THE MALVERN RIDGE- "A Thin Place Between Earth and Heaven" (Malvern Hills A.O.N.B.)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Bruno and I love living on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. They certainly are a popular destination for many of our canine friends and their humans, and the hills were particularly bustling during lockdown.
I am not surprised that humans come here. The views from the ridge are spectacular - both East towards Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds and, West, towards Herefordshire and the mountains of Wales.
However, this huge influx of tyre, paw, hoof and footfall has a major and negative impact on the Hills themselves and, if the hills could speak, I imagine that they would breathe a huge sigh of relief at the end of each day and especially each weekend day.
When Bruno and I go for our morning scamper I have noticed how much more of the bare rock is exposed on the very top of the ridge as the soil has been eroded away. This poses a bit of a problem because the thin soil on the Malvern Hills supports an acid grassland that boasts many rare plant species like spring cinquefoil and upright chickweed. Both of these plants are quite delicate and can easily be out competed by bigger and more aggressive species so a balance must be struck between keeping the grassland short but retaining the soil. The Malvern Hills Trust employ Belted Galloway and Highland cattle, as well as large flocks of sheep, to mow the grass naturally. Considering that the name Malvern (moel-bryn) means bare hill in ancient British, it is probable that the hills have been grazed in this way for millennia.
Not all of the hills are grazed at the same time and portable electric fencing is used to enclose the animals so that they don’t graze too much in one area. Julie often avoids walking through these enclosures so as not to upset the ewes. As for the cattle, both Bruno and I prefer to give them a wide berth. They might be gentle, but they are so much bigger than us. I don’t like sheep fencing at all. It looks like normal fencing but if you accidentally touch it with your nose or any part of you, it really hurt and It is even worse if you are wet. Bruno met it for the first time last week, and I have never seen him move so fast or heard him yelp so loudly.
Julie tries not to walk too much on the ridge – especially when it is busy. Luckily, there are so many wonderful ridge-free walks, so we don’t really mind.