THE MAGNIFICENT MALVERNS
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
(Many post code - WR14/WR13/HR8)
The Malvern Hills SSSI is the closest SSSI to where we live and I used to walk here with Zak almost every day. During lockdown, we used to go out early in a morning so that we didn't meet too many people which suited me 'down to the ground'. Since Bruno came to stay, we haven't walked on the hills quite so much because young puppies really shouldn't be walked too far - vets recommend that a puppy should only be walked for 5 minutes for every month of its life.
The Malvern Hills form a long narrow ridge that is about 8 miles long and there are many paths to explore. In fact, in normal times people travel from all over the world just to walk here. The hills are divided into four parts separated by roads and we usually walk on the middle hills in the mornings.
The Northern Hills includes the Worcestershire Beacon from which you can see 17 counties on a clear day.
The South Hills include British Camp which is otherwise known as the Herefordshire Beacon and is an Iron Age fort. Legend has it that this was once the site of a famous battle between Caractacus, a famous British chieftain, and the invading Romans. A second Iron Age fort, close by at Midsummer hill, is believed to have had people living there all year round and a long-distance track called the Shire ditch used to connect it with the Worcestershire Beacon. Over the years this path has been interrupted by the quarrying of Malvern stone and the laying of footpaths for the many tourists visiting the area during the heights of Malvern’s famous water cure.
Today the Shire Ditch forms the border between the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. In the thirteenth century it was the site of a bitter dispute between the Red Earl, Gilbert de Clare and Bishop Cantilupe from Herefordshire Cathedral.
This resulted in the ditch being fortified to the benefit of the Red Earl. The ditch was built in such a way that any livestock jumping from the Bishop’s land would not have been able to get back!!! Many dogs and their humans regularly walk along the ditch completely oblivious of its past.
The ridge along the top of the Malvern Hills is quite bare and the thin grassland supports some very rare plants including the upright chickweed and the spring cinquefoil which will only grow if they have enough light to do so. Employing sheep and cattle to eat the grass ensures that these plants survive. They survive here because the Malvern Hills have been grazed for thousands of years. It is interesting that the name, Malvern, comes from the Ancient British for bare or bald hill.
The Malvern Hills are also home to many species of insect, bird, mammal and reptile. You just need to know where to look. Zak used to be quite good at spotting reptiles like lizards and slow worms.
One morning, as we walked up towards the ridge, we were met by a beautiful young deer emerging from the bluebells. It was too big to be a munkjac. – We resisted the urge to chase it.
We emerged on to the ridge. I began rolling around on the ground basking in the sun.
However, threatening black clouds loomed both to the west and to the east of us. The clouds above the mountains of Wales looked particularly menacing.
We quickened the pace of our walk so as to avoid getting wet. We trotted over the bare rock beneath our paws heading for home. It is hard unforgiving rock and our human has had many a tumble when she has taken us for a run. The hills are made of hard igneous rock which is impermeable to water. So, any rain that falls seeks out and trickles through all of the tiny fissures in the rock and emerges at a large number of springs. It is these springs which formed the basis for the famous Malvern water cure. Malvern was quite a tourist centre in Victorian times –and visitors included Princess Victoria, Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Charles Dickens to name but a few!!
The first rain drops were starting to fall as we climbed down off the ridge to the Wyche cutting and we descended down Old Wyche Road – the second steepest residential road in the UK. – Time for breakfast – yippee!!