THE MALVERN TOWN EXPEDITION - Welfare,Water and Walking!
Updated: Jan 28, 2022
(nearest post code WR14 4EJ)
Visited by Zak and Shep
The Malvern Hills SSSI comprises a chain of hills just over 8 miles in length running in roughly a north-south direction.
Shep and I am lucky enough to live on the lower slopes of the northern hills. Julie used to lead four different expeditions for local schoolchildren over the hills and she decided to take us to revisit them during lockdown.So, on one bright sunny Tuesday morning, we went with her on her Malvern Town expedition.
Julie’s Malvern Town expedition always started at Great Malvern railway station and so we headed there first.
In fact, often the children actually came in on the train from Malvern Link. Malvern has always been a popular day out for humans from the industrial Black Country. There used to be town fairs held on the common land and many of the people never made it up to the hills themselves. Those that did often used a horse and cart.
Malvern Link was a simply ‘furnished’ station. In direct contrast, Great Malvern station was an ornately decorated one. Trains from London brought the rich and illustrious to the town. Many of them stayed in the Imperial Hotel (now Malvern St. James School) and could be reached by a tunnel from the station called ‘the worm’.
Outside the station there is a drinking trough – now filled with flowers – that used to give horses welcome refreshments. The horses lived a very hard life ferrying the humans up to the main town from the station and back again.
We walked up into town ourselves. It was quite a climb. We made our way to the winter gardens which are part of Priory Park and is in front of Malvern theatre. So many plays and shows came to Malvern before being staged in London and the ladies and gentlemen of the time would promenade in the park.
Today the ducks were busy squabbling on the water or sleeping on the bridge – heads under their wings and completely oblivious to either of us.
The park was very quiet apart from that – a single mum and child played on the play area and the benches were all empty. Covid was keeping everyone home.
There are so many buildings in Malvern that are associated with the famous Malvern Water cure. This cure – devised by two doctors – Wilson and Gully often involved a stay of three weeks where patients were fed plain food, exercised intensively on the Malvern hills, bathed in ice cold Malvern water and given substantial quantities of water to drink. Many famous people took the cure including Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.
Charles Darwin even brought his ten-year-old daughter Annie to take the cure but sadly she died. When we walked through the graveyard in the grounds of Malvern Priory we saw her grave – the only one allowed to have flowers placed upon it.
The Priory itself is so old. It was first built as a monastery for 30 monks and only escaped its dissolution by Henry VIII by its purchase by Malvern’s townspeople for £20.00.
We continued to walk up onto Belle Vue Terrace and tucked into a corner of one of the alleys we discovered a place where we could see the water dripping down the natural rock walls. The water tasted so good.
During Victorian times, there were vast tanks of Malvern water here that supplied a bottling plant. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were very partial to Malvern water and had it sent regularly to their royal palaces - naturally someone had to test it first to check that it was okay for royal consumption. One of the great things about Malvern water is how cold and fresh it tastes – The granite of which the Malvern Hills are comprised acts as a natural filter. The water drips through natural cracks in the rock and doesn’t pick up any nasty tastes.
Feeling suitably refreshed from our drink we were ready to brave the steep ascent up Happy Valley. We passed the Unicorn pub on our way. This used to be a favourite watering hole of C.S. Lewis and his literary friends – affectionately called the ‘Inklings’.
A short way up the hill, there are a number of disused stables. These once housed many of the horses and ponies used to transport sick – or rich – humans up on to the tops of the Malvern Hills. It is said that Princess Victoria had her very own pony called Old Moses.
The path was really steep but we engaged four-paw drive and strode on towards St Ann’s Well. This place used to be so popular with the Water cure patients. For a long time, entertainment was provided by an accordionist.
When Julie led her expeditions, her groups used to stop here for their lunch and on one expedition one of the children claimed that she was a direct descendant of the musician - Wow!!
The next stage of our walk was again very steep . It must have been so hard for the horses.
We climbed right to the top of the Worcestershire Beacon. On a clearer day than today, you can see seventeen different counties from here.
It was very cold and we knew that home was just down the hill so we didn’t linger long.