credits treats. Brilliant mid-section in which the panel’s collective awe at Giorgio Moroder is followed by Taylor’s savagely hilarious takedown of prog rock. But most momentously of all, the first mention of their now-legendary priapic mascot.
Start: Feathers Hotel, Ledbury, 11:00am. End: Copper Beech House, Great Malvern, 3:40pm.
Before you can enjoy the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’ve got to get there. And this is a great little country walk in itself. Turn right outside the Feathers, then left into the A449 Worcester Road. After about ¼ mile pick up a footpath heading east into the woods (Coneygree Wood). This is marked on OS maps but I had some difficulty following the exact course. Headed quite a long way SE before correcting course and aiming for the NE edge of the wood. From there I headed SE. If you look at this map, there is what looks like a right-angled triangle between two wooded areas. I was by now on the hypotenuse. Where you want to be is the bottom right hand corner. From there you can head east towards the church in the village of Eastnor.
Join the A438 heading east out of the village and after 5-10 minutes turn left into the Eastnor Deer Park by the signposted entrance. Rather than head directly for the Keeper’s Lodge, I passed it to the right, using vague paths and the tree line to head in the direction of Eastnor Obelisk (unmissable once you emerge from Coneygree Wood). The obelisk is close to a major footpath junction in the NE corner of the park.
At this point turn left (north) in the direction of Peacock Villa, then right into News Wood. You effectively take a shortcut through the southeastern corner of News Wood before joining a clear path north. After re-entering the wood there is a confluence of paths. At this point I should have gone north and soon re-emerged into open country. However I went NNW and deeper into News Wood, eventually having to scale a steep hill and clamber over hedges to arrive back on the correct route.
This route takes you to the Herefordshire Beacon, which was the approximate halfway point of the walk and an ideal time and spot for lunch. I rounded it to the north and east before climbing steps to the top. You can approach it directly from the south if you choose. The header image (looking north) was taken from here – below is the view looking east:
From Herefordshire Beacon, take a steady walk down to the British Camp car park. Cross the A449 and the county border between Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Proceed along the B4232 (Jubilee Drive) for a short time and enter the car park just after a right hand bend. Now for the best bit: the undulating ridge walk promised by the views from Herefordshire Beacon.
In order before the hiatus at Upper Wyche there is: Black Hill (308m), Pinnacle Hill (358m, and I certainly felt that extra 50m after descending Black Hill), Jubilee Hill (327m) and the well-named Perseverance Hill (325m). Individually, none of these hills are comparable in height to the Peak District or Lake District, or even Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor. But in combination it’s a test not unlike parts of the South West Coast Path. The Malvern Hills have greater prominence than anything since then. I personally prefer the expansive inland views to the sea views, even if the SWCP is more remote and the environment more rugged.
Some well-timed respite as you skirt the village of Upper Wyche, heading to Beacon Road car park and then back into the hills. First up in this northern section is Summer Hill (382m), a long and gradual climb. It serves as useful training for the highest summit in the Malverns, Worcestershire Beacon. Here is a close up of Worcestershire Beacon’s toposcope (I’ve only just learned there is a single word for those directional plaques atop hills, please excuse me…!), focusing on the direction in which I am heading on LEJoG:
Descending from the Beacon on the obvious path, there is a clear route straight to Great Malvern, my base for the night. Tempting as it was to bring a hot day to a close with shower and relaxation, there are still four more hills on the Malvern ridge, and it seemed entirely wrong not to conquer at least two of them. So, onwards and upwards it was, first to Sugarloaf Hill (368m) and finally North Hill (397m). This added about a mile to the stage, but you never know if or when you might come back. It had to be done. Below is a view of Great Malvern from North Hill, before I finally called it a day:
The diversion to North Hill lends the penultimate mile of today’s route a shape similar to the front of a xenomorph‘s head. Or a triumphant clenched fist at the end of a short but sturdy arm. I never claimed my LEJoG would be the most direct…
A meandering descent becomes much steeper on the ‘Happy Valley’ road to Great Malvern, and you emerge on the A449 almost slap bang in the centre of town. And what a lovely town it is. I could almost instantly imagine myself coming even without the hills as a distraction. Certainly my impressions were helped by the glorious sunshine, but even so I have rarely been so immediately bowled over by a new place. Walked down Church Street and Avenue Road, past the station to Copper Beech House, my accommodation for the night. The hosts, Steve and Cathy, were almost as chatty and helpful as Charles and Martine at Sampford Brett, and if I didn’t give this place a 10/10 at the time I have long since forgotten why. Everything was spot on.
(OK, according to my booking.com profile I didn’t even review it at the time. So here you go: consider Copper Beech House the third 10 on this trip and fifth overall)
After the walk
Showered, changed, wandered east to Barnards Green for Sunday food and drink from the Co-op. Had a couple of beers at the Foley Arms and treated myself to a curry at Anupam (both recommended by Steve and Cathy). Back in my room, podcasts finished (see below), I flicked through the TV channels and found myself inexplicably hooked by this episode of Casualty. A programme I had never watched more than 15 minutes of before, and which I’d always regarded as a byword for formulaic, predictable scenarios of impending doom. And now, 11 months later, I watch it every week.
Be warned kids. The side effects of LEJoG can be hazardous and life-changing…
Postscript – My Listening Pleasure
Didn’t quite finish CM #23 in my room at the Feathers, so that’s what I was listening to first. Then, from Coneygree Wood to Beacon Road car park (Upper Wyche), it was Chart Music #24. The first one from 1986, a year when I became obsessed with the chart but one which is now (rightly) regarded as something of a wasteland, post Live Aid and pre acid house. The centrepiece is, naturally, the lead singer of this band and the relationship between art and artist, artist and fan, past and present.
Started Chart Music #25 on the approach to Summer Hill. 1973 again, but the music isn’t so consistently era-defining and the main focus is on the presenter, Kenny Everett. The undoubted highlight is the story that cemented Bummerdog’s cult status. Poor Tracy Unwin. Finished it in my room before going for the curry.
Picture (taken 4 August 2018) shows the Malvern Hills yet to come, viewed from Herefordshire Beacon, at the southern end.